An Anchorage man on early release from prison, who was the first among only a few Alaskans to face charges for violating a quarantine order, has been killed in a shooting.
Duane Fields, 48, died at the Chelsea Inn, where he’d resided and worked in the Spenard neighborhood, about 10:20 p.m. Wednesday, according to the hotel’s owner and police.
Fields was not yet on duty for the night shift, but was helping another employee break up a fight, said the Chelsea Inn’s owner, Soo Seo. One of the people involved in the altercation left, and then returned with another person and shot Fields through windows on the hotel’s front door, Seo said.
A police spokesperson said detectives believe the shooting was an isolated incident. There have been no arrests or charges. Fields is now the city’s ninth homicide victim of 2020.
Seo described Fields as an honest, respectful man that he had wanted to give a chance, despite his rocky past.
“I know all his background, but I trusted him,” Seo said. “He really wanted to work for something, because he’d been not working.”
Fields got out of prison in early May, and he appeared in news stories a couple weeks later when federal prosecutors charged him with ignoring a mandate to quarantine in Alaska upon his release from a California prison, Terminal Island, the site of one of the country’s worst outbreaks of COVID-19 at a prison.
Fields’ attorney at the time had successfully argued for what’s called “compassionate release” to cut short Fields’ sentence for a drug dealing conviction, because Fields was fighting cancer and deemed to be at a higher risk from the virus.
According to documentation Fields provided to Alaska Public Media, he tested positive for the coronavirus a day before prison officials sent him home to Alaska. Fields had said he was unaware of the results until days after he arrived, and he never showed symptoms.
Fields had release paperwork that told him to quarantine at his mother’s house. But a separate release plan said Fields was supposed to quarantine at the Chelsea Inn, where his daughter said she had set up a job for him.
When the California prison called Fields’ parole officer to tell him about the positive test result, the officer soon found out that Fields was not at the hotel and instead at his mother’s home. Federal prosecutors charged him with contempt of court for allegedly violating a court order to quarantine, but they ultimately dropped the charges.
Fields’ name had stayed out of the news until Friday, when Anchorage police identified him as the victim in the Chelsea Inn homicide.
Field’s mother, Pearl Bingham, said the hotel had been the only place that would give her son a chance.
“The system failed him, most definitely,” Bingham said Friday, on her way to the funeral home that had her son’s body. “He had to fight from the day he got out. They were trying to put him in jail … They didn’t do nothing to help him. They put every obstacle humanly possible in front of him.”
Editor’s note: We’ve updated this story after readers pointed out that the headline, taken by itself, could have been interpreted as derogatory because it mentioned the victim’s earlier criminal charges. We do not routinely cover shootings, but we had been following Field’s story since it was in the news early in the pandemic. He was charged with a quarantine violation, the first in the pandemic, and was later cleared. We referenced the earlier case because this story is part of that continuing coverage.