State prosecutors have deemed the fatal police shooting last month of an unarmed man suspected of vehicle theft as legally justified.
According to a report from the state Office of Special Prosecutions, police followed 34-year-old William Riley-Jennings from an abandoned stolen car into the woods near Russian Jack Springs Park early Dec. 20. Five officers found him behind a stand of trees.
The report says officers said they shouted for Riley-Jennings to stay still. Riley-Jennings yelled he had a gun, and pointed his arm in their direction. Four officers fired their guns, killing him. Those officers are Timothy Dorsey, Colin Neace, Jose Maldonado and Jacob Raygor.
A subsequent investigation revealed Riley-Jennings did not have a weapon.
Police use of deadly force in self-defense is permitted under state law, even when the threat turns out to be false. The state review says officers believed they were about to be shot when they fired their weapons. According to the state, their actions were “reasonable” and “legally justified.”
Anchorage police officers do not wear body cameras. The information in the Office of Special Prosecutions report came from a 911 call, scene evidence and interviews with the officers.
The Anchorage Police Department will now conduct an internal review to determine whether the use of force was appropriate and followed department protocol.
According to a spokesman for the department, the four officers who fired their weapons are no longer on administrative leave.