Fairbanks police say gunman killed a man outside Safeway before opening fire inside

Fairbanks Police Department commander’s Dodge Charger. (Flickr Creative Commons photo by Steven H. Robinson)

Authorities said Monday that a gunman who killed a man outside of an Alaska grocery store over the weekend didn’t break stride as he continued inside and sprayed gunfire across the store, wounding one other person.

Joshua Eric Butcher, 41, who turned himself into police minutes after Sunday’s shooting in Fairbanks, has been charged with first-degree murder and was being held at the Fairbanks Correctional Center.

Butcher appeared Monday afternoon for an arraignment, where he was ordered held on $10 million bail. He was appointed a public defender. A message sent to the public defender’s office in Fairbanks seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Fairbanks District Attorney Joseph Dallaire said he anticipates at least one other charge will be filed against Butcher. According to a criminal complaint signed by Fairbanks police investigator Caleb Reuter, authorities allege Butcher fired multiple shots at the man outside the store and “did not break stride and continued into the store,” the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The shooter then “fired multiple shots toward the north side of the store, causing multiple people to take cover and flee. Multiple gun defects were found on walls, checkout registers and banners throughout the store,” the complaint says.

Police have not identified a motive in the shooting, the department said in a statement.

Police had received multiple 911 calls reporting a shooting at the Safeway grocery store around 6:45 p.m. Sunday. Responding officers found the first victim, a 41-year-old man, unresponsive on the sidewalk.

Additional officers entered the store, where they found a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun on the floor inside the entrance. They also found the second victim, a 24-year-old man located behind the customer service desk who had been shot in the foot.

He described the shooter as a heavy-set man wearing a plaid shirt.

Both victims were transported to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where the older man was pronounced dead. The man shot in the foot was treated and has since been released.

About 11 minutes after the shooting, police said they received a call from Butcher who said he was outside the police department. He said he had been at Safeway, and officers could come outside and arrest him, according to the statement. He also said he would not answer questions without an attorney present.

Police said he matched the description of the shooter and had an empty gun holster and empty magazine holders on him.

While detectives processed the grocery store scene they “observed multiple firearm magazines and multiple spent and unspent 9mm rounds,” the police statement says. Teal Soden, a police spokesperson, declined to detail how many shots were fired.

Security camera footage shows a man approaching the entrance of the store and shooting the 41-year-old man in the stomach as he was leaving the store, the statement says. The video footage then shows the gunman continuing into the store with a firearm in his hand.

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He walked behind the registers, heading north in the building. The footage shows him then headed out the same entrance he entered, the statement says. It wasn’t immediately clear how long he was in the store.

“All of the camera footage is still being reviewed closely but right now we know the first victim’s shooting was clearly on video,” Soden said in an email to The Associated Press. “We’ll need to review more before we definitely say whether the second victim’s shooting was clearly on video or not.”

At this point officers do not know whether Butcher has a history with the store, or if he knows the man he fatally shot, said Police Deputy Chief Rick Sweet. Facebook posts point to past Safeway employment.

KUAC’s Dan Bross contributed reporting to this story.

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