James Dale Ritchie – the man who was killed in a shootout with Anchorage police officers over the weekend – used a weapon that was also used in a series of unsolved murders, officials announced on Tuesday.
A police officer approached 40-year-old Ritchie on early Saturday morning to ask him about a cab theft that had been reported in the area. Ritchie initially ignored the officer before turning around and opening fire, striking the officer multiple times.
Officer Arn Salao returned fire and was assisted by a second police officer who had just arrived in the area, after which Ritchie was shot and killed. Officer Salao underwent several surgeries at a local hospital and is now recovering from his injuries.
On Tuesday, the Anchorage Police Department announced that Ritchie’s gun was the same weapon that was used in at least 5 unsolved homicides that happened in Anchorage over the past few months and had raised fears of a serial killer.
“One thing I can tell you: This murderer, it’s the worst possible thing,” said Anchorage Police Chief Christopher Tolley. “Because of the heroic actions of these Anchorage police officers, they have made sure that this individual will not hurt any one of you or any one of the citizens in Anchorage.”
Although Chief Tolley referred to Ritchie as a “murderer”, police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro later clarified that Ritchie had not formally been named as a suspect in the murders. “We still have to work those cases to ultimately determine who the suspect(s) was in those cases,” she said.
The killings that have been linked to Ritchie’s weapon are the July 3 double murder of Jason Netter and Brianna Foisy, the July 29 murder of Treyveonkindell Thompson, and the August 28 double murder of Bryant De Husson and Kevin Turner.
Three unsolved double murders this year and a rise in homicides that began last year had raised fears of a serial killer. Two of those double murders have now been linked to Ritchie’s gun, but investigators have not linked the weapon to the January double murder of Selena Mullenax, 19, and Onie Aubert-Morissette, 20.
A possible motive for the murders that have been linked to Ritchie’s gun is still unknown, but Anchorage police have said there is no indication that they were gang-related. Police had earlier downplayed rumors of a serial killer being responsible for the double murders.
A total of 29 people have been killed in Anchorage so far this year, marking the city’s highest number of homicides since 1992, when 29 people died of homicides. Those figures include fatal officer-involved shootings, such as Ritchie’s own shooting death, and other justifiable homicides.
Police are continuing to investigate Ritchie and have asked anyone with information to call them at 907-786-8900.
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