A man who died in a shootout with police after refusing to pay his cab fare turned out to be connected to at least five homicides.
Anchorage police were called at 4:30 a.m. Nov. 12 after a report of a man walked away from a taxi without paying his fare, according to NBC affiliate KTUU. Patrol officer Arn Salao was able to catch up with the suspect, later identified as 40-year-old James Dale Ritchie, who was briskly walking down a main road. Salao, still in his patrol vehicle, attempted to talk to the man, but Ritchie kept walking, ignoring him completely.
"The officer was attempting to contact the individual," said police Lt. John McKinnon according to to Alaska Dispatch News. "He says 'Sir,' he does not respond; so when he turns on his public-address system, the suspect turns and opens fire."
The officer responded quickly, getting out of his vehicle and returning fire, hitting the suspect. Ritchie fell onto the officer and continued fighting but back-up units, which had finally arrived on the scene were able to subdue him. Despite administering first aid, Ritchie died at the scene due to his injuries. Salao was taken to a local hospital, and after two emergency surgeries, is expected to make a full recovery.
What seemed like an open-and-shut case turned into something much more complicated when police found that Ritchie's gun was the same one used to carry out five homicides this past summer around Anchorage.
All five murders took place within the span of two months and, at this time, there is no apparent link between the victims who vary in both age and sex, according to KTUU. Two incidents were double homicides and both took place on a bike trail in the early hours of the morning. The other incident took place in a suburban neighborhood, again in the early morning. All victims died of gunshot wounds and were found by a passerby the next day.
Mary Turner, mother of 34-year-old victim Kevin Turner, told KTUU that she is happy to find some closure in regards to her son's case but is still troubled about the circumstances.
"To find out that my son got murdered by somebody that he didn't even know or even met ... There's no meaning to it," she said.
Police are continuing to investigate Ritchie to determine if he was connected to any other unsolved murders.