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Officers identified in fatal shooting

March 12, 2014
Alaska State Troopers have released the names of the Alaska State Trooper and the Wasilla Police Department Officer who discharged their handguns on March 9 on Seward Meridian Parkway and East Whispering Woods Drive, claiming the life of Gordon E. Samel, 52, Wasilla.

They are identified as Trooper Daron A. Cooper, a six year veteran of the Alaska State Troopers currently assigned as a K-9 handler in the Palmer Patrol Unit, and Officer Brandon L. Gray, a two year employee of the Wasilla Police Department currently assigned to the Patrol Unit.

On March 9 at approximately 8:37 p.m., a citizen called Mat-Com Dispatch Center to Report Every Dangerous Driver Immediately (REDDI), the citizen indicated there were two intoxicated males in a white Chevrolet pickup which pulled into a parking lot at the intersection of the Parks Highway and the Palmer Wasilla Highway.

The citizen provided the license plate number for the pickup truck. Mat-Com Dispatchers broadcast a locate to both Wasilla Police Officers and Alaska State Troopers.

A nearby Alaska State Trooper found the suspect pickup truck at approximately 8:44 p.m., in a parking lot at 1501 East Parks Highway. The Trooper parked his marked patrol vehicle behind the pickup, which was occupied by two males.

As the State Trooper knocked on the side of the pickup to contact the occupants, it drove off and circled around several small businesses in the area. The pickup then entered the Parks Highway, driving south, for a short distance in the north bound lanes, before driving over a median into the south bound lanes.

The pickup then turned onto South Hermon Road and then onto East Whispering Woods Drive.

At the intersection with Seward Meridian Parkway, the pickup turned completely around in the roadway and was circled by two Alaska State Trooper marked patrol vehicles and one marked Wasilla Police Department patrol vehicle.

As one Alaska State Trooper and one Wasilla Police Department Officer approached the pickup on foot, the driver of the pickup placed the vehicle in reverse and began backing directly towards the Wasilla Police Department Officer.

Cooper and Gray fired their handguns at the vehicle, and Samel was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Preliminary results at autopsy concluded that Samel died from the bullet wounds.

The passenger was an adult male was treated for a non-life threatening wound to his arm and released. The identity of the passenger is not being released to the public as he has not been charged with a crime.

The investigation into this event continues.
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