Autopsy to determine how man in 42-hour standoff died

ANCHORAGE — The body of a 69-year-old man who twice fired on officers during a 42-hour standoff was found after heavy equipment was used to tear down part of his house, police said Friday.

“This is not how we wanted this response to go,” Anchorage Police Chief Chris Tolley told reporters Friday. “It is absolutely heartbreaking when these events result in a loss of life.”

An autopsy will determine the cause of death for Robert Musser. The extended standoff included members of special teams from the Alaska State Troopers and the FBI.

The incident began Wednesday morning when tree trimmers called authorities, saying Musser had fired on them.

Tolley said Musser was known to the department. Neighbors had asked police to make welfare checks on him four times since August. One time, neighbors said they feared he was experiencing mental health issues.

Each time officers made contact, Musser “would yell through his window that he was fine, alive and would demand officers to leave,” Tolley said.

After the incident with the tree trimmers, police obtained an arrest warrant for Musser on charges of assault and misconduct involving a weapon.

Police unsuccessfully attempted to contact him on the phone, and then set up a perimeter at his home late Wednesday morning.

Tolley said the department attempted to negotiate with him over the PA system, which was met with shouts, “yelling at officers to go away,” the chief said.

Authorities also used less-than-lethal rounds to get him out of the house. On Wednesday afternoon, police told him they were going to use gas to get him out. That’s the first time he stepped out and fired multiple rounds at officers. No one was hurt, and Tolley said officers didn’t return fire.

The standoff continued, and about noon on Thursday, Musser cursed again at officers to get off his yard. Police said shortly after, Musser again fired at authorities, striking two officers. Both had minor injuries.

Six officers returned fire, but it wasn’t known if any of the bullets struck Musser.

However, police did not have contact with him again until his body was found early Friday morning after part of the house had been torn down.

Of the two officers hit, one was taken to the hospital for treatment after a bullet fragment struck his face and was then released. The other officer was treated at the scene for a minor hand injury.

Tolley said the six officers who returned fire have been placed on administrative leave because this incident is considered an officer-involved shooting. Authorities will investigate to determine whether lethal force was justified.

A second standoff, in which police sought to arrest an assault suspect, ended peacefully when the man surrendered Thursday. Police with help from the FBI arrested Joseph Szajkowski, 29, on assault and kidnapping charges. He surrendered after police forced open his door and ordered him out.

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