Officers from the Juneau Police Department investigate an officer-involved shooting that occured early Sunday morning off of Cinema Drive Sunday. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Officers from the Juneau Police Department investigate an officer-involved shooting that occured early Sunday morning off of Cinema Drive Sunday. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Man killed by police screamed at and threatened officer with chain

Police ID the deceased man as 34-year-old Kelly Michael Stephens

A man was shot and killed by a Juneau police officer early Sunday morning after allegedly threatening the officer with a chain or leash, yelling that he wanted to kill them.

The Juneau Police Department identified the deceased man as Kelly Michael Stephens, 34.

JPD Chief Ed Mercer said during a press conference later Sunday that there had been a previous incident two hours before the shooting, where a man swinging a chain with a grappling hook on it threatened to kill a 54-year-old man outside Super Bear IGA. An officer responded to the incident, but the suspect had disappeared, Mercer said.

Two hours later, at about 12:30 a.m., JPD received another 911 call from the Chinook Apartments area. A woman said that she’d heard a gunshot, followed by screaming. The same officer, whose name was not be released for at least 24 hours per department policy, responded to the call, arriving four minutes later.

Mercer said the officer encountered Stephens, who was swinging a chain or a leash, and repeatedly screaming that he was going to kill the officer. The officer shot him once in the torso, Mercer said.

“The officer heard yelling and saw a man swinging a chain, yelling I’m going to kill you,” Mercer said at the press conference at the JPD station. “The officer repeatedly gave the man verbal commands to stop.”

It was not immediately clear if the leash/chain had a grappling hook on it during the encounter with the officer.

The officer who shot Stephens was the only officer on the scene at the time that they fired their weapon. Bodycam and dashcam footage is being reviewed as part of the investigation.

JPD officers attempted to stabilize the wound, but Stephens was taken by ambulance to Bartlett Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“The Department of Law has a special prosecutions division of attorneys who evaluate officer-involved shootings. That will happen in this case,” said District Attorney Angie Kemp, speaking at the press conference. “It can be a long process. There is no set time limit for how long that process may take.”

[Wrongful death? Family of man gunned down by Fairbanks police files lawsuit]

The officer has been placed on administrative leave according to department policy, JPD Public Safety Manager Erann Kalwara wrote in a press release. JPD has contacted the Alaska State Troopers for assistance in the investigation into the shooting, Mercer said.

“It’s obviously a tragedy for the man who lost his life, a tragedy for the officer who felt the need to use his weapon, and a tragedy for the community,” City Manager Rorie Watt said. “Have faith in the process, the department, as we investigate.”

Stephens had several open cases in court, including a charge for vehicle theft.

Approximately 900 people have been shot and killed by police in America in 2019. Alaska has the second highest rate of police killings in America, narrowly led by Oklahoma. The vast majority of these shootings occurred in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Juneau has only had one other officer involved shooting this year, a nonfatal shooting in August; this is the first officer involved shooting in 2019 leading to a fatality. JPD Assistant Chief David Campbell said that the last fatal officer-involved shooting in Juneau was in approximately 2007.


• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.


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