The deeply troubling news coming out of the Anchorage Police Department today was that the rumor that a possible serial killer was on the loose in Alaska’s largest city was true.
For weeks, it has been whispered that police had linked the bullets from five separate killings to a single weapon, but officially the police department said nothing until today when it was revealed that 40-year-old James Dale Ritchie, who died in a Saturday shoot out with police downtown, was found to be carrying the handgun linked to those five deaths.
“As detectives have investigated this event, they have discovered that the suspect’s gun that was recovered in Saturday’s shooting is the same gun that was used in five other homicides this year,” a press release from the Department said.
Police have known since July that three shootings matched the gun, and since August they have known that there were five shootings linked to it. Police appear to have been blessed with luck in both catching Ritchie and avoiding further deaths.
According to police reports, officer Arn Salao tried to stop Ritchie on the street downtown on Saturday to ask him about an unpaid cab fare. When the man wouldn’t stop, Salao pursued only to have Ritchie open fire.
The officer was hit by multiple bullets, but returned fire as other officers also arrived on the scene and engaged Ritchie. The police account describes a harrowing scene downtown:
“The male turned firing a gun at Officer Salao multiple times. Officer Salao flew out of his vehicle and started to return fire. Sgt. (Marc) Patzke had arrived on scene as the shooting was occurring. He ran towards the suspect and returned fire, ultimately causing the suspect to fall to the ground over top of Officer Salao. The suspect continued fighting Officer Salao until he was subdued by other officers. Officers attempted to render aid to the suspect but he was declared deceased at the scene.”
Salao was rushed to the hospital where he underwent two surgeries. He is now recovering, according to police.
They have asked for help from the public in learning more about Ritchie, the dead gun man.
Alaska court records place him in Anchorage since at least 1995 when he was cited for illegally using fireworks. By 1998, he was in far more serious trouble when he ended up facing felony charges related to theft. By 2005, his crimes had escalated to felony burglary.
It is unclear whether he spent any time in the Alaska prison system.
A one-time resident of the Mountain View neighborhood, he appears to have come north from Virginia via Las Vegas.
Police have identified the victims of his killing spree as Jason Netter and Brianna Foisy, Treyveonkindell Thompson, and Bryant De Husson and Kevin Turner.
The Ritchie murders appearsto have started with Netter and Foisy at the start of July. They were shot on a bike path along North Post Road in north Anchorage.
Police said they found little evidence at the scene of the shooting, but did link the bullets used to a Colt Python .357-caliber revolver.
Only weeks later, on July 29, Thompson was murdered on Bolin Street in Muldoon, a couple of miles east of the earlier killings. He was found dead in the middle of the street and police learned for the first time they might be dealing with a serial killer.
“The State Crime Lab verified that the bullets were from the same weapon used in the Post Road homicide,” a Tuesday statement from APD said. “Police conducted further investigation but found no links between the homicide victims of this case and the Post Road case.”
Police at that time released a sketch of the shooter compiled with the help of three witnesses who’d seen a suspect near the scene. That sketch, which has some resemblance to Ritchie, and photos pg Thompson’s stolen bike were publicly released and led to more than 175 tips to law enforcement, according to the statement.
But none of the tips led to the apprehension of Ritchie.
It was then almost a month before he struck again. This time it was on the opposite side of Anchorage from Muldoon. He gunned down Bryant De Husson and Kevin Turner at Valley of the Moon Park near Westchester Lagoon on the city’s west side on Aug. 28.
They, like Netter and Foisy, were found near bike paths. The shootings sparked fears that Anchorage bike paths and parks had become unsafe, and police warned people to be alert and careful.
“Bullets recovered from the victims were sent to the State Crime Lab,” the police statement said. “The Crime Lab confirmed with police that the bullets were fired from the same weapon used in the Bolin Street and Post Road homicides. At this point police still did not know who the shooter was or if there was more than one. Very little evidence was left behind at this scene.”
This is a developing story.
CORRECTION: This story was corrected on Nov. 15, 2016. The original version put Valley of the Moon Park in the wrong neighborhood.
The story about the cabbie calling in the theft, seems off to me. If that were the case, wouldn’t the cabbie provide a description of the person to dispatch? Would a cop stop a random pedestrian to ask if they had seen someone who skipped on cab fare? And, unless the officer was really close at the time of the dispatch, why would he bother with this at all? Wouldn’t the thief be long gone?
I have to wonder if the cabbie story is either untrue (which is fine with me, perhaps it was concocted to protect someone) or greatly skewed. It seems more feasible that someone (maybe a cabbie) called in and said he just saw a 6 foot plus, scraggly haired man with a camo jacket mobbing around downtown in the general vicinity of the murders; and/or the cop spotted the guy, got a chill down his spine, and did a brave and correct thing by calling in for back up and stopping what the guy might be up to that night.
And. Since I am playing the conjecture game: from APD’s response, I don’t think that they necessarily think this is over. Their response kinda made me feel like they didn’t want Anchorage putting down her guard just yet. Maybe they have reason to believe that there is more than one person involved in this.
Glad they got Mr. Thompson’s killer for certain. Hopefully they can get solid evidence to make good conclusions about the remaining murders, whether this man acted alone or with an accomplice.
I would bet my last dollar this man has a much longer list of victims, there are many missing, mainly male, often never making their destination, also missing eather leaving or headed to the valley. Noticed also kenia residents, basically highway system, somebody who is a commercial truck driver, posses as to be having motor trouble, flat tire, maybe even approaching those missing by gun point, most never to be seen nor found.there is much to be investigated in my opinion, rather this man killed many more victims or there is another monster out there… I for one would not put my guard down as of yet if l were living or visiting south areas of AK . pray investigators call in for outside assistance or step up to the plate on this much bigger problem then being lead to believe.
Why is the address of where he was picked up from prior to being dropped off downtown at such a late hour is not being disclosed??? No news agency has commented on any questions with any cab companies as to what cab or what type of phone was used to call for the ride. I know they can determine wether its a cell number or hard line. If a place of business, possible surveillance footage…
His photo that you have on here looks a bit like a drawing of a suspect from the Investor murders that happened over near Craig, Alaska abut twenty or thirty years ago. Someone connected to that case should pull up the drawing or find out if this guy was up here in Alaska back then, early 1980’s, investigated by AST.
Thanks for covering this difficult story.
I wish the APD officer / officers involved in this shooting a full recovery.
Please elaborate on Ritchie’s history as you obtain the info….
I am wondering if he did come from Virginia, Did he have any military experience?
Or did he graduate from Anchorage like one comment suggested?
Either way, I bet there are more of the ” park” homicides linked to him if his gun already matches five victims…
It seems to me like our worst nightmare out on the dark winter trails….like the marines say “Stay Frosty Out There!”
Wonder where he took the cab ride from? Gotta be a home address or place of business at that hour. If place of business, possible surveillance footage to whom he was with prior to the cab ride and shooting. But thats all rather obvious and has probably been looked into or is being look into. I know that the cab companies have caller ID and call back the number that made the call once they’ve arrived…
I don’t have my old yearbooks, but several of us thought we went to high school with him here in Anchorage, East High class of 1994… is that a fact known by the police? Or are we all somehow confusing him with a different classmate? Some of my classmates are pretty convinced we knew this guy.
As an Anchorage resident, I do not think they “have their man” just my opinion . Yes the same gun was used. But I do not think this man was the one who pulled the trigger on those 5 individuals.
and you think this because…? serial killers don’t usually part with their favorite “tool.” David Berkowitz, the famous Son of Sam killer, used the same .44-caliber for all his murders. Alaska’s notorious Robert Hansen used the same Ruger Mini-14 for all of his killings despite a house full of guns. is it possible Ritchie didn’t do all of the killings? yes. all and any things are possible. is it probable the killings were done by others, that Ritchie then somehow ended up with the gun, and that when stopped by police he decided to start a gunfight? no. the probability that Ritchie was innocent would be much higher, though still not high, if he’d allowed himself to be taken into custody with the claim he found the gun, or stole it, or was given it by a friend.
I am putting together my impressions of Ritchie from high school, and when I combine them with the latest info published about his trouble with the law and others’ impressions of him from his teenage years, I think it’s possible he is not the only person to have used this gun. He acted desperate, but… he was not a quiet, creepy character, back then at least. He was into some bad stuff, bad enough he felt he didn’t have anything to lose (or he was high), but that bad stuff maybe wasn’t serial murder. Criminal enough to have a gun with a history, maybe. Time will tell, hopefully.
the world is full of possibilities, Kristin, but there are few probabilities. this weapon used here isn’t just a gun; it is a rather unique firearm. the record on serial killers is that they usually hang onto such things. and the probabilities of a gun used in other killings being somehow obtained by a guy who decides the best response to an approaching policeman is to start a gun fight? that’s somewhere down around zero. i think there’s a reason the Anchorage Police Department is asking other law enforcement agencies around the country to check their files for unsolved murders with similar MOs or a bullet from a Colt Python. they might be reluctant to call Ritchie a serial killer, but actions often speak louder than words.
Craig, Now that the police are starting to release some details of these killings, have you heard anything about what Paddy Notar wrote in the Turnagain Times? “A source told me that a man was found dismembered on a picnic table [in Valley of the Moon Park], and when another man walked up on the scene of the crime, he was shot dead.” I wonder if this is true or not. If true, then Ritchie ranks up there with Israel Keyes with regards to being a sick SOB.
i have not heard that, but i was only starting to chase down the report of five bullets linked to one gun when Ritchie was shot. i have this feeling there is probably quite a bit APD hasn’t told the public, including how officer who was shot came to confront Ritchie. i find it a bit hard to believe that ALL he was doing was checking out the report of an unpaid cab fare. i somehow just don’t see APD rushing to the scene every time a cab driver calls to say a fare just skipped out without paying.
What perspective does it add to say he is a “one-time resident of Mt. View”?
Seems generally irrelevant.
because someone there might know him, Clark, and i’d love to hear from that person.
Clarification: Valley of the Moon Park is along Chester Creek at the base of Arctic Blvd. It’s a long ways from Turnagain.
yes, i know that and shouldn’t have made that mistake. now fixed. thanks.
Normally there’s safety in numbers but apparently this guy didn’t have any qualms about killing multiple people at once. That is scary! I am so glad this guy is no longer a threat to the public!