At least 1 dead in Alaska grocery store shooting, authorities say; suspect in custody

, At least 1 dead in Alaska grocery store shooting, authorities say; suspect in custody, The Evepost Huff News
, At least 1 dead in Alaska grocery store shooting, authorities say; suspect in custody, The Evepost Huff News

At least one person is dead and another injured after a grocery store shooting in interior Alaska, authorities confirmed Monday. 

Police received multiple calls reporting a shooting at the Safeway grocery store in Fairbanks, Alaska. The gunman didn’t break stride as he continued inside and sprayed gunfire across the store, The Associated Press reported. Officers found the first victim, the 41-year-old man, unresponsive on the sidewalk.

Additional officers entered the store, where they found a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun on the floor inside the entrance. They also found the second victim, a 24-year-old man, located behind the customer service desk who had been shot in the foot.

While detectives processed the grocery store scene they “observed multiple firearm magazines and multiple spent and unspent 9mm rounds,” the statement says. Teal Soden, a police spokesperson, declined to detail how many shots were fired.

Both victims were transported to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where the older man was pronounced dead. The man shot in the foot was treated and has since been released.

Joshua Eric Butcher, 41, who turned himself into police minutes after the shooting Sunday, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, according to police. Butcher is being held at the Fairbanks Correctional Center, the Fairbanks Police Department said. 

Police have not identified a motive in the shooting, the department said in a statement. 

Butcher appeared Monday afternoon for an arraignment, where he was ordered held on $10 million bail. He was appointed a public defender. A message sent to the public defender’s office in Fairbanks seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Fairbanks District Attorney Joseph Dallaire said he anticipates at least one other charge will be filed against Butcher. 

About 11 minutes after the shooting in Fairbanks, police said they received a call from Butcher who said he was outside of the police department. He said he had been at Safeway, and officers could come outside and arrest him, according to the statement. He also said he would not answer questions without an attorney present.

Police said he matched the description of the shooter and had an empty gun holster and empty magazine holders on him.

, At least 1 dead in Alaska grocery store shooting, authorities say; suspect in custody, The Evepost Huff News

Security camera footage shows a man approaching the entrance of the store and shooting the 41-year-old man in the stomach as he was leaving the store, the statement says. The video footage then shows the gunman continuing into the store with a firearm in his hand.

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He walked behind the registers, heading north in the building but then turned around and headed out the same entrance he entered, the statement says. It wasn’t immediately clear how long he was in the store.

“All of the camera footage is still being reviewed closely but right now we know the first victim’s shooting was clearly on video,” Soden said in an email to The Associated Press. “We’ll need to review more before we definitely say whether the second victim’s shooting was clearly on video or not.”

The shooting comes as Alaska’s department of public safety reported that the state’s violent crime rate has been more than twice as high as the national rate going back to 2016 —  even though 2020’s rate was the lowest level in five years.

Alaska’s murder rate dropped by almost a third from 2019 to 2020, but has still been historically higher than the national rate. 

The state has looser gun laws than most — anyone 21 or older is allowed to legally possess a firearm without a permit, according to the department of public safety.

Alaska is an open-carry state, and about 59% of households own guns, according to the nonprofit think tank RAND Corporation, which offers research and analysis to the United States Armed Forces. That’s the second-highest rate in the country, only behind Montana and tied with Wyoming. 

Contributing: Celina Tebor, USA TODAY