Forensic gun evidence has linked a man killed last Saturday in a gunfight with Anchorage police to at least five homicides in that city this year, reports the Alaska Dispatch News. James Dale Ritchie, 40, was killed by other officers after wounding Officer Arn Salao, who was shot four times but was expected to survive. Ritchie was a standout athlete during his youth in Anchorage, but his life had been lost to narcotics. Police say the gun Ritchie used to shoot Salao, a Colt Python .357, has been connected to two homicides July 3 on a bike path in Anchorage; the slaying of a young man July 29 in East Anchorage, and a double homicide Aug. 28 at Valley of the Moon Park in the city.
Police have described the shooting of Salao as an ambush as the officer responded to a report of a theft suspect. Salao was shot as he arrived, while still sitting in his patrol vehicle. It wasn’t immediately clear if Ritchie had connections to the victims in the summer homicides. After high school, Ritchie’s life was derailed by drugs and a felony record. His first encounter with police occurred in 1998, four years after he graduated. There were many others. In a letter to the judge presiding over one of his prosecutions, Ritchie wrote that he “lay in bed every night thinking about how I’ve ruined my life. Then I sit up crying wishing I could go back to when I was in high school.”