JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A man shot and killed by a Juneau police officer was a tattoo artist who had befriended neighbors and plied his art for them.
Kelly “Rabbit” Stephens, 34, died early Sunday after he was shot once in the abdomen at an apartment complex in the Mendenhall Valley, KTOO reported.
The officer, who was placed on administrative leave, had responded to a 911 call from a woman who said she had heard yelling and a gunshot.
Police Chief Ed Mercer at a press conference Sunday said the responding officer got to the apartment complex, stepped out of his patrol car and heard yelling. The officer saw a man approaching and swinging a chain.
“The man yelled at the officer that he was going to kill him several times,” Mercer said, adding the officer repeatedly told the man to stop.
When Stephens didn’t stop, Mercer said, the officer shot him once in the torso.
Neighbor Georgianna Joseph said Stephens had inked tattoos on her and other friends. Stephens had been in her apartment on Saturday night, Joseph said.
“There was no alcohol, no drugs or anything,” she said.
Stephens later argued with a neighbor. Joseph said. There was yelling but no one displayed a weapon, she said, and she did not hear a gunshot. Afterward, she said, Stephens took off to walk his puppy while carrying a dog leash.
“Never in a million years” did she think she would later see him shot, she said.
After the shooting, police handcuffed Stephens and called paramedics.
“The weapon that was recovered was on a rope and at the very end was a chain that appears to be a motorcycle chain with a carabiner attaching it,” Mercer said. “It could look like a leash, but it was a rope with a carabiner and a chain.”
Witnesses tried to help Stephens but were kept back by police, Joseph said. An officer may have given Stephens medical assistance, Mercer said.
Stephens died at Bartlett Regional Hospital.
State Troopers will assist with the investigation. Juneau police officers are equipped with BodyWorn, an audio and video recording system. Mercer said there are also mobile video systems in police cars.
The shooting was the second involving a Juneau police officer last year and the first fatal one since 2007.