Eagle River men chased, held at gunpoint after theft

Posted: Thursday, June 07, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Two 21-year-old Eagle River men were shot at, chased down, and held at gunpoint Wednesday by a man state troopers say was the victim of a theft from a vehicle.

Alaska State Troopers say the case is being reviewed and charges could be filed against all three, including assault charges against the vigilante.

So far only Hal Lee Jr., one of the two 21-year-olds, has been arrested. He is charged with driving while intoxicated.

Troopers received a call at 4:40 a.m. and found Lee and the other 21-year-old held at gunpoint on the Glenn Highway at the Knik River Bridge by a 38-year-old man from Wasilla.

Lee's arrest followed a chase that took the two vehicles throughout highways around Wasilla and Palmer.

Troopers say they are investigating the incident in connection with thefts from at least five vehicles at two locations.

Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said two vehicles were damaged in a commuter parking lot on Hyer Road near Palmer and Wasilla.

Wilkinson said other vehicles were broken into at a residential area in Wasilla.

Wilkinson said Lee and the other man were confronted in the neighborhood by the Wasilla vehicle owner. They fled in a van down a dead-end road. After the van turned around, the man stepped out of his car with a shotgun and attempted to stop the pair, who sped by.

After they passed, Wilkinson said, the man fired his shotgun and blew out the back window of the van.

Wilkinson said the man followed the pair south on the Parks Highway, east on the Glenn Highway to Palmer, back to Wasilla via the Palmer-Wasilla Highway, then south toward Anchorage via the Parks and Glenn highways.

When they reached the Knik River Bridge about 30 road miles from Anchorage, the van ran out of gas, Wilkinson said.

The men fled on foot, but the Wasilla man fired his shotgun into the air.

''They decided at that point they had enough running,'' Wilkinson said, and the man held them at gunpoint until troopers arrived.

Wilkinson said the vigilante may be charged with assault.

''At the time he fired, he was not physically threatened,'' Wilkinson said, referring to the shooting at the van.

''You can't just go shooting your gun at people,'' he said.

Wilkinson had no details of the chase, such as how fast the vehicles were driving, other than the route.

''He did quite a bit of chasing,'' Wilkinson said of the Wasilla man.

He said troopers do not encourage Alaskans to take law enforcement into their own hands in such circumstances.

''Our preference is that they give us a holler and let us do the work,'' Wilkinson said. ''We like to keep everybody safe in a situation like this.''

Troopers said damage was estimated at $5,000 to the vehicles and an undetermined amount of property, including credit cards, was stolen.

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