Man who eluded police was destined for psychiatric commitment

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A six-hour manhunt for a Wasilla man that closed a highway north of Anchorage began after Alaska State Troopers attempted to serve a psychiatric commitment order sought by the man's wife.

Bret Maness, 36, was shot by Anchorage police at about 7:20 a.m. Thursday. He was reported in critical but stable condition at Alaska Regional Hospital that night. He has been charged with third-degree assault, eluding officers, coercion, a weapons violation and reckless driving.

The chase began shortly after 1 a.m. when Alaska State Troopers tried to serve a psychiatric commitment order on Maness at his home in Wasilla and take him to Alaska Psychiatric Institute. Maness is a convicted felon out on bail pending an appeal.

Maness' wife, Tinamarie Buffington, asked for the involuntary commitment order. It was issued by Judge Eric Smith of Palmer late Wednesday.

In her petition, Buffington wrote she feared her husband has serious health problems and was delusional.

''He thinks he is either Jesus Christ or a witness from Revelations,'' she wrote. ''He's normally a very calm Christian man but now feels there (is a) conspiracy against him.''

Maness was in his 1971 Winnebago motor home outside his residence when troopers arrived. According to the charges, a trooper approached and began talking to him. The trooper noticed a rifle and ammunition inside the Winnebago, and Maness repeatedly told him, ''You need to leave or you are going to die.''

Maness refused to get out of the motor home, the charges state, and after 10 or 15 minutes he drove away, hitting a tree and his house. Troopers pursued him as he sped down the road, running two stop signs and a red light. Troopers said Maness fired three shots at them.

Ignoring sirens and flashing lights, Maness turned southbound on the Glenn Highway and was chased until just south of the Knik River bridge, where he hit spikes that other troopers had placed on the road to blow out his tires. The Winnebago came to a halt after about a half mile, along the Eklutna Flats.

Maness jumped out of the motor home and ran north toward Knik Arm, returned to the Winnebago briefly to retrieve something, then crossed the Glenn and ran into the woods on the east side of the highway, the charges state.

Troopers and police spotted Maness carrying an assault rifle and began tracking him with police K-9 dogs. He also had a 30-round ammunition belt and a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun, according to the charges.

Troopers closed the Glenn from the Parks Highway intersection south to Eklutna. Troopers said they began allowing vehicles to pass through the scene at 5 a.m.

''He was far enough away for a while where we felt it was safe to open the road,'' troopers spokesman Greg Wilkinson said.

Troopers set up a containment area and waited until there was enough light to track Maness. Wilkinson said 25 to 30 troopers and Anchorage police officers joined the search.

About 3 a.m. troopers in an aircraft spotted Maness walking along power line trails toward Anchorage.

For the next four hours officers tracked Maness through the woods. With the help of Gizmo, an APD German shepherd K-9, officers found him near Mile 27 of the Glenn just before 7:30 a.m.

Maness turned toward the officers, causing Gizmo and his handler to hit the ground, Wilkinson said. Another officer shot him in the left shoulder.

The highway was reopened to all traffic by 8:30 a.m.

Police spokesman Ron McGee said the department is investigating the shooting, as is standard procedure whenever an officer fires a weapon. The officer who fired the shot will be on paid leave for 72 hours, at which time the department will release the officer's name.

Maness has several criminal convictions dating to 1988. He was charged with murder in 1997, following an incident when he shot a neighbor during a confrontation. He was acquitted of the charge after he argued he fired in self defense, but was convicted of weapons violations and two drug charges.

During that investigation police found several sawed-off shotguns and a marijuana-growing operation in Maness' home, court records indicate. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, with three years suspended.

Ken Braz of the Alaska Department of Corrections said Maness was in prison from March 10 to June 12, 1999. Maness was out on bail while the 1998 case is on appeal.

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