Anchorage police have identified a male suspect arrested after allegedly striking and assaulting a female student outside Bartlett High School.
According to Anchorage Police Department spokesperson Jennifer Castro, 21-year-old Rodney Stevens has been charged with one count of second-degree assault in the case.
In a Tuesday statement, Castro says APD school resource officer Cindy Tanaka informed dispatchers just after 8:30 a.m. that the student, who appeared to have been assaulted, had arrived at the school.
“As she was on school property, she stopped and waited to see if the male would pass her,” Castro wrote. “The male approached the female, introduced himself and told her he was a student at Bartlett High. He then began assaulting her, striking her in the face and wrapping his arms around her neck. The male got up and left the scene.”
Tanaka remained with the student who was subsequently treated at a local hospital, while SRO Kristi Mercer apprehended Stevens.
“A few minutes later, SRO Mercer located a male subject matching the suspect description walking near Boundary Avenue and Muldoon Road,” Castro wrote. “The male subject was wearing clothing matching the suspect description and Officer Mercer noticed he had blood on his hands. The male subject was taken into custody and will be interviewed by police.”
Castro says Stevens, who wasn't ever a Bartlett student, informed officers that he was originally from Copper Center.
"He told police he has lived in Anchorage for a number of years," Castro said.
According to Castro, investigators won't yet release information on whether drugs, alcohol or mental issues are believed to be factors in the assault.
At a media briefing on the assault APD Lt. Anthony Henry, head of the department’s school resource officers, says the investigation is now in the hands of APD’s Crimes Against Children Unit. He recommends that children walking to school do so in groups for greater safety.
ASD spokesperson Heidi Embley says the incident caused Bartlett to briefly enter stay-put mode, but no lockdown was ordered. She declined further comment, because the incident didn’t directly involve the school.
The arrest comes a day after Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed an Anchorage Assembly measure which would have appropriated an additional $750,000 of city funds to cover the SRO program's annual $3 million cost, now largely borne by ASD. An existing measure will provide $750,000 from the city toward the program, but some Assembly members have said the city should foot half of the 17 officers' tab.
In response to a Channel 2 request for comment, Anchorage Police Department Employees Association President Derek Hsieh deplored the partisan nature of the SRO funding dispute.
"This case highlights the value of the SRO program in a dramatic way," Hsieh wrote in an email. "It's unfortunate that our community has fallen to the place where we're pitting the jobs of police officers against teachers in a political funding battle."
Lindsey Whitt, a spokesperson for Sullivan, says in a Tuesday statement on the SRO program that APD currently covers employment costs for Henry, the program's supervisor. She says grant funding has previously helped with the program's annual costs, and that this year it has cost local taxpayers "zero dollars."
"In the Mayor’s opinion, SROs like Cindy Tanaka and Kristi Mercer are significant to the operations of the Anchorage School District and are valued APD employees," Whitt wrote.
Editor's note: An initial version of this story inaccurately attributed comments from an APD statement by spokesperson Jennifer Castro to her colleague Anita Shell.
Channel 2's Corey Allen-Young contributed information to this story.