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State: Fatal Shooting by Officer, Trooper 'Legally Justified'

By Austin Baird, Political, Rural Reporter, abaird@ktuu.com
Published On: May 09 2014 03:19:58 PM AKDT
Updated On: May 09 2014 03:35:05 PM AKDT
ANCHORAGE -

The decision by two law enforcement officers to fatally shoot a man during a traffic stop was “justified,” according to a state review.

On the evening of March 9, Alaska State Troopers and the Wasilla Police Department responded to reports that there were two heavily intoxicated men in a Chevrolet pickup truck along Parks Highway.

Gordon Samel, 52, was behind the wheel of the pickup.

He allegedly pulled into the parking lot of a business and drove away when confronted by a trooper who knocked on the truck's door at about 9 p.m.

Three patrol cars – one driven by a WPD officer, the others driven by troopers – tracked down and encircled the truck at the intersection of Parks Highway and Seward-Meridian Highway.

As a trooper and officer approached the truck on foot, Samel allegedly backed the truck directly toward the Wasilla police officer.

Trooper Daron Cooper and Officer Brandon Gray opened fire, killing Samel.

The passenger was treated for a non-life threatening wound to his arm at a hospital and has been released.

A review by the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals concluded that criminal charges are not warranted against either the officer or the trooper, according to results released Friday.