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Anchorage police kill man wielding hatchets, axes suspected in Home Depot robbery

Anchorage Police Chief Chris Tolley addresses reporters at after police officers killed a Home Depot robbery suspect on July 12, 2016. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)
Anchorage Police Chief Chris Tolley addresses reporters at after police officers killed a Home Depot robbery suspect on July 12, 2016. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)

A young man is dead after a police-involved shooting in Anchorage on Tuesday evening.

Anchorage Police Chief Chris Tolley spoke to reporters during a short press conference at APD headquarters two hours after the event.

According to law enforcement, the incident started with a call about a robbery at an East Anchorage Home Depot. Police say the suspect was armed with “several hatchets and axes” when officers confronted him behind the store.

“Ignoring commands, the suspect threw some of the weapons at officers and then advanced at the officers with at least one hatchet in his hand,” Tolley said, reading from a prepared statement. “In defense of their own lives, two officers fired.”

In keeping with the department’s policy, the officers will be on administrative leave for four days before their names are publicly released.

The suspect died after being transported to a local hospital.

Police identified the suspect as 23-year-old Benjamin Zekovic. Tolley described him as Caucasian.

Neither the officers nor any customers or employees were injured.

The shooting comes amid a chaotic few days that have seen national outrage over officer-involved shootings and an assault on police in Dallas. Tolley was one of several local leaders who spoke during a Black Lives Matter rally in Anchorage last Friday, and is adamant about maintaining a dialogue with residents.

“We want the public to be informed whenever an incident like this involving one of our officers occurs in the community,” Tolley said Tuesday. “We’re extremely concerned about the community, and above all about our own officers.”

The shooting will be investigated by the state’s Office of Special Prosecutions to assess whether the two officers were justified in using deadly force.

This is at least the fourth officer-involved shooting in Alaska in 2016, including incidents in Barrow and Wasilla, as well as another in Anchorage on Jan. 12.

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