FAIRBANKS — The thrum of engines and the crunch of tires on the frosty road were the only sounds as a hearse carrying the body of Fairbanks police Sgt. Allen Brandt made its stately way past a completely silent crowd Tuesday.
Hundreds of people stood for hours in below-freezing temperatures to honor Brandt, who died Friday in Anchorage as a result of wounds sustained when he was gunned down on a Fairbanks street two weeks ago.
Brandt’s body was flown home from Anchorage and arrived at a private hangar at the Fairbanks International Airport at about 2:20 p.m. Interior residents began arriving hours earlier, parking their vehicles in a solid line that stretched from a police roadblock at Dale Road westward to University Avenue. About 30 minutes after Brandt’s body arrived, the hearse made its way down an access road before turning west onto Airport Way, where grim-faced law enforcement officers and firefighters waited to escort their fallen comrade to a local funeral home.
Patrol vehicles from every local law enforcement agency fell in line one by one as the hearse passed by, forming a solemn procession that slowly made its way past the somber crowd.
Brandt was shot six times early on the morning of Oct. 16 while responding to a report of shots fired in downtown Fairbanks. His assailant took Brandt’s service pistol and stole his patrol car after stomping Brandt’s head as he lay bleeding on the road. A good Samaritan rendered aid until emergency crews arrived, and Brandt was flown to an Anchorage hospital for treatment.
Brandt was shot twice in his right leg, once in his left, once in his right foot, once in the chest, and a sixth bullet grazed his right knee. At least two pieces of shrapnel entered Brandt’s left eye and doctors decided to wait for inflammation and swelling to subside before operating.
Even with several bullets still in his legs, Brandt was doing well enough to be released from the hospital last week and even made a surprise visit to the Fairbanks City Council meeting Oct. 21. Brandt underwent scheduled surgery Thursday to remove the shrapnel from his eye and died of complications Friday. Hundreds showed up at the Fairbanks Police Department parking lot Friday night for an emotional candlelight vigil as the community came together to work through its shock and grief.
Brandt leaves behind his wife, Natasha, and four children.
Most of those gathered Thursday to witness Brandt’s final homecoming who were asked for comment declined, saying only that they wished to show their support for Brandt’s family and for law enforcement. Of those who did comment, Karline Benson, whose family attends the same church as Brandt, said she flew up from Seattle to watch the procession with her mother, Florine Benson. Shane Holmberg, a lieutenant colonel with the Alaska Air Guard, said he and fellow members of the 168th Wing came to honor a fellow officer and “fallen warrior” who died in service to his country and community.
After an intensive two-day hunt for Brandt’s assailant, Anthony G. Jenkins-Alexie was arrested Oct. 18 and charged with attempted murder, felony assault, vehicle theft, weapons misconduct and evidence tampering. Police reportedly found a handwritten and signed three-page confession in Jenkins-Alexie’s home in which he said he shot Brandt in retaliation for the deaths of friends and relatives killed by Fairbanks police.
Jenkins-Alexie was charged with an additional count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder Tuesday after a Fairbanks grand jury returned a supplemental indictment against him. The grand jury also returned a special verdict finding Brandt was a uniformed or otherwise clearly identifiable peace officer who was engaged in the performance of official duties when shot.
Jenkins-Alexie faces a mandatory 99-year sentence if convicted of the first-degree murder charge and if the jury returns the special verdict at trial, according to a news release by the Alaska Department of Law.
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.