Armed Alaska Man Foils Suspected Mass Murderer

The incident took place in a small village located in the western portion of Alaska. (Photo: Andrea Pokrzywinski from Cheqamegon National Forest)

A man armed with a rifle foiled what authorities say was an attempted mass murder in Alaska earlier this month.

On May 16, 19-year-old Bryan Nicolai broke into the Public Safety Building in Kwethluk, a remote city of just over 700 residents located about 400 miles west of Anchorage. Nicolai activated the building’s fire alarm system before breaking into one of the building’s offices. There, he found a ballistic vest, a helmet, and multiple rifles, which he staged throughout the building, according to an Alaska State Trooper incident report.

Community residents began responding to the fire alarm, including Village Public Safety Officers (VPSO), who do not carry firearms on patrol. Officer Tiger Lee was the first to respond to the incident, and he told Alaska Public Radio (APR) that Nicolai pointed a rifle at him and pulled the trigger.

“I believe he wasn’t aware that the rifle was empty, and I could have been shot,” Lee said.

Nicolai grabbed another rifle and began firing Lee’s direction while the officer hid behind a shipping container.

That’s when Casey Thompson stepped in and ended the incident without firing a shot.

“A community member that initially arrived and observed what was happening, fled the area, returned with a rifle and was able to talk Nicolai into lowering his weapon and lay on the ground,” according to the police report.

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Lee expressed gratitude that Thompson had a gun, APR reported, and he thinks he and his fellow officers should be able to carry them.

“If we had access to firearms, we’d be able to handle more of these scenarios on our own,” Lee said.

Kwethluk Public Safety Administrative Chief Nicolai Joseph told APR that none of the ten officers in his village carry firearms. Some carry batons and pepper spray, but others only have handcuffs.

Deputy Chief David Berezkin said that officers do not carry firearms because the required training is too expensive. The training takes two to three months in the lower 48, and Joseph said that the city can’t afford to be sued for improper use of force.

Berezkin also pointed out that incidents involving guns are rare in the village, and that sometimes the presence of a gun can escalate rather than deescalate the situation.

“We don’t deal with this every day, you know?” Berezkin said.

SEE ALSO: Renowned Criminologist: When Media Can’t Demonize Guns, It Ignores Mass Killings

Lee also believes he could have talked Nicolai down if Thompson hadn’t stepped in. He told APR that his previous experience dealing with people who want to harm themselves has taught him to ask questions and convince them that he’s there to help.  

“What are they feeling? Why are they feeling that?” Lee said. “And if there’s anything I can do to help. That I can do, or my fellow officers, or my fellow community members can do to help them feel better.”

Thompson declined to talk with local media about the incident and has not responded to GunsAmerica’s request for comment.  

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About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over four years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco. Follow him on Instagram @bornforgoodluck and email him at jordan@gunsamerica.com.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Jim Cargill May 29, 2020, 9:35 am

    This such a dumbazz story. You cannot have a “suspected mass murderer” until more than one person is killed by an individual. For DNFU, placing guns in various places does not make a person a suspected mass murderer. If no “murder” is committed, there is no suspect. The person in question was not a “suspect”, he was a “potential” murderer, as is true for every person alive. C. Lehman is absolutely correct…this was nothing but clik-bait, and the author should be ashamed of himself. Maybe he would like to go to work for CNN, as they seem to specialize in clik-bait news.

    • Blair Wrigley May 30, 2020, 5:04 am

      When you point a rifle at someone and pull the trigger on an empty chamber that is at the least aggravated assualt and could be attempted murder and he is a suspect. A lot depends on the interview with the suspect and what he tells you about his intentions, if interviewed properly. Also his placing of weapons about, can add to the ability to prosecute him and the fact that he attempted to shoot the first person arriving and then after finding a loaded rifle did begin shooting at him. I have been a cop for 29 years and don’t see any problem with prosecuting him for the crime. Once you take the first steps in planning and then carrying out a crime, even if it is stopped before you complete The plan, it is still a crime.

  • Jerry S May 29, 2020, 8:48 am

    What firearms training has to take 2-4 months. My gosh, you live in Alaska for pete’s sake. We’re told Alaska is still the frontier and you don’t have weapons?? Bring someone in from outside, ex-military or something. Set up a training program in your own department, this is just a stupid reason to not have firearms for the officers.

    • DS May 29, 2020, 10:58 am

      VPSOs would not have to go out of state to train. They are already trained at the trooper academy in Sitka. If a village has VPOs, they are trained in Sitka as well and do carry firearms. The VPSOs work for the state and their training does not cost the villages anything. So the village has no real decision-making power over the VPSO or whether he has a gun or not. As far as there being 10 officers in a town of 700, I would be surprised if there were more than one or two VPSOs, so the others were likely very informal VPOs with no training at all, likely paid by the town only for temporary work, like watching a prisoner until the troopers fly in to arrest him.

      The state is moving toward arming VPSOs.

      • MQ May 30, 2020, 2:04 am

        Actually, DS, VPSOs work for the tribal non profit. Each non profit has a VPSO program. They get money from the state, but the officers are employees of the non profit. TCC, Kawerak, Maneluq, are examples of the non profits. When a VPSO is placed in a town, the city has to cover any insurance expenses and the increased cost of a policy covering firearm use makes it too costly for VPSOs to carry a firearm. VPOs are employed by the tribe. Each village is it’s own tribe. You DO NOT want VPOs carrying firearms!!!

  • Alan May 28, 2020, 10:22 am

    You don’t deal with a fire every day either but you have a fire department.

    • Rattlerjake May 29, 2020, 10:43 pm

      Maybe they should cut there fire dept. funding so they can train these security officers.

  • KimberproSS May 28, 2020, 10:18 am

    “Berezkin also pointed out that incidents involving guns are rare in the village, and that sometimes the presence of a gun can escalate rather than deescalate the situation.” Typical progressive liberal perspective.

    • Rattlerjake May 29, 2020, 10:45 pm

      The whole article did nothing but make excuses for why they don’t need or carry guns, yet this incident says otherwise.

  • randy bauer May 28, 2020, 9:48 am

    Odd that security members aren’t at least lightly armed.

  • Christopher Lehman May 28, 2020, 8:17 am

    How does this make the suspect a mass murderer? Stop it with the click bait already.

    • DNFU May 28, 2020, 1:16 pm

      It was plainly stated n the article that “multiple rifles, which he staged throughout the building” you don’t need to place multiple rifles in multiple areas to shoot a single person. You only need to do this if you are planning an extended action, in which you are moving around to multiple firing stations. As such this is pretty well proof of a plan to harm multiple people.

      • Rattlerjake May 29, 2020, 10:48 pm

        BULL! It mentioned how this dipwad fied on the first guy to respond but didn’t hit anything, maybe he just knew he was a poor shot and needed several guns to hit one guy. Or maybe he just wanted to initiate an incident without actually hitting or killing anyone.

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