Police shoot dead 'serial killer'.... in chance encounter over unpaid
Police may have unwittingly solved the mystery of a suspected serial killer after shooting dead a man who opened fire at officers in a chance encounter over an unpaid taxi fare.
James Dale Ritchie's weapon, recovered from the scene of the shooting in Anchorage, Alaska, has been linked to at least five murders in the city this year.
The drama reportedly unfolded in the early hours on Saturday, when officers approached the 40-year-old in the street after responding to a report that a man in the area had refused to pay a taxi fare and walked away from the vehicle.
When they asked him to stop, Ritchie is said to have "unloaded" his gun multiple times on Anchorage police officer Arn Salao, who returned fire along with colleague Sergeant Marc Patzke.
Once the situation was under control the officers made attempts to save him, but he died at the scene.
It was only when ballistics tests were run on the weapon that the police department linked it to the series of murders.
In a news conference, police chief Chris Tolley described both officers as heroes.
He said Mr Salao remained in hospital after two emergency operations, but is out of intensive care and "recovering".
Mr Tolley praised the officers, saying they had "made sure that this individual will not hurt any one of you or any one of the citizens in Anchorage".
Ritchie's gun, a Colt Python .357 revolver, was used in two double murders and in a fifth killing in the city this year, Mr Tolley said.
The bodies of the four victims of the double murders were reportedly all found along bike trails, while the fifth victim's bicycle was stolen by his killer.
At least four other people are said to have been killed under similar circumstances this year - bringing the number of related murders in the city to nine.
Anchorage is said to average about 12 murders a year, but has already seen 25 so far in 2016.
Prior to the discovery of Ritchie's gun, authorities had remained tight-lipped about the high number of unsolved murders, according to the Alaska Dispatch News.
This was despite the involvement of the FBI, a warning to residents to steer clear of isolated area and widespread rumours a serial killer was on the loose, it added.
Police have stressed the investigation is still in its early stages and that they have not definitively linked Ritchie to any of the deaths, NBC reported.
However, they said his driving licence picture closely resembled a composite sketch of the suspect in at least one of the earlier murders.