What started as a report of a domestic violence assault ended in the death of 24-year-old Aaron Michael Rael-Catholic of Homer in an incident Wednesday evening on McLay Road, about four miles out East End Road.
According to a dispatch from the Alaska State Troopers, the troopers received a report of a domestic violence assault in progress at approximately 8:17 p.m. Wednesday.
“An adult female reported being assaulted by an ex-boyfriend at her residence in the area of East End Road in Homer,” the trooper dispatch said.
The caller indicated she was able to leave the residence in a private vehicle. A trooper responded, but the sequence of events is unclear.
The adult male assailant, identified as Aaron Michael Rael-Catholic, rammed his vehicle into the female victim’s vehicle.
According to the dispatch, “Rael-Catholic exited his vehicle and a struggle ensued between him and the responding trooper. During the trooper's attempt to arrest the assailant, a deployment of both pepper spray and a taser were attempted.”
The trooper and the suspect wrestled on the ground.
“During the struggle, preliminary information is Rael-Catholic obtained possession of the State Troopers’ pistol and fatally shot himself,” the dispatch said. “The specific actions of how the fatal gunshot wound occurred remains under review.”
Having just left the Homer Theatre at 8:10 p.m., Christy Hill and her husband were headed home and turned from East End Road onto McLay Road when they noticed a vehicle on its side, a black SUV that appeared to have its front end up against the underside of the overturned vehicle and “a trooper that looked like he had someone on the ground at gunpoint,” said Hill, who did not actually see a person on the ground. Neither did Hill notice anyone else present at the scene.
“With his other arm, it looked like he was waving us away,” said Hill of the direction given by the trooper.
Turning around, Hill and her husband used an alternate route that led home, as well as to the top of McLay Road, where they could see the activity at the scene of the incident.
“That’s when other cops showed up,” said Hill.
After returning home, Hill said she could hear sirens. Later in the evening, she returned to the top of McLay to see what was happening and from the size of the response thought, “Holy cow, something bad is going on.”
Phil Morris lives at the corner of East End and McLay roads and it was in his upper driveway where the overturned vehicle came to rest. Morris was home at the time, but unaware anything had occurred until after troopers had arrived.
“Three troopers were there, the ambulance had gotten there just then and city police were right there, too. Homer city, one guy,” said Morris. “Basically, Homer Police Department was keeping people out of the way.”
The only communication Morris received from law enforcement was to stay away from the area. From his position, he could see the overturned vehicle, but not its make or model and not a second vehicle. He also witnessed a female being led to an ambulance.
“I saw her back as they were escorting her into the ambulance. She was ambulatory,” he said.
The State Medical Examiner’s Office is expected to perform an autopsy later this week. The trooper was uninjured. Investigation of the initial domestic violence assault, the motor vehicle collision and the death of the assailant is underway by the Alaska State Trooper Alaska Bureau of Investigation. The name of the trooper will be withheld for 72 hours after the incident.
“The only additional thing that we’ve provided is clarification that the trooper was alone at the time,” said Peters. “There were no other troopers.”
The total number of law enforcement personnel that eventually responded is not known at this time.
From being that close to the incident, Morris said, “I am concerned at the level of risk these guys are in to get in that position. My heart goes out to everybody involved, but the trooper especially. This is a high risk occupation in this day and age.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.