Nikolaevsk man assaulted trooper before being shot, state troopers say

  • Sgt. Daniel Cox congratulates a Kenai Peninsula Youth Court attorney at swearing-in ceremonies at the Homer Courthouse in December 2016. (Photo by Michael Armstrong, Homer News)
  • Sgt. Daniel Cox attends Kenai Peninsula Youth Court swearing-in ceremonies in December 2016 at the Homer Courthouse. (Photo by Michael Armstrong, Homer News)

Alaska State Troopers on Tuesday identified the troopers involved in a fatal shooting last Saturday of a Nikolaevsk man.

In a press release, troopers said Sgt. Daniel Cox fired his service weapon at Nikolai Yakunin, 42, after troopers said Yakunin attacked and severely injured Trooper Luke Kumfer. Yakunin died of his injuries at the scene. Kumfer had gone to Yakunin’s house in response to a report that Yakunin was in contact with a woman in violation of a judge’s sentencing order that Yakunin not be near her. Yakunin had pled guilty to fourth-degree assault.

The attack injured Kumfer enough he had to be taken to South Peninsula Hospital that night. Troopers said Kumfer has been released from the hospital and is recovering from his injuries.

The incident began at about 2:20 p.m. March 24 when troopers received a call that Yakunin was in contact with the woman. In an August 2017 sentence for a fourth-degree assault conviction, Superior Court Judge Charles Huguelet ordered Yakunin not to contact the woman, Yakunin’s girlfriend. At about 7:40 p.m., Kumfer went to Yakunin’s home. Trooper spokesperson Tim DeSpain did not comment on why it took troopers more than five hours to respond.

According to a preliminary investigation, troopers said Yakunin refused to cooperate with Kumfer “and became extremely threatening towards him,” the press release said. “Trooper Kumfer immediately radioed for backup and fired his Taser and also sprayed Yakunin with OC spray (pepper spray) as Yakunin’s aggression escalated.”

Yakunin continued the attack, troopers said, injuring Kumfer after he was knocked off a porch.

“Yakunin continued to assault the now-injured Trooper on the ground for approximately 20 minutes,” the press release said. “Yakunin was ultimately shot by Sergeant Cox when he arrived on scene, stopping the assault on Trooper Kumfer.”

A Homer Police officer responded to the incident, but arrived after the shooting, Homer Police Chief Mark Robl said in an email. Other troopers and investigators from the Alaska Bureau of Investigation also responded. ABI is continuing its investigation.

According to court records, Yakunin has criminal convictions for assault dating back to 2013. He pleaded guilty to five separate charges of fourth-degree assault and one charge last March for third-degree assault, a felony. Most of the charges are domestic violence related. Yakunin also has convictions for resisting arrest and reckless endangerment. Three fourth-degree assault convictions were in 2017, with the most recent an Aug. 27 charge. In the Aug. 27 charge, Sgt. Cox attempted to arrest Yakunin on a felony warrant and found him at his home with the woman he had previously been told not to contact.

In March of 2017, troopers said Yakunin slammed the woman’s head against the wall of his home when she tried to leave. Troopers charged him with third-degree assault, a felony, for having two or more prior assault convictions. Yakunin pleaded guilty to that charge, and Judge Huguelet sentenced him to 18 months in jail with 18 months suspended.

About 7:30 a.m. May 17, 2017, Kumfer went to Yakunin’s home for a report of a disturbance. According to a criminal complaint, his girlfriend said Yakunin had hit her thumb with a flute. Yakunin told Kumfer he had not been with the woman and the case was referred to the district attorney’s office.

Later at about 10:30 a.m., the girlfriend called troopers and said Yakunin was walking around the Nikolaevsk neighborhood with a metal bar threatening neighbors and hitting a neighbor’s car. Trooper Troy Shuey responded and spoke with Yakunin. Shuey said Yakunin showed him a wooden staff with a nail sticking out. Yakunin said “something about him being a captain and having authority over all,” Shuey wrote. Another trooper, Trooper Kyle Carson, arrived as backup. Yakunin threatened Shuey with a metal pipe, the trooper said in the complaint. As Yakunin raised the pipe and stepped toward him, Shuey sprayed him with pepper spray. Carson fired the Taser at him, and Yakunin dropped the pipe but not the staff. Carson then grabbed the staff and troopers put Yakunin in handcuffs.

On Aug. 27, Cox went to Yakunin’s home for a report that Yakunin had assaulted his neighbor. The neighbor said Yakunin hit him in the head with a wooden flute when the neighbor complained Yakunin played his guitar loudly. Troopers charged Yakunin with third-degree assault, a felony, because he had more than two prior assault convictions. On Aug. 29, Cox and two probation officers went to Yakunin’s home to arrest him on the Aug. 27 charge. In that incident, the woman Yakunin had a no-contact order for answered the door. Troopers arrested Yakunin on the warrant and the woman for hindering prosecution.

In the Aug. 27 incident, Yakunin pleaded guilty to an amended charge of fourth-degree assault. Huguelet sentenced Yakunin to 360 days in jail with 330 suspended and placed him on three years probation. In October, Huguelet extended Yakunin’s probation on the March charge because Yakunin violated his probation by contacting his girlfriend and continuing to break laws. Huguelet did not require Yakunin to serve his suspended jail time.

After the Alaska Bureau of Investigation completes its report, it will be forwarded to the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals to be determined if Cox’s actions were within the law. The Department of Public Safety will review the case after OSPA to determine if Cox acted in accordance with department policy.

Cox is a 20-year trooper veteran and the head of the Anchor Point Post, E Detachment. Kumfer is a 7-year trooper veteran.

According to the Department of Public Safety’s use of deadly force policy, “A thorough investigation is in the best interest of the involved officer and the Department and is expected by the public.”

A phone message was left with Yakunin’s family seeking comment on the incident, but at press time they did not respond. In a KBBI radio interview aired on Monday, Yakunin’s father, Nikolai Yakunin Sr., questioned the use of force and said it was police brutality.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

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