Wolf Song of Alaska News

Biologist Rick Sinnott Wounded in Drive-By in Anchorage

Megan Holland / Anchorage Daily News / October 20, 2006

He carries a gun. He tracks bad bears through city parks. When urban wildlife gets out of hand, he's the man they call.

But three weeks ago, Anchorage area Fish and Game biologist Rick Sinnott was on the wrong end of gunfire when he got hit by a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting.

Sinnott was on his way home from his 56th birthday party on Sept. 30 and slowing for a red light when a bullet from a .223-caliber assault rifle hit him in the thigh, he said Thursday.


His wife, who was in the passenger seat of their mini-SUV, was not injured.

The couple was returning to their north Anchorage residence just after 11 p.m. Before their mini-SUV even made a full stop, the couple heard "this amazingly loud 'Bam! Bam,' " coming from their left, recalled Lisa Sinnott.

Rick ducked; Lisa reeled back, away from the sound.

"It was like slow motion," she said. "You could see and hear glass shattering everywhere." Rick said, "I think I've been hit." She looked over and saw blood.

They noticed there were two cars to their left, one a larger SUV or pickup and the other a smaller sedan that had windows shattered everywhere.

Rick said he hit the gas and blew through the light while Lisa called 911 for help. An ambulance met them at their home and took Rick to the hospital.

The bullet had apparently been fired from the far car at the car nearer the Sinnotts, blasted through all windows in its way and the metal door of the Sinnott's vehicle before embedding in Rick's thigh.

A second bullet hit higher up on the Sinnotts' door.

"If that one had gotten through, it would have hit him in the chest," Lisa said.

Anchorage police say they believe three shots were fired. No one in either of the involved cars reported the incident to police and no one has been arrested.

"There are a lot of shootings that go unreported," said police Detective Jim Anderson, who is working the Sinnott case. "We get calls from people saying two cars were shooting at each other, or we have people showing up at the hospital with gunshot wounds, but the cars are gone by the time we get there and the injured tend to be uncooperative."

Sinnott is the latest innocent bystander injured in a street shooting and at least the fifth this year to be hit by stray bullets in a wave of escalating shootouts in Anchorage, which police say are mostly gang related.

Anderson said he could not say whether the shooting was gang related without knowing who was shooting and why. The city currently has 130 known gang members and about 100 gang associates, police say.

Lisa Sinnott said she is afraid to drive around Anchorage, and when she comes to a stoplight now, she looks around and is glad when the vehicles next to her are senior citizens.

"It was the most frightening experience of my life," she said." We have issues in our community ... Something needs to be done."

Rick Sinnott, who was back at work at Fish and Game two days after the shooting, said the injury hasn't affected his walking. The bullet is still in his leg -- the doctors said to remove it may cause more damage.

"If you are going to get shot and have a bullet lodged in you somewhere, the thigh is about the best place," he said.

On primary election day, a campaign worker for Gov. Frank Murkowski was hit when gunfire broke out among three vehicles outside campaign headquarters on Northern Lights Boulevard in the mid-afternoon. In July, a football player was shot in the head and seriously injured when gunfire erupted at a public game at the Anchorage Football Stadium. In May, a bullet burst through the wall of an Anchorage man's Muldoon apartment while he sat at his computer and lodged in his neck. Several weeks later, a 12-year-old boy was shot in the leg and back while he was a passenger in an SUV helping his father deliver newspapers.

Daily News reporter Megan Holland can be reached at mrholland@adn.com.


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