ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The body of a man killed by an Alaska police officer during a routine traffic stop had seven bullet holes, including one contact wound under his left arm aimed at his lung and heart, his sister said Thursday.
Micah McComas was killed by a Seward police officer on Oct. 1 after being detained following the discovery of drugs in his wallet during a traffic stop.
His sister, Krista Smith of Greenville, South Carolina, said Thursday the family has a number of unanswered questions and wonders if lethal force was necessary.
Adding to the confusion, she said, was uncertainty whether her brother was still handcuffed when he was shot and where the shooting took place, if it was in the cruiser or on the ground of the grocery store parking lot where the traffic stop took place.
"We are concerned by the sheer number of bullet holes in his body," she said at a news conference in Anchorage. "It causes us to wonder exactly what type of threat that a handcuffed Micah could have been after being shot this many times."
Even though there were seven bullet holes, she said the family refuses to speculate on how many times he was shot.
McComas, a 41-year-old who lived in the Anchorage suburb of Chugiak, was a passenger in a car that was pulled over by Seward police officer Michael "Eddie" Armstrong, a 13-year department veteran. The officer found an unknown quantity and type of drugs in McComas' wallet, placed him in handcuffs and put him in the back of the police cruiser.
McComas somehow was able to get into the front seat of the police car and attempted to drive off, Alaska State Troopers said in a statement earlier this week. The troopers are investigating the shooting, and will recommend to the Alaska Attorney General's office whether charges are warranted. The investigation will take about six weeks.
McComas' body was released to the family on Oct. 6.
"We can confirm that the holes on his body are located in his arm, his torso, his hand, — two of his fingers were shot off — and both of his legs. There's another shot under his arm that has been described to us as a contact wound by a former medical examiner," Smith said.
Family members met with assistant Attorney General Andrew Peterson on Wednesday and asked to see footage from the cruiser's dash cam and the officer's body cam, but that request was denied.
However, she said Peterson told them that the footage shows McComas was still handcuffed when he was in the front seat of the cruiser, before the shooting.
"We certainly do not in any way condone Micah's actions as they have been presented to us, but we haven't seen any video footage to confirm the events," she said.
Both troopers and the attorney general's office declined to comment because it's an ongoing investigation.
"The City of Seward has the utmost sympathy for the McComas family. Out of respect for all involved, we are not commenting at this time while the Alaska State Troopers and Department of Law complete their review of the evidence," Seward City Attorney William A. Earnhart said in an email to The Associated Press. "Officer Armstrong, who was injured in this event, has not returned to work; it is unclear as to when he may return to patrol duty."
Authorities declined to detail how the officer was injured other than to describe the injuries as non life-threatening.
Smith said despite the unanswered questions, the family is putting its faith in the process to determine if the death was legally justified under Alaska state law.
"We have no reason, at this point, to doubt the veracity of the investigation or the people that are conducting it," she said. "We believe that we all want the same thing, and that's the truth."
Seward is located about 90 miles south of Anchorage, on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula.