Police chief in Alaska charged with assaulting man at resort

December 30, 2022 GMT

A police chief in Alaska pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that he assaulted an intoxicated man while he was off-duty at a resort restaurant, including allegedly shoving the man head-first into a wall and putting him in a chokehold.

A grand jury returned an indictment Thursday for Ketchikan Police Chief Jeffrey Harrison Walls for felony third-degree assault. He is also charged with three counts of fourth-degree assault and two counts of reckless endangerment, which are misdemeanors.

During an arraignment Friday, defense attorney Jay Hochberg entered a not-guilty plea for Walls, who moved to Ketchikan from Louisiana in July after being hired in December 2021.

Hochberg called the allegations false and defamatory.

According to court documents, Alaska State Troopers responded to the Salmon Falls Resort restaurant on Sept. 10 to investigate a report of an assault involving a man, Walls and Walls’ wife, Sharon.

Troopers believed they were responding to an assault on the Wallses but saw the chief outside, apparently uninjured, and the man bleeding from his head, the documents said.

Witnesses told investigators the man was intoxicated and causing disturbances throughout the evening. The man intentionally bumped into the chair of the chief, who was off-duty at the time, and apologized. The two men shook hands, according to the indictment.

An hour later, the man stumbled into Sharon Walls’ bar chair. Her husband got up from his seat, ran after the man and pushed him head-first into a stone wall and put him in a chokehold, the indictment said.

“Chief Walls is a veteran law enforcement officer who was enthusiastically hired by the City of Ketchikan last year. He has dedicated his career to public safety, and he most certainly did not commit an assault as the state has alleged,” Hochberg said in a statement.

“In fact, he was simply detaining an individual who had committed a crime -- and using reasonable force to do so. The allegation of excessive force in this case is simply false. Chief Walls did absolutely nothing wrong, and I look forward to seeing him vindicated in court.”

Trial is scheduled for March. If convicted, Walls would face up to five years in prison.

Ketchikan Daily News previously reported that Walls was hired at an annual salary of $132,761.

Walls worked in law enforcement for 25 years and was commander of several districts of the New Orleans Police Department before arriving in Ketchikan, which is located on an island in southeast Alaska and is a major cruise ship port for city-sized cruise ships coming to Alaska.

City Manager Delilah Walsh said Friday that city officials don’t comment on personnel matters. She said Walls remains police chief while the city conducts an internal investigation. He’s currently on personal leave, she said. __ AP journalist Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska contributed to this report.