Anchorage Police Officer Justin T. Wollam. Wollam, 28, was killed just before 4:00 AM on Monday, July 9, 2001, in a head-on collision on the Glenn Highway while responding to a call regarding a vehicle driving erratically. The driver of the vehicle that collided with Wollam's patrol car, Anchorage resident Robert Esper, 19, was also killed, as were two of the three teenaged girls riding with him. They were Makayla P. Lewis, 16, and Heide Weilbacher, 14. A third girl, Savanah Fielding, 15, was ejected from the Chevy Blazer and was hospitalized with severe head injuries.
"Alaskans today mourn the loss of a young police officer, dedicated to public safety, who was killed in the line of duty while protecting his community and serving his fellow citizens," said Alaska Governor Tony Knowles. "Susan and I join other Alaskans in honoring his commitment and sacrifice, and expressing our condolences to Officer Wollam's family and friends."
Born and raised in Danbury, Texas, Wollam was described by friends and neighbors as friendly, outgoing, and a model student. After graduating from high school, Wollam served in the U.S. Air Force as an aircraft support technician from 1991 to 1995. Fulfilling his life-long dream of becoming a police officer, Wollam was hired in 1996 as a volunteer reserve officer at the Danbury police station and three months later transferred to the nearby Angleton Police Department.
Wollam moved to Anchorage with his family in 1999. He secured a job as a patrol officer with the Anchorage Police Department, and earned a reputation as professional and friendly, and a "people's policeman," who approached his work with energy and enthusiasm.
Wollam is survived by his wife Kristy and 4-year old daughter Kristin of Anchorage; his parents William and Beverly of Texas; and older brother Russell. A memorial service was held on Friday, July 13, at the Anchorage Baptist Temple. In recognition of his service to the people of Anchorage and Alaska, Gov. Tony Knowles ordered all state flags to be lowered to half-staff on that day.
The incident that led to the accident began at about 3:23 a.m. An Anchorage patrol officer spotted the 1985 Chevrolet Blazer driving erratically and suspected it may be a drunk driver. The patrol officer turned on overhead lights and attempted unsuccessfully to make a traffic stop.
The car sped away. A few minutes later it was spotted driving northbound in the southbound lanes of O'Malley Road. Police stopped northbound traffic on Strawberry Road to prevent an accident.
The Chevy Blazer stopped at a dead end near Arctic Boulevard and Garnet Street. Three people ran from the Blazer. Police were able to apprehend a boy and girl who ran from the car. Police are still searching for a third boy who ran from the car.
A few minutes later the Chevy Blazer was reported driving southbound in the northbound lanes of Minnesota Boulevard. Then the car was seen driving at a high-rate of speed, northbound on C Street.
Police never pursued the Chevy Blazer. Its movements were monitored as it traveled throughout the city and patrol cars followed it at a distance.
At about 3:56 a.m., the Chevy Blazer was northbound on the Glenn Highway. It crossed the median and began driving northbound in the southbound lanes. As the Chevy Blazer approached the S curves near Fort Richardson, it collided head-on with Officer Wollam's patrol car. There was a small fire after the collision that was immediately extinguished by other officers at the scene.
A few days after the accident, Ronald Frank of Anchorage was charged with furnishing alcohol to Robert Esper and the other minors with him.
Alaska Peace Officers Memorial
Anchorage Police Department