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US Army soldier shot and killed in Alaska

Sgt. Julian Christopher Francis. (U.S. Army photo/Released)
April 13, 2022

A U.S. Army soldier was shot and killed at a hotel near Anchorage, Alaska on Saturday, the Army first revealed Tuesday night.

In a statement provided to American Military News, the Army identified the deceased soldier as 30-year-old Sgt. Julian Christopher Francis. The Army said its Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and the Anchorage Police Department are leading the investigation into Francis’ death.

On Tuesday, the Anchorage Daily News reported 22-year-old Brent Smith had been charged Monday with first and second-degree murder in Francis’ shooting death.

A criminal complaint described Smith as a black male adult with dreadlock hair and “chin-strap” beard. Smith allegedly arrived at the hotel in a white sedan.

Smith is alleged to have shot and killed Francis while he was near the indoor swimming pool at the Hyatt House in Midtown. The charging document states witnesses saw Francis had been hanging out with a group of people near the pool before Smith pulled out a handgun and shot Francis. Smith, who also went by the nicknames Koda and Jakota, reportedly fled the scene after shooting Francis.

“It is unclear at this time what provoked the attack,” the criminal complaint reads.

Later that day, police later located a white 2013 Toyota Corolla matching the description of the car Smith arrived in at the Hyatt House hotel and later arrested him. Smith is being held at the Anchorage Correctional Complex on a $750,000 bail.

Francis was a native of Saint Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He joined the Army in 2013 and trained at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and Fort Lee, Virginia.

Francis’ first duty assignment was Fort Wainwright, Alaska. He served there before attending and completing the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning in 2017. Francis then went on to serve at Fort Bragg from 2017 to 2020. In 2020, Francis was assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) with the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.

“Sgt. Francis was an integral part of our Centurion family; an empathetic leader who inspired the paratroopers around him,” Lt. Col. Raphael A. Jimenez II, 725th BSB commander said of Francis’ death. “He brought joy to his soldier’s lives through his witty retorts and an ever-present smile. The Centurion team deeply feels this loss and we offer our sincere condolences to friends and family.”

Francis’ awards and decorations included the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and the Parachutist Badge.

Francis’ death comes amid a string of recent deaths among U.S. Army soldiers assigned to duty stations in Alaska.

In January, Army Spc. Karolina Ferrer-Padilla was killed after a mobile kitchen unit rolled over and landed on her.

Army Master Sgt. Wesley Woods, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, died earlier in January after 35 minutes of CPR efforts by first responders to resuscitate him.

Two more soldiers were found dead in their vehicles over a single weekend in Alaska in November. One soldier, Sgt. Miles Jordan Tarron, was also assigned to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The other soldier, Spc. Isaiah Nicholas Oneal, was assigned to Fort Wainwright.

Sgt. Christian Joseph D’Andrea, another soldier assigned to Fort Wainwright, was found dead at his off-base home earlier on in November.