After 23 years in service as a police officer in Homer and five as lieutenant, Will Hutt is entering a well-earned retirement.
Hutt’s last day on the job is April 30. Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, Hutt entered the Army after college and was stationed in Fairbanks. He said he had always had a goal to be in Alaska.
Hutt stayed with the Army until 1991, heading back to the Midwest to see his family briefly before pursuing a career in law enforcement in the Last Frontier, while also serving in the National Guard.
He worked in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley and ended up getting a slot in the Alaska State Troopers academy. Unfortunately, Hutt found out there would be no funding for a position for him when he completed his education, so he started applying elsewhere.
“I’m really glad I came to Homer,” Hutt said. “I look back now — like, at the Troopers I could have been moving around and stationed at different posts … (Homer’s) a nice place to live, and raise my kids and raise a family. It’s great people and a community. I’m really honored to have served here and the citizens of Homer.”
Hutt spoke to the unique experience of being a police officer in a town where everyone knows everyone.
“There’s no anonymity here,” he said.
There are pluses and minuses that go along with that, he said. On the one hand, working in a small town means fewer calls and public safety fires to put out, Hutt said, and a greater connection with the people an officer serves. On the other, sometimes it can feel like “you just can’t get away from it.”
“It’s been an incredible journey, though,” he said, with emotion.
It certainly hasn’t been a dull 23 years for Hutt. Recounting the most difficult case he ever responded to, he described the Homer Airport shooting of 2006. Hutt and his fellow officers responded to apprehend Jason Anderson, along with Troopers and the U.S. Marshals.
Subsequent investigation showed that Marshals had knowledge that Anderson had his son in the vehicle with him, but had not shared that information with Homer officers. The event culminated in a shootout in which Anderson died and his son was gravely injured.
“I know the guy that died that day was a father and he was a brother and a son and he was a dad,” Hutt said. “And I thought, ‘Man, is this what I signed up for?’ you know? … We … took his gun away and handcuffed him and he laid there agonal breathing and dying, and I said a prayer for his soul.”
Hutt, one of the principle shooters in the incident, said he and a fellow officer initially thought one of them could have been responsible for shooting the child. Later investigation showed the bullet had come from Anderson.
“It was very traumatic,” Hutt said. “It was a significant emotional event for me and for the other guys involved.”
Statistically, Hutt said not a lot of officers make it further in their career after an event like the airport shooting. As time went on, he himself developed symptoms of stress and anxiety, at which point he began to seek care for his mental and emotional health.
Hutt had also taken a week off following the shooting.
“There’s a reason for that, I know now, but I didn’t at the time,” he said. “Because if you don’t decompress and take at a minimum three days off, I think your mind starts plugging things in that might not have happened, or you try to recreate something or fill in gaps or voids in your memory, and it may or may not be right.”
Hutt credits Police Chief Mark Robl, his wife and the professional help he’s gotten for contributing to his recovery after the shooting.
In contrast to his most difficult moment on the force, Hutt said there have been plenty of good things over the years that kept him serving the community. One that stands out was a simple call about a lost dog. Homer police officers are the go-to responders for calls about loose animals when the Homer Animal Shelter is closed.
Hutt said a woman who had come to town for the annual Shorebird Festival reported having lost her dog. She had to leave town and head back to Anchorage, leaving the geriatric dog behind, Hutt said.
The animal was later found, and Hutt recalled how rewarding it was to call the woman and reunite her with her beloved pet.
“Long story short, I called and left her a message. So now it’s late, it’s coming close to midnight,” he said. “She’s in Anchorage, or just got to Anchorage and got the message, and turned right around and drove four or five hours back to get her pet. … It’s kind of corny, but that was a good thing.”
Hutt has been spending time with family, and after he officially retires, is looking forward to spending a summer off in Homer. He plans to stay busy, either finding something to do or volunteering, but he’s in no rush for that right now.
Hutt said he wants to thank the community of Homer, a quirky and eccentric place, for supporting him in a job that’s challenging but ultimately rewarding.
Reach Megan Pacer at email@example.com.