'Into the Wild' hunter fatally shot
by police in Alaska
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[March 15, 2014]
By Steve Quinn
JUNEAU, Alaska (Reuters) — An
Alaskan moose hunter, whose discovery of the corpse of a wanderer
two decades ago helped lead to the 2007 movie "Into the Wild," has
been shot and killed by police following a weekend chase through the
city of Wasilla, Alaska State Troopers said.
Police said Gordon E. Samel, 52, who played a small but
important role in author Jon Krakauer's book about wanderer
Chris McCandless, which was made into a movie by Sean Penn, on
Sunday fled police who had approached his vehicle in response to
a report about possible drunken driving.
"As the state trooper knocked on the side of the pickup to
contact the occupants, it drove off and circled around several
small businesses in the area," an Alaska State Trooper report
It said Samel then led law-enforcement officers on a high-speed
chase along the city's main thoroughfare, briefly against
traffic, and at times into lightly populated residential areas
before he was ultimately blocked at an intersection.
When a state trooper and a Wasilla police officer approached the
truck on foot, Samel backed up the truck toward the officer,
prompting both the officer and trooper to fire their handguns,
the report said. Samel was declared dead at the scene.
A passenger received a non-life-threatening injury to one of his
arms, and was released without being charged.
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Samel was among a party of moose hunters who discovered McCandless's
corpse in an abandoned bus in a remote part of the Alaska wilderness
north of Mount McKinley.
Krakauer, in writing about McCandless's death, looked to Samel for
insights into the young man's behavior, including his agonizing over
killing what he thought was a moose.
"Samel contended it was not a moose but a caribou, Krakauer wrote in
his book "Into the Wild."
"There's a big difference between a moose and a caribou," Samel was
quoted as saying in the book. "A real big difference. You'd have to
be pretty stupid not to be able to tell them apart."
Krakauer said McCandless had correctly identified the animal as a
Samel's family told the Anchorage Daily News that he was a gifted
mechanic and auto body repairman, and a "big-hearted outdoorsman who
struggled with bipolar disorder." The paper also reported that he
was under court-ordered restrictions from a September arrest.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Alex
Dobuzinskis and Ken Wills)
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