Kyle Hopkins, managing editor and investigative reporter at KTUU, showed his journalistic doggedness after his and his wife Rebecca Palsha’s car was stolen from their Government Hill driveway on the night of Sept. 14. The theft left the family carless.
The game was afoot, as Sherlock Holmes would say. Hopkins took the matter to Facebook and posted photos of the car on Scanner Joe, Stolen in Anchorage, and Stolen in Alaska groups.
That actually was the advice of police — get the Facebook community engaged.
“(We) won’t send an officer for just one vehicle,” APD had told him.
“Police employee taking my report told me to post the details of the stolen car to Facebook groups that discuss Anchorage crime,” Hopkins reported.
The police are too busy in the Anchorage war zone responding to shootings, robberies, and the everyday barricading, so Facebook is now the go-to place to try to track down your stolen items, and social media crowdsourcing is the new detective agency.
The tips started rolling in. Hopkins took his Facebook followers on the chase with him, documenting his search for his car with the simplest of tools — his smart phone video camera.
He went to places where people had said his 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe was spotted. In one instance, he arrived 45 minutes too late. The car was gone. But someone had posted a picture of it on Facebook, at least.
“I did a little walk around the neighborhood and had kind of a scary encounter,” he reported.
The car was spotted near Dowling and 59th. Someone was driving it all over town.
Finally, the tips led him to a Carls Jr. in midtown, and he waited for police to roll up and arrest the perpetrators.
The drama unfolded behind him on his Facebook video, as police arrive.
“I’m really grateful to the people who on the Facebook groups were looking out for the car,” he said, while police worked behind him with guns drawn to arrest the suspects.
In the car, police found syringes, drug paraphernalia, peanut butter, and a ski mask. Not a normal ski mask, either. This one was creepy.
Hopkins’ video captured the sound of police ordering the suspects to their knees in the background, as the reporter shut off the video and retreated to a safer location. He is, after all, a dad and a husband.
Things got interesting. Dead bodies started showing up.
Shortly after Hopkins retrieved his car, mainly undamaged, someone called in a tip to the KTUU tip line, and said they had found a corpse in the woods.
Hopkins went to investigate, and indeed, he and the tipster, Warren Hamilton, found one, and perhaps two corpses in a wooded area in Mountain View. In the hair-raising footage of them investigating, Hopkins brought along a camera operator and they walked into a wooded area where homeless camps and items were strewn about among the yellow foliage and damp debris between Reeve Boulevard and Tyson Elementary School near Ship Creek.
They found a skull, arm, and clothing. Hopkins called 911 to report the gruesome scene. The tipster had explained, rather vaguely, that he had tried to reach authorities without success.
Hopkins is a former Anchorage Daily News reporter who left not long after the Alaska Dispatch News purchased the newspaper. He’s a University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate.
Earlier this month, he used his video reporting skills to ask former Alaska Dispatch News publisher Alice Rogoff if she had anything to say to the staff of the newspaper as she was walking out of the news business and leaving a trail of unpaid bills behind.
As the wealthy East Coast heiress hurried out of bankruptcy court, she articulated her one answer to Hopkins in no uncertain terms: “No comment.”
The investigative reporter posted with his brief encounter the fallen publisher on social media. Behind Rogoff, an Alaska Dispatch News photographer was still on his beat, documenting the demise of his own boss, while other members of the media stood by observing the drama unfold.
In July, Hopkins documented the sordid case of Jordan Joplin, a former exotic male dancer who is accused of stealing two tons of valuables, including watches, gold, and a coin collection worth up to $500,000 from a Ketchikan surgeon earlier this year — and murdering him.
Hopkins has had a remarkable few months of reportage on murder and mayhem in Alaska. What crime will this Sherlock Holmes track down next? Will he take up a pipe and trench coat? And has he learned to lock his car while in Anchorage?