Blind man says he was struck by snowplow in Spenard, then had trouble reporting it

A blind man says he was hit by a snowplow Saturday night
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 6:15 PM AKST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2023 at 7:47 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Zachary James may not know what’s worse after he was hit by a snowplow, then says he was cursed out by the driver afterward.

James, who is legally blind, said he’s also been trying to report the incident to Anchorage police since it happened, which has been frustrating at best.

James was taking his guide dog Major out for a quick walk Saturday around 5 p.m. He was in an alley about a block away from the Alaska Center For the Blind and Visually Impaired when he heard a snowplow bearing down on him and his dog.

“I tried to go to the left, there was a snowbank, tried going to the right, there was another snowbank, there was nowhere to go. So I went back to the left side and the plow hit me in my right knee, and it hit my cane,” James said.

James wasn’t seriously injured but received a nasty bump on his elbow and his knee.

“Also, he said he was going to run my dog over if he didn’t get out of the way,” James added. “So I physically had to pick him up and put him on the snow bank as he was coming toward us.”

James yelled for the driver to stop, but when he did James said the man cursed him out and refused to give his name or where he worked before driving away.

Back at the Blind Center, an employee called 911 to report the incident.

“We called approximately 5:22 p.m. Saturday night,” James said. “They said they’ll have an officer there as soon as we can.”

James said he called three more times over the course of six hours while he waited for an officer to arrive.

“So I called around, I think it was 11:05 p.m., still no officer,” James said. “They said, ‘Yeah our phones get blown up on Saturdays, we are so sorry, we are so sorry.’”

On Sunday, James and his aunt went to report the incident in person. They wound up at the old Anchorage Police Department Headquarters on Elmore Road where Jame’s aunt Indy Jones said a man told them he could help.

“He came back and he said, the first officer that’s free will come over and talk to you,” Jones said. “No one ever showed. We were there for an hour and 45 minutes.”

James said they then drove to the downtown APD Headquarters building but found all the doors were locked.

He said another call to 311 on Monday morning brought a recording that said due to high call volumes they were unable to accept calls. James, who said his family is a longtime supporter of the police department, felt frustrated.

An Anchorage police spokesperson said the department did have a record of the calls but that they were busy with emergencies. She also said an officer called back more than once and left a voicemail for James to return the call, but James said he never got that voicemail.

On Monday afternoon, James said he got a call from an officer who responded to the Blind Center within 30 minutes and took a full report. Earlier, he’d gotten an email from Anchorage City Manager Kent Kohlhase who told James he would investigate the incident.

A spokesperson with the Municipality of Anchorage told Alaska’s News Source Monday night that the city’s investigation into the incident determined that the alleged plow driver was not affiliated or contracted with the municipality.

Kohlhase said if the operator was a private citizen, then it would be up to Anchorage police to investigate.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information.