A former Eagle River resident and Marine reservist was shot and killed by police after a standoff near Denver on Friday.
According to the Denver Post, police in Englewood, Colorado were called Friday afternoon for a report that an armed man was barricaded inside a home holding several hostages. During the incident, police fatally shot Michael Kocher, 32, in the torso.
Kocher was profiled in a 2009 story in the Alaska Star in which he talked about a recent seven-month tour of duty in Iraq. In the story, Lance Cpl. Kocher is described as having worked in intelligence and communications while deployed with Delta Company, 4th Anti-Terrorism Battalion. He shared fond memories of sharing candy with Iraqi children while deployed with the Marines.
“All the convoys would take candy to toss to the kids,” he said, according to the profile written by Jill Fankhauser. “I’d always read that there were groups that would send over shipments of soccer balls and things like that to handout.”
Kocher told the Star he enlisted the help of his mother in Eagle River, who got donations of soccer balls, candy and stuffed animals for her son to give away to kids in Iraq. He also mused about missing home while deployed near the Syrian border and said he wasn’t a supporter of the war but wanted to serve despite his misgivings.
“Even when the war started, I didn’t particularly agree with the war,” he told the Star. “I knew other people my age there, so I figured I ought to be with them.”
According to the article, the 6-foot-8 Kocher studied political science at the University of Alaska Anchorage, where he was the first person to win a designated on-campus parking spot, the university reported in 2009.
He was also a writer and self-described political activist. In 2014, Kocher testified before the Alaska House Special Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs in favor of HB313, which would have included Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a mitigating factor in criminal sentencing.
But according to a KUSA-TV in Denver, by April of 2016 he was in jail after allegedly taking money from people via a GoFundMe page he started to help with nonexistent cancer treatment expenses. Instead of using the money for treatment, Kocher told the station he spent most of the roughly $9,000 raised to pay for his supposed medical bills on his heroin addiction.
“Most of it got spent on, like, drugs and living expenses,” Kocher told reporter Whitney Wild during an on-camera jailhouse interview in which he claimed he was indeed diagnosed with cancer before getting a clean bill of health, and simply didn’t know how to tell people he’d blown the money on drugs.
The station reported it could not verify Kocher’s account because he had no access to his medical records while housed at the Denver Jail.
After his arrest for the GoFundMe scheme, Kocher told the TV station the incident wasn’t an indication of the kind of person he was.
“Despite what this looks like and despite how this makes my character look, I really do care about people,” he said, dressed in a yellow jail jumpsuit.
In the Star profile written after he returned from Iraq, Kocher expressed a desire to go into politics and try to help others.
“As far as impacting me, it’s made me want to better myself — just by seeing how a lot of people live over there and things like that,” he said. “I think, ‘Wow, we really take a lot for granted over here.’”
According to an account of the standoff in the Englewood Herald newspaper, police have not said what they believe led to Friday’s standoff.
A member of the Kocher family reached Tuesday did not immediately wish to comment.
Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at firstname.lastname@example.org
Email Star reporter Kirsten Swann at email@example.com