Stanley Senda, 88, had just returned from his usual daily jog one afternoon in late April when he heard someone knocking on the door of his apartment in Chugash View, a Fairview public housing complex for seniors.
“Open the door,” said Sinda. “And someone grabbed me and bit me on the neck.”
He found himself wrestling on the ground with a stranger, a man much younger than him who was biting and kicking him with heavy boots.
“I knew this guy was really dangerous,” Sinda said this week. “I could feel his teeth on my eyebrows and my head and everything.”
After what seemed to Sinda for a long time, he was able to break free from the attacker and rush toward the hallway.
By the time police arrested Justin Konnock, 24, he had assaulted four different people in the large apartments. Sinda was the last.
Konuk is now charged with assault in the case. He also has an open assault charge from March, stemming from an incident in which a police officer saw him punch a man in the face on a downtown sidewalk.
The indictment document in the April attacks says Konuk went to Chugash View Apartments for a drink in a resident’s room. At one point, things went badly and Konuk allegedly grabbed a wand from his host and assaulted it with another man in the apartment. They managed to push him into the hallway, but Konuk continued to tear him up in the building, hitting another man who opened his door before going up and knocked on Senda’s door.
Sinda was the most severely injured: broken ribs and deep bruises, and after weeks there were wounds on his head and neck. Because the bites break the skin, he will need to undergo screening for bloodborne diseases. Pictures taken of his apartment after the attack show streaks of blood and even a cooking pot bent into the struggle.
Born in Connecticut, Sinda traveled around the country working on boats in Louisiana and as a machinist before driving a pickup truck to Alaska more than 20 years ago to settle down. Entering his 80s, he still took annual summer backpacking trips across Europe via the Eurorail pass. He says he runs every day on the Chester Creek Trail, sometimes all the way to Otis Lake. But a stranger violently broke into his apartment?
He said, “I am not a fearful man.” “But I knew he was trying to kill me.”
The frenzy has left the elderly residents of one of Anchorage’s largest public housing facilities on edge. Another resident started a management petition that raised safety concerns, and 50 or 60 people have signed up so far, residents say.
Mary Wolkoff is a receptionist at the Anchorage Senior Centre, a separate day center where many residents of Chugash View and Chugash Manor spend time. She describes herself as an old friend and friend of Sinda.
Wolkoff says security isn’t good enough in Chugach View. While the residents have access to the entry card and the doors are locked automatically, there are too many entrances and ample opportunities for people to slip unnoticed behind the residents.
“There are four or five guys who come in there and smoke marijuana in the laundry room,” Wolkoff said. They dare the inhabitants to confront them. You know, residents are too afraid to confront them.” (The building management says they reviewed videos from hundreds of cameras and found no evidence of people intrusive smoking in the laundry room).
Senda said someone tore a phone off the wall and pulled out a coin machine. In the morning, he found groups of people sleeping at the entrance to the building. Problems seem to have built up over the past two years, when the Sullivan Arena became a group-care haven.
The apartments are owned and operated by Alaska Housing Finance Corp. , a bogus government agency that uses federal HUD funding.
says Cathy Stone, director of public housing for Alaska Housing Finance Corp. Chugach View is safe. She said the man who assaulted four elderly people was invited into the building – he didn’t sneak inside.
“We don’t really delegate what guests (residents) can or can’t get. That’s their choice,” she said. “We don’t control that. But we warn people that this could put their homes at risk.”
Low-income seniors pay 28% of their income for a one-bedroom apartment in Chugach View or Chugach Manor. The queue is enormous: about 827 people are waiting for a place.
She said the apartments had full-time property managers, maintenance staff, and someone whose only job was to deal with residents’ concerns.
“Safety and security are vital to us, to all of our residents,” she said. “And yes, we take it very seriously. We respond quickly and address those concerns. And this will be managed.”
In 2007, residents and police raised concerns about drug trafficking, theft, harassment, weapons and even sexual assault inside the apartments, according to a Daily News report from the time.
“I usually don’t go out of my apartment unless we have bingo,” one resident told the newspaper.
At the time, this was attributed to a lower number of seniors allowed to live in apartments. The average age today is 68.
Wolcott, the receptionist who is a friend of Sienda’s, said the increase in criminal activity around public housing is worrying for the vulnerable people who live there. She sees groups of younger men hanging out in the areas as the culprits.
“I wish they’d look at their grandparents and say, ‘I don’t want to do this to my grandfather,'” she said.
Koonuk cannot be reached for this story. Court records show that bail was set at $2,500 but he remains in Anchorage Prison. Sinda says he will be at every court hearing.