Ryan Silva was one of three Sitka Police Department staff members who sued the department, alleging various forms of harassment or discrimination. He settled in 2019 for $350,000. (KCAW file photo)

The recent death of a former Sitka police officer has been ruled a suicide.

The Alaska Bureau of Investigation on Friday (12-23-22) released the results of a preliminary investigation into the death of 43-year-old Ryan Silva.

Sitka police and Alaska Wildlife Troopers responded to the report of an unexpected death at Silva’s Monastery Street home on December 18. At the request of the Sitka Police Department, both the Alaska Bureau of Investigation and the Alaska Crime Lab investigated the death, processed the scene, and determined that Silva took his own life.

His body has been sent to the state Medical Examiner’s office in Anchorage.

In 2019 Silva won a $325,000 settlement with the City of Sitka, over allegations that he was harassed and discriminated against in retaliation for blowing the whistle on the Police Department’s acquisition of automatic weapons in violation of department procedures. His fellow officer, Mary Ferguson, later filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit of her own against the department, and Silva allegedly suffered recriminations for his support of her. Ferguson subsequently settled out of court for $500,000. Both Ferguson and Silva were represented by the Northern Justice Project.

Silva joined the Sitka Police Department in 2008, following a career in the Coast Guard. He was promoted to detective in 2011, and was one of the department’s firearms instructors. In his whistleblower suit, he said that he believed automatic weapons to be “extremely dangerous in untrained hands.” He argued that the police chief at the time, Jeff Ankerfelt, ignored his concerns, as did then-city administrator Keith Brady. Silva alleged that he was demoted to patrol officer in retaliation.  

The settlements for both Silva and Ferguson were paid by the City of Sitka’s insurance carrier.

Note: If you or anyone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a mental health professional can help. Call or text 9-8-8 anytime to speak to someone at the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.