Home Culture Police Shootings Spark Citizens’ Rally in Anchorage

Police Shootings Spark Citizens’ Rally in Anchorage

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On Youtube, you can watch the Anchorage Police Department’s highly-edited four minute video of events leading to the death of a 26-year-old Polynesian man named Shane Tasi on June 9, 2012.

At 1:27:02, the camera establishes the shot of a parking lot and alley in Mountain View: Bunn Street. A white sedan-looking vehicle dominates the shot, along with three other vehicles in the distance. At the upper-part of the screen, a man is seen running around a building.

At 1:28:07, two police patrol cars are seen. One enters the alley, the other remains on the street and drives past. A 911 call becomes audible.

At 1:29:02, the camera changes to one of two apartment cameras. The scene is dominated by a clear view of the front door – a security door – of a four-plex. Three men run from the side of the apartment and attempt to enter the apartment complex. There is a conversation at a window. The men enter, then come out. From the audio, you receive the impression that the 911 call is live. One of the three men is speaking to the dispatch person. She is telling him that officers are on the scene and will handle everything.

At 1:29:55, the camera changes back to the alley. A large man leaves a patrol car. This is office Boaz Gionson. He is met by the three men.

At 1:30:37, the camera returns to the apartment scene. A large, shirtless man walks out of the apartment complex brandishing a long white stick. This is later reported to be a 39-inch broken-off broom handle.

At 1:30:45, the camera leaves us in the alley with men running away. What happens next, the scene in question, is not recorded. After Shane Tasi refuses the command to stop for the third time, with only seven feet between himself and Officer Gionson, three shots are fired. The bullets land in Tasi’s chest and shoulder.

Tasi’s wife is questioned in the laundry room and is not allowed to travel with her husband to the hospital.

On June 19, 2012, Officer Keo Fujimoto encountered Edward Thompson in Spenard. During a routine weapons pat-down, the officer identified Thompson was carrying a knife. That knife was used to stab Officer Fujimoto in the thigh and across the forehead. A second officer helped Fujimoto to subdue Thompson and no life was lost. The lack of deadly force was explained by a police spokesman as due to the nature of the incident. The officer did not have a chance to use his weapon.

On June 28, 2012, an internal investigative team and the state Office of Special Prosecution ruled that Officer Gionson acted appropriately and will not be charged criminally.

On July 2, 2012, a 59-year-old man, while brandishing a BBgun replica of a .40 caliber pistol, was shot to death by Anchorage Police.

All this activity has the Polynesian Community Center spooked. An ad-hoc group led by Miriama Aumavae is circulating a flyer advertising an upcoming rally on Saturday, July 7 at noon. The Center is frustrated by the lack of communication it is having with the Anchorage Police Department.

Lucy Hansen, President of the Polynesian Association of Alaska sent the following letter to the Anchorage Police Department. She has not yet received a reply.

06/11/2012

To Whom This May Concern:

My name is Lucy Hansen, I am the president of the Polynesian Association of Alaska.  I have not been notified about the incident that happened last weekend which killed Shane Tasi.  Many members of the Samoan community have approached me as to what the Polynesian Association of Alaska is going to do to bring closure and peace to a widowed wife whose three children are under the ages of 4 and who is pregnant.

I was able to sit with Mr. Tasi’s wife this evening and talk with her about what happened.  These are the following things that came to mind while talking with her and these are the points in which I think should be addressed publicly so people can better understand the rationale behind the shooting of an innocent man  who according to a report was, “hitting a neighbors dog.”  Here are several key things that need to be answered:

1.  Why was Mr. Tasi seen as a potential threat to three police officers?

2.  Why was he shot three times? Is there a protocal?  Was the stick in his hand really a dangerous weapon? and If there were three cops present, why did they not try to subdue him, instead one of the officers shot him?

3.  Why did they search the Tasi home without a search warrant?

4.  Why did they lock Mrs. Tasi in the laundry room with three children while they searched their apartment?

5.  Who is responsible for this whole situation?  What will happen now?

6.  To this day Mrs. Tasi has not seen her husband, why is that?

We as a Polynesian Community unite in a positive social movement that we hope will resolve this injustice that has caused much grief to not only our community, but the Tasi family.  This incident has caused many to question the very entity that is supposed to protect and serve the community, instead, the police department is seen as a discriminatory organization that has no regard for human decency and respect.  We as a community understand our freedoms to express our rights in a non-violent protest and prejudice against the Anchorage police department. and strongly urge the APD to address this issue to bring closure to help the Tasi family start the healing process.  We as a community strongly feel that this incident not only invades and infringes on the civil and human rights of the Tasi family, it has done damage in terms of trust in a system that is supposed to defend and protect its citizens.

I would like an answer to the following questions by Wednesday of this week.  I will be meeting with a civil rights lawyer, and other Native, Indigenous leaders to discuss ways in which social change can come about this unsettling case.

Sincerely,

Lucy Hansen

The four minutes detailed at the beginning of this article completely changed the structure of the Tasi family. The Polynesian community is outraged and the entire police department is on hightened alert. The Municipality appears confused as to what to do, other than maintain the status quo.

After such actions, how does a community begin the healing process, especially not a month after the incident? How do we ensure no more fathers are taken from their families? How do we get over our outrage – which is still so fresh – and share sympathy with a peace officer who carries the burden of having robbed another man of his life?

We need these questions answered.

We need the Anchorage Police Department to relate to us on a human level; a family level. We need assurance that the police do not view us as expendable citizens.

Remember, a man was killed, and his family did not get to say goodbye. We have to know that the police do not view we, the citizens, as the enemy.

We understand the job of a police officer is dangerous. But we are led to believe the men & women who serve are well trained and well equipped to deal with dangerous situations. We need to know what our police officers are not city militia, but actual peace officers, trained to maintain life and not take it, except in the gravest of situations.

The immediate solution is not yet known. We do not know whether the answer is more empathy, more training, more funding, more officers, more response or more involvement. Something isn’t working.  The model presented by other states cannot work in our unique, diverse Anchorage village. Maybe, more legal training might help. An officer going into a situation with the presumption of innocence might help them understand that while they are facing a potential criminal, he or she is an actual human.

How come we never get to hear from an officer after an event like this? We need to know, and respect, the humanity in those we hire to protect us.

This is an issue that must be dealt with from all sides. A broken family will need to learn and forgive where it can. The police community will need to learn and apologize when it should. We as a community all have a role in our city choosing to heal.

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  • Anchorage Police Say Harry Smith, 59, Shot by Officers after Pointing Handgun [KTUU]