Community Demands Answers in Police Killing
ANCHORAGE - It has been just a few days since an Anchorage Police officer opened fire on 26-year-old Shane Tasi in Mountain View, killing the father of three in his own yard. That officer has been identified as Officer Boaz Gionson.
As Anchorage Samoan Assembly of God associate pastor Elder Al Vanilau said, it's devastating news for all involved. He says his community needs to know the truth of what really happened.
Ask anyone who was on North Bunn Street Saturday night and they'll say what happened didn't have to happen. “We came around the corner when they were still trying to revive him,” said Vanilau. “This is just a tragedy for anybody.”
Tasi was shot and killed in his yard. Police say he refused to put down what they called a baton and aggressively approached an officer. Vanilau says that's not the man he knew. “He's a quiet kid, he's kind of into his own world with his kids and his wife.”
Those who knew and loved Tasi are in shock, angry and sad as they try to figure out exactly what happened in his final moments. “We can't hide behind a closet and try to explain to a mom with an unborn child and young kids what really happened with a broomstick to their dad and their husband,” said Vanilau.
Police remain tight-lipped about the details. “There are also circumstances that we cannot share yet with the public,” said Anchorage police department Lieutenant Dave Parker.
Now, the incident has become something much more than a confrontation between a man and an officer. Some say it pits the department against the Polynesian community. “He kind of put our law enforcement in more like a heated category with the community,” said Vanilau. “It would be nice if he would come out and tell the truth; that's what we need.”
Police say everything will be revealed in due time. Meanwhile they're treating the shooting as a homicide. “People have rushed to judgment; let us do a proper investigation, nothing gets swept under the carpet,” said Parker. “We do not afford a police officer who’s used deadly force any advantage over a regular citizen whose used deadly force.”
The community is struggling to move on and will continue to ask questions like how and why? They're holding out for truth. “Our Lord Jesus Christ wants us to forgive and forget, we all can forgive but how can we forget?” asked Vanilau. “If you know Shane really well, it’s hard for to explain what just happened. There's always two parts of the whole story, the only one that holds the truth is the officer that got involved because the other one can't talk no more.”
Vanilau says while the community admires and honors what law enforcement is doing giving answers will help them start to heal. Whether the shooting is justified is a decision made by the state Office of Special Prosecutions, after which APD's internal affairs reviews the shooting to make sure policies have been followed. Parker says an officer could be exonerated by the state and still be found guilty of violating APDs policies.
Many have asked whether deadly force could have been prevented if the officer had used a taser instead of a gun.
According to APD’s spokesperson, only about 40 percent of officers – that's about 150 of them – have tasers.
Lieutenant Dave Parker says that's because of money.
An average taser can cost up to a $1,000, depending on the model, which is twice as expensive as a standard police gun.
The department is expected to get 36 more tasers for officers with money approved by the legislature. But those won't be available until next year.
Another question community members have asked: Why not shoot to wound instead of kill?
“In that kind of an encounter, we cannot train people to attempt to shoot a person in the leg or in the hand,” said Lieutenant Parker. “[It’s a] virtually impossible task to do. It looks great on TV but it never happens that way”
KTVA also asked police: Of all the officer-involved shootings in Anchorage, how many were justified?
APD said that information isn't available right now, and they’ll hold a news conference soon with more information about the shooting.