How Law Enforcement Justifies the Use of Deadly Force
ANCHORAGE – The third officer-involved shooting on Wednesday was the third in less than a month, but this is the only one involving an Alaska State Trooper.
A trooper shot and wounded a 35-year-old Anchorage man who was allegedly holding a gun after a high-speed chase late Wednesday night.
Troopers said the use of force is part of the job and protects the public and themselves.
According to troopers, they tried to pull over Albert Samoa Maifea, but he ran a red light on the Parks Highway and drove into oncoming traffic, speeding at more than 100 miles an hour before the chase ended at Fairview Loop.
“The individual was stopped or stopped his vehicle, got out of the vehicle and at some point brandished a handgun; the pursuing trooper then discharged his weapon striking the driver of that vehicle,” said Captain Hans Brinke, the “B” detachment commander for the Alaska State Troopers.
Maifea survived, but Wednesday's shooting comes just days after Anchorage police shot and killed a man in South Anchorage and after another officer was found justified in his use of deadly force against a Mountain View man.
So the question is how do the Alaska State Troopers handle use of force?
Troopers said they follow national standards in their training. “If we are faced with a deadly force situation we are trained to shoot to stop the threat, not to kill,” said Alaska Bureau of Investigations Sergeant Chad Goeden, who has written articles on trooper actions in the past and has been featured in National Geographic's television series Alaska State Troopers.
He said troopers do not go into situations with the intent to kill. “Its a worst nightmare for any officer or trooper to have to be involved in a deadly force situation where they may have to take another person's life, but that's what we're called upon to do in those circumstances,” said Goeden. “Certainly by the use of deadly force there's a strong likelihood that when we shoot people they very well might die; that's not our intent.
“If we shoot them and the threat stops, then we stop shooting, we don’t' keep shooting if they are no longer a threat.” And when it comes to shooting certain parts of the body Goeden said the public has to be realistic.
“These are very rapidly evolving dynamic situations. Arms and legs are often moving frantically. The offender may be running, the trooper or the officer may be running. The target is too small, its moving too quickly, the most effective way to stop the threat is to shoot at the largest, slowest moving part of the threat and that is the center mast of the body.”
Troopers said in order to protect life sometimes you have to be prepared to take it.
Every trooper involved shooting has to be investigated by the Alaska Bureau of Investigations and reviewed by the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals to determine whether the trooper acted lawfully.
The Department of Public Safety then reviews the case to determine if the trooper followed policies and used every option to avoid using deadly force.