Two men have been charged with assaulting and severely wounding a man near Anchorage’s Brother Francis Shelter for the homeless last weekend, including a suspect who had been working at the shelter as a contract security guard.

Court records show Bernard Faitoga, 19, and Tifi Paulo Ta’alolo, 20, charged with first-degree and second-degree assault in the Saturday attack. The victim suffered various head fractures.

Lisa Aquino, the executive director of Brother Francis operator Catholic Social Services (CSS), confirmed Thursday that Faitoga had been a security contractor for the shelter. She emphasized that he was neither directly employed by CSS nor on duty at the time of the assault.

“We immediately made it clear that he is not allowed on our campus,” Aquino said.

According to a charging document filed Sunday against Faitoga and Ta’alolo, APD officers were called to the shelter on East Third Avenue at about 12:30 a.m. Saturday due to “a fight between multiple people.”

The victim, a “John Doe” who wasn’t immediately identified by police, was found bleeding from his face with “a bump on his forehead, and a swollen nose.”

“The victim was going in and out of consciousness,” prosecutors wrote. “Medics transported the victim to the hospital. The doctor told officers the victim had a skull fracture and facial fractures. The victim was unable to speak.”

APD spokeswoman Renee Oistad said in an email that the victim was found near the southwest corner of Third Avenue and Karluk Street with “obvious head injuries.” Medics took him to a hospital with “serious but non-life-threatening wounds.”

Faitoga and Ta’alolo left in a vehicle before police arrived, Oistad said, but were arrested at about 3 a.m. in Government Hill at a residence on the 1000 block of Hollywood Drive. Prosecutors said police questioned both men, who waived their Miranda rights against self-incrimination.

Faitoga, who told police he worked as a security guard at Brother Francis, said he’d had a disagreement Friday with a client at the shelter. That evening, he said he returned with Ta’alolo to bring food to someone working there.

While they were at Brother Francis, Faitoga said, they looked for the client involved in the dispute. They found his friend instead, who became the victim of the assault.

“[Faitoga] said the friend took a swing at him and the fight started with [Ta’alolo] trying to help,” prosecutors wrote. “Faitoga admitted punching the victim as the fight spilled to the south side of 3rd [Avenue].”

Officers said they could smell alcohol on Ta’alolo, who told police he had drank two glasses of wine before heading to Brother Francis.

“[Ta’alolo] admitted the victim was outside the shelter, [Ta’alolo] did not say anything to the victim, and [Ta’alolo] just punched the victim in the face,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors said surveillance video from Brother Francis showed Faitoga and Ta’alolo punching the victim until he collapsed, then kicking him.

“The victim gets up and walks east on Third [Avenue],” prosecutors wrote. “The defendants follow the victim, both defendants hit the victim until he falls down and both defendants start to kick the victim again.”

Aquino said the assault charge against Faitoga is the first such incident involving a security contractor at Brother Francis that she can remember. She said contractors are unarmed, and have a very limited role during the late-night hours when the assault occurred.

“We have very strict guidelines as part of our security contract and there should be not be use of force by our security contractor,” Aquino said. “Their role is mainly not to have people on our campus at night, because we're closed at night; people can come for shelter at night, but if they're not there for shelter they should not be there at night.”

Aquino said the security contract for Brother Francis is held by Phoenix Protective Corp., which operates in several Western states. An employee at Phoenix’s headquarters in Spokane, Washington referred questions about the assault to the company’s Anchorage office. Messages left with that office Thursday afternoon weren’t immediately returned.

Oistad said from Jan. 1 through April 18 of the past three years, APD has responded to:

  • 14 reports of an assault from the shelter’s address in 2017,
  • 10 in 2018, and
  • 16 in 2019. 

She said the data did not indicate whether the calls involved anyone associated with the shelter.

Aquino didn't think the nonprofit's campus, adjacent to the Bean's Cafe soup kitchen, has seen a significant uptick in overall violence.

“I think what we're seeing in the community regarding homelessness in general is that there's been a breakdown: people need more services and mental health services, and those services haven't been available,” Aquino said. “Sometimes the outcome of that looks like violence.”

Lisa Sauder, Bean's executive director, concurred.

“We’ve seen kind of a downtrend in that, because we’ve done additional training for our staff in terms of de-escalation and also having more staff in terms of ratio to clients,” Sauder said.

Aquino, who hadn’t initially heard further word from police about the condition of the assault victim, said Brother Francis staff have been focused on offering trauma-informed care and providing clients a safe environment.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the man who was injured, and I just hope he heals quickly and he's OK,” Aquino said. “We're worried about him.”

Court records show that both Faitoga and Ta’alolo were each held on a total of $20,000 bail, with their locations to be monitored by the state Pretrial Enforcement Division should they be released. They remained in custody Thursday afternoon at the Anchorage Correctional Complex, according to a statewide inmate database.

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