Individual members of the community had to opportunity to speak for themselves and voice their concerns to a panel of leaders about last month's fatal shooting. About 50 people showed up at the Anchorage Community Police Relations Task Force Community Town Hall Meeting Thursday night.
The town hall comes after a number of meetings between Samoan and Polynesian leaders and the Anchorage Police Department. It stems from an incident in June, when Shane Tasi approached Officer Boaz Gionson with a broken broom. Anchorage Police said Gionson shot and killed Tasi. The State Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals cleared Gionson for the use of deadly force, which some community members are still questioning.
“Not the shooting, but was the killing necessary?” asked one of the Anchorage residents.
Even Tasi's family addressed the panel. Tasi's cousin spoke before the crowd asking questions back to back to Chief Mark Mew about the chain of events that took place. The forum gave the police department a chance to clarify that APD does not have a shoot to kill policy. Officers are trained only to shoot to stop an imminent threat, and Chief Mew said in that situation, Officer Gionson faced a threat of being knocked out by Tasi, which would have left his gun in the open.
“Our intent is to merely end the assault. If we can end it with a lower form of force, we would use it. But we need that opportunity,” said Chief Mew.
The president of the Polynesian Association of Alaska said there will be more forums in the future. In the meantime, residents who have concerns can attend the task force meeting. The task force works as a liaison between the ethnic minority community and the APD. The meeting is held the 2nd Friday of each month at noon at the Fairview Recreation Center.