In most small-town airports around Alaska, you'll find welcoming faces greeting visitors fresh off their flights -- but it was a different case Tuesday in Sand Point, when a suspected drug dealer arrived in the East Aleutians community of nearly 1,000 people.
“He had just gotten off the plane at about 6:30 (p.m.) and there was a semicircle of very angry parents that knew what he was up to,” said Sand Point Officer Michael Livingston. “They gave him clear directions that they didn't want him in town and he just basically got right back on the plane to get out of Sand Point.”
The emergence of smartphones, Facebook and other social media has helped publicize this incident and others, such as the banishment of an alleged bootlegger from the Yukon Delta village of Akiak in April.
Channel 2 is not identifying the suspected drug dealer because he hasn't been charged by authorities. Sand Point locals do say he is not a resident of the town.
Expulsion or banishment of an unwelcome visitor from a village dates back to before planes or trains traversed the Last Frontier.
"What these folks have done is they've taken some action to protect their families, their neighbors and their community,” said Walt Monegan, CEO of the Alaska Native Justice Center. “It looks like they've done so in a matter that didn't cause violence, it didn't cause harm; it just basically told the individual you're not welcome here anymore."
Monegan, a former state Department of Public Safety commissioner and Anchorage Police Department chief, says communities have been expelling unruly residents or visitors for years. He says such sanctions aren't traditionally permanent.
"It wasn't like you could never come back here ever," Monegan said. "If you want to come back, you must come back in a way that you would obey the community rules."
Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters says residents should use caution when confronting someone suspected of committing a crime. Peters says those confronted may be able to file assault charges if they feel threatened. She recommends calling troopers or local police to address the situation.
Contact Adam Pinsker