By Chris Klint
Channel 2 News
5:07 PM AKST, December 10, 2012
Two Anchorage police officers who shot a man in the arm after he allegedly aimed a handgun at them during a Downtown traffic stop last month have been cleared of wrongdoing, state prosecutors said Monday.
Clint Campion, OSPA’s supervising assistant attorney general, writes in a letter to APD (PDF) that officers Robert Block and Angelina Fraize acted properly during the Nov. 18 traffic stop in which 22-year-old Kyle Garett Swann was wounded.
Swann’s case isn’t the first one concerning APD’s use of force this year to come under state review, after the office cleared Ofc. Boaz Gionson in the June 9 death of 26-year-old Shane Tasi, who charged Gionson armed with a broom handle. A separate OSPA investigation cleared Sgt. Jack Carson, as well as officers Michael Jones and Bryan Heinz, in the July 1 death of Harry Smith, who pulled a .177-caliber Smith and Wesson air pistol resembling a .40-caliber handgun on officers at his South Anchorage home.
According to Campion the incident happened near the intersection of 12th Avenue and Denali Street at about 7 p.m., when Block saw a Chevrolet Blazer driven by Garret Graham nearly strike another vehicle which Block was monitoring for possible traffic infractions.
Block conducted a traffic stop on the Blazer, collecting identification from Graham and front-seat passenger Kristina Morton. Swann, in the back seat, gave only his name and date of birth before Block returned to his cruiser and searched their names against outstanding warrants.
“Graham and Morton were cleared, but Swann had an outstanding felony warrant,” Campion wrote. “(Block) notified dispatch and (Fraize) was sent to provide backup for (Block).”
As Block awaited Fraize’s arrival, he stood behind the Blazer and started a conversation with its occupants about their travel plans. Swann told Block he was planning to visit Downtown the next day to have an outstanding bench warrant for $50 quashed.
When asked Monday about the nature of Swann’s actual felony warrant, for failure to appear at a pre-indictment hearing on drug charges, APD spokesperson Lt. Dave Parker didn’t know the specific amount attached to it -- but he said it wouldn’t have been so low.
“There’s no way a felony warrant would be $50,” Parker said.
Campion says Swann’s attitude changed when Fraize arrived on the scene, parking behind the stopped vehicles and getting out to back Block up as he approached the driver’s-side rear door of the Blazer.
“As he did so, Swann pulled out a loaded .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver from his jacket pocket with his right hand and initially placed it in his lap,” Campion wrote. “Swann then told the officers that he was not going back to jail and then pointed the revolver at officers.”
When the officers saw Swann’s pistol, they drew their own service weapons and began to retreat from the Blazer, ordering Swann to put his gun down before eventually opening fire.
“(Fraize) remained in the line of fire even as she backed up,” Campion wrote. “(Fraize) fired her service weapon first, then (Block) fired. Ultimately, Swann laid down in the back seat and the officers were able to see Swann’s revolver on the floor of the vehicle.”
The officers then ordered Graham and Morton to get out of the Blazer and lie on the ground, with Fraize covering Swann as Block secured him from the vehicle’s passenger side. After throwing Swann’s revolver onto the ground and handcuffing him, Block provided emergency medical aid until the arrival of Anchorage Fire Department EMTs. Swann was eventually treated at Anchorage Regional Hospital for a single bullet wound, which broke his left forearm before the bullet lodged there.
According to Campion, as he was taken to the hospital Swann told APD officers he didn’t want to go to jail and was simply trying to get away.
“‘That’s all I wanted, I didn’t think they were going to shoot me,’” Campion quoted Swann as saying.
In addition to Swann's five-round pistol, crime scene investigators recovered six .40-caliber bullet casings, four from the ground east of Graham’s Blazer and two from east of Block’s cruiser, at the scene. Part of one round’s jacket was found in the driver’s headrest of the Blazer, and another round went through its rear window.
Campion’s investigation concluded that as uniformed police officers, Block and Fraize were justified in conducting the initial traffic stop on Graham’s blazer, attempting to arrest Swann on his outstanding warrant and ultimately using deadly force against Swann to defend themselves.
“Once Swann pointed the pistol at the officers, the officers had probable cause to believe that he committed a felony in their presence and were permitted to arrest him,” Campion wrote. “(Block) and (Fraize) were also entitled to use deadly force to arrest Swann to prevent death or serious physical injury.”
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