Police call her sign a hate crime. Woman, 68, says it was protest

A banner spotted Wednesday on the former home of John Marvin Jr., who in 2010 shot and killed two police officers in the Southeast Alaska village of Hoonah. Police say the banner has prompted an investigation.
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A 68-year-old Hoonah woman says she's the one who created and placed a sign that the village chief of police has characterized as a hate crime.

“We’re both senior citizens," said Wanda Culp, who says she and a friend placed the banner on the former home of convicted police killer John Marvin. "We’re not a threat and we never intended to be.”

Culp said police mishandled interactions with Marvin, who at one point was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial, and she objects to the placement of a memorial for the slain officers near his now-vacant home.

“It’s a problem that stems form the police department. If people want to remember and recognize the fallen, that is way fine," she said. "They need to put it up at the police department where the problem started.”

Culp said it should be no mystery who made the sign. Her artwork and her Tlingit name can be found on the other side of the banner.

The sign has since been removed. Culp wrote a letter to police reporting the banner stolen and challenging the hate crime label.

"I strongly disagree for no one has the power, authority, or jurisdiction to own my freedom of speech," she wrote.

Hoonah Police Wm. David McKillican has said that officers in the small department considered the sign to be a threat.

A hand-written sign that appeared Wednesday outside a home where two police officers were killed in 2010 is under investigation, police say.

Hoonah Police Chief Wm. David McKillican said the banner appears to threaten the community's police. The sign was posted about a week after the Southeast Alaska town dedicated a wooden memorial to two officers who were shot and killed near the cottage.

The sign says, “HPD (Hoonah Police Department) harassment of the mentally ill = DECEASED COPS.”

“Keeping unresolved death alive / cops against us = NO FIX. FEAR = danger,” it says.

The banner hangs on the now-vacant home that was occupied by John Marvin Jr. in 2010 when, firing from a window, Marvin shot and killed Sgt. Anthony Wallace and his partner Matthew Tokuoka.

McKillican, the police chief, said that a memorial with the names of the officers was dedicated about 75 yards away from the home on Aug. 28. Some residents had voiced concerns that the memorial would open old wounds in the village of 783 people, McKillican said.

“I think that they viewed the memorial as something that was going to continually bring up, you know, a bad time in our community’s history,” he said.

“The purpose of the memorial was to dedicate to those fallen officers and future first responders,” McKillican said.

The police department – four officers including the chief – also heard the memorial might be vandalized if erected, he said.

While that hasn’t happened, police considered the banner on Marvin’s former home a threat.

“I’m always concerned for the safety of my officers, but when it’s vocalized in this type of manner, it kind of heightens the level of awareness,” McKillican said.

McKillican said the department is looking for information about who placed the banner and would like to pursue the case as a hate crime. While state and federal hate-crime laws might not apply, the police chief said prosecutors would make that decision.

“The individuals that are responsible for this are targeting a specific group. Based on our interpretation, that’s why we’re considering it a possible hate crime," he said.

Marvin is serving two life sentences for the killings. He had a history of erratic behavior and a former police chief had said that officers were wary of him before the shootings. His home is now vacant, police said.

[Hoonah police were wary of shooting suspect – Anchorage Daily News]

Police had driven by Marvin’s home on the day of the shooting, and moments before the killing one of the officers had shone a flashlight into his window, according to the Juneau Empire.

The city in 2015 won a lawsuit filed by the widow of one of the officers who claimed police were not properly trained on how to deal with mentally ill and violent citizens, according to the newspaper.

[John Marvin sentenced to two 99-year sentences – Juneau Empire]

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