Standoff follows shooting deaths of two Hoonah officers

STANDOFF: Law enforcement agencies surround suspect's home as he barricades himself inside.

August 29, 2010 

Two Hoonah police officers were shot and killed by a suspect who early Monday was still barricaded in his home on Front Street in the Southeast Alaska community of about 850 people, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Troopers have responded to Hoonah in full force after the Saturday night shootings. They have surrounded the home of the suspected shooter, whom they identified as John Marvin Jr., 45. They say he is "barricaded and contained," but they weren't discussing any communications with him. They say they hope the standoff ends peacefully.

"The situation is ongoing," trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

The wife and young children of the one of the officers witnessed the violence as it began, as did the mother of the other officer, said interim city administrator Bob Prunella.

One of the gunned-down officers, Matthew Tokuoka, 39, was off duty and had just recently rejoined the tiny police force, filling in while a new recruit attended the trooper academy in Sitka.

The other, Sgt. Anthony Wallace, 32, came from a long line of police officers, including his father, grandfather and an uncle. He had been with the department off and on over the last three years and was promoted posthumously Sunday from corporal, said Hoonah Police Chief John Millan.

Wallace was hearing-impaired, a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf. He suffered high-frequency hearing loss and was an expert lip reader. But he also could talk on the phone or the police radio, Millan said.

"He compensated for it. ... He could fully, effectively perform his duties," Millan said. "It was a battle. He had to constantly prove himself, and overcome."

Millan is now the only sworn member of the Hoonah police force in the city, and he has been there 10 months. The city of Wrangell has sent two officers to help out.

Hoonah is 40 miles west of Juneau on the northeast shore of Chichagof Island. Hoonah is the largest Tlingit village in Alaska.

The community is reeling, said the city's mayor, Windy Skaflestad. People already are depositing bouquets of flowers at the police department. They are gathering at the Alaska Native Brotherhood hall to mourn together, Millan said.

"To me, it's terrible. Two young fellows, good-looking guys," Skaflestad said. "Up and coming beautiful policemen for Hoonah."

"The community's broken-hearted," Millan said.

Troopers' special emergency reaction teams from the Mat-Su, the Kenai Peninsula and Fairbanks are on the scene. SERT is the trooper tactical team, like a SWAT team. Area patrol officers, wildlife troopers, the Juneau Police Department's tactical team and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers are involved. The U.S. Coast Guard brought the Juneau police over by boat and sent a helicopter from Sitka to medevac Wallace to the hospital in Juneau.

Medics and the local physician assistant provided aid. But neither man could be saved.

Troopers, still trying to get the shooter to surrender, haven't said what they believe set him off. Marvin has a record of small crimes including furnishing alcohol to a minor in 2006. Last year, he was charged with assault, criminal trespass and resisting arrest. But those charges appear to have been dismissed, according to a database of court records.

"This was a homegrown boy," said Skaflestad, 73, who himself was born and raised in Hoonah.

Troopers said they were alerted to the shootings around 11 p.m. Tokuoka's father-in-law, Hoonah resident George Martin, said he lives nearby and heard the gunfire.

Tokuoka was in his car with his wife, Haley, their 6-year-old son and their 2-year-old daughter, Martin said. They stopped to talk to Wallace, the officer on duty, who was standing outside the vehicle. Wallace's mother, a nurse who was visiting from Florida, was nearby and saw her son shot, Prunella said.

"The regular officer went down first. In fact, my daughter and the kids were in the car. Matt wasn't actually on duty yet," Martin said. "The shots rang out, you know, and they hit Tony. I guess they hit them in the leg first. And then Matt told my daughter, he said to get the kids out of here. 'Get out of here!' he said.

"He went to help Tony and I think that's when he got it."

Prunella said Tokuoka tried to get other people to safety.

During the standoff, people who live nearby are being told to stay put and if they weren't already home, to stay away, Peters said.

Many people in Hoonah were up all Saturday night, Prunella said. People are scared and sad.

Wallace is from upstate New York, according to the Hoonah Police Department website. He has a young daughter in Ohio. In college, he was an All-American wrestler. In between stints with the Hoonah Police Department, he worked campus security at RIT. He graduated at the top of his class last year at the law enforcement academy in Fairbanks.

According to a story last year in RIT's campus news, Wallace was one of few deaf police officers in the country.

"I have had tremendous support from my fellow police officers and have gained their confidence by proving every day that a person with my hearing deficiency poses no problems on the job. I have always believed that I could do the job of a police officer and here I am," he said in the story.

Tokuoka was a native of Hawaii and a former Marine Corps staff sergeant who looked the part, Millan said. His military background was in special operations, according to the Hoonah police website. He had worked for the department off and on since the spring of 2009 and was waiting to get into an upcoming law enforcement academy class.

"He had that Marine Corps appearance and demeanor, and then when you'd meet him, he'd crack a smile and be just the warmest, nicest person you ever met. So much fun. Just a loving father," Millan said.


Find Lisa Demer online at adn.com/contact/ldemer or call 257-4390.

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