Man shot by officer had alcohol, drugs in system, autopsy shows

Police release a rare partial autopsy; detail officer's response.

Anchorage Daily NewsJuly 17, 2012 

The widow of Shane Tasi, who declined to give her name, listens to attorney Phillip Weidner prior to a press conference at APD on Wednesday, June 27, 2012.

BILL ROTH / ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS Buy Photo

Anchorage police said a 26-year-old man shot to death last month by an officer had alcohol, marijuana and synthetic marijuana in his system.

A medical examiner performed an autopsy on Shane Tasi after a police officer shot Tasi on June 9 outside a Mountain View apartment building.

Surveillance video released by police shows Tasi swinging a 39-inch broken broom handle while advancing on Officer Boaz Gionson, who shot Tasi three times, according to police.

In a June 27 press event, Police Chief Mark Mew said an investigation by police and state lawyers cleared Gionson of any criminal charges.

Tuesday, police said an internal investigation continues to determine if Gionson's actions followed department protocol.

In an uncommon move, police released part of the results from Tasi's autopsy on Tuesday in a statement emailed to news media.

"Toxicology analysis has been completed in the autopsy report," read the statement. "The toxicology studies show the presence of alcohol, metabolites of marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids (Spice, k2, etc)."

Police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker said in an interview Tasi's blood-alcohol content registered 0.185, more than twice the legal limit to drive.

The presence of drugs and alcohol explains, at least in part, why Tasi acted violently, Parker said.

"We were informed by witnesses that Mr. Tasi was acting entirely out of character," Parker said. "I think these results kind of explain that."

Parker said it was impossible to know if Tasi was high on synthetic marijuana at the time of the shooting or if the drug was merely in his system.

"The levels for intoxication haven't been set, (so) there's no way to know that," Parker said.

A minimum amount would have to be in Tasi's system to show up in the tests, and the amount found was "well above that," Parker said.

The release of the toxicology report Tuesday was a somewhat uncommon move for police. Parker said it was done because numerous media organizations requested the results.

"Everybody's requested it, and that's part of the police investigation now," Parker said.

Parker said investigators with the police department's Internal Affairs Unit are still looking into whether officer Gionson followed police procedures. The police spokesman acknowledged Chief Mew had previously said the use of lethal force was appropriate. The internal investigation would be the final say, Parker said.

"The whole situation was one of those that was, obviously, difficult for the town. It was difficult for the police department, and very, very difficult for this young man's family," Parker said.

"But I think this would at least partially explain why he was acting out of character and serve as a warning for other people that these synthetic drugs are dangerous."

Members of the local Polynesian community and other Anchorage residents have protested police procedures on the use of lethal force, saying the Anchorage Police Department has a "shoot to kill" policy.

Chief Mew said that was an incorrect characterization and that the policy could be called "shoot to stop," though he said death is a common outcome in such officer-involved shootings.

The Polynesian Community Center and the Alaska American Civil Liberties Union have organized a town hall meeting with police and city officials.

The meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Loussac Library.


Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

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