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Hoonah police were wary of shooting suspect

Kyle Hopkins

Hoonah Police Sgt. Tony Wallace and police chief John Millan cruised Front Street on their way to lunch on a bright late August day when they passed a familiar home in the Southeast Alaska village.

Inside lived John Marvin Jr., a reclusive man known in the shoreside community for increasingly strange behavior. Villagers whispered he might be stockpiling ammo or food. He had blackened the windows of his framed, World War II-era cottage.

"John Marvin has really darkened up his house, and I don't see him anymore," said Millan, who rode shotgun in the Chevy Tahoe as the men headed for an afternoon meal.

"Chief, he's going to kill one of us if we're not careful," Wallace replied, matter-of-factly. "It's going to happen."

About a week later, Wallace and his partner, off-duty police officer Matt Tokuoka, were dead. Police say Marvin shot them in front of their families when the officers happened to stop and talk in front of his home.

Like Wallace, the police chief had sensed something bad was coming, he said during an interview this week in which he recalled his conversation with Wallace and the months leading up to the shooting. "I just had this sick feeling of dread, of inevitability, deep down in my stomach."

But Millan was no psychiatrist, and you can't arrest someone for seeming crazy.

"There's no law against being strange. Against being mentally ill. Against being perceived as being weird," the police chief said.

Even the policemen Marvin, 45, is now charged with killing once hesitated to press charges against him.

Dropped charges

Marvin's recent tangles with Hoonah police began about a year ago, when a woman said he appeared in her house, unwelcome. Wallace and Tokuoka went to Marvin's home to talk about it.

Police say Marvin attacked the officers, who stopped him with Tasers. Marvin would spend more than three months locked up in Juneau following the arrest, but Millan said the police officers had little taste for pressing charges.

"My officers had come to me and said that they weren't aggressively motivated to throw him under the bus of the court system. They had some compassion for him," Millan said.

On Dec. 1, prosecutors dropped assault and trespassing charges against Marvin, court records show.

Millan, who has been Hoonah police chief for less than a year, first met Marvin later that month when he refused to leave a local store. Police told him he was scaring the clerk. Eventually he left.

On Jan. 4, Wallace wrote Marvin a ticket for driving with a license that had expired nearly six years before. He hadn't registered his vehicle and wasn't carrying insurance, police said.

Marvin ran into the new police chief again when he showed up at the courthouse to deal with the ticket. He was polite but making little sense, telling Millan he was a member of the Russian royal family.

Their next meeting went far worse.

Incident at school

It was around spring when Millan knocked on Marvin's door one afternoon to deliver a letter telling Marvin he wasn't allowed on school property anymore.

A district employee had spotted a man she believed was Marvin in a dark hallway after hours. Marvin doesn't have kids in the school, and the building was already closed for the day.

"He stared her down and then ran out of the building," Millan said. The woman had been afraid to go back to work, and police wanted Marvin to stay away from the school.

Millan stood outside Marvin's home to deliver the warning. By now the windows were darkened, but police could still see Marvin peeping out.

Millan described what happened next:

Marvin snatched the door open.

"What the f--- do you want!?" he said.

"You remember me, Mr. Marvin? I'm the police chief," Millan replied.

"I know who you think you want me to believe you are," Marvin said, yelling for the police to get off his property.

The chief and his sergeant left without delivering the trespassing notice, but no one complained about Marvin showing up at the school again, Millan said.

'Officer down'

Millan had just stepped out of the shower at his home Saturday night when he heard Wallace's mother yelling on the police radio.

"Officer down!"

Millan scrambled to get dressed, grabbing his bullet-proof vest and gun belt.

He heard someone say "liquor store" as he left his driveway. Maybe one of his officers had been hit by a car, he thought.

"When I heard the screaming, I knew it was bad," Millan said.

Arriving on the scene, he saw Wallace and Tokuoka on their backs in the liquor store parking lot.

Wallace, a former All-America wrestler, and Tokuoka, a boxer in the Marine Corps, according to the police chief -- larger-than-life action figures, laid flat.

Nothing but gunfire could do that. An image of Marvin flashed in the police chief's mind.

Where's the shooter, Millan asked Wallace.

"The only word he said to me was 'wow,' " Millan said.

Wallace reached for the police chief. Millan gripped his hand, holding his pistol in the other.

Wallace's mother crouched in the fetal position in the front seat of her son's patrol car. Tokuoka, who had been off-duty and wasn't wearing body armor, had two holes in his chest. He couldn't feel his legs, he told Millan.

Marvin was nowhere in sight.

A reserve police officer arrived. So did a volunteer firefighter. The men loaded the fallen policemen into the back of a pickup and drove them to get medical help, though each later died of his wounds.

Authorities took Marvin into custody after a day and a half standoff at his home.

Trying to make sense of it

Three days after the shooting, Millan walked Front Street, his voice quaking as he talked on a cell phone about his past encounters with Marvin and the loss of two officers.

He stood next to a makeshift memorial for his men, he said. Candles, balloons and flowers lined thin folding tables. The names of Tokuoka's children filled one poster. "Best dad ever," someone wrote.

Even people police arrested in the past have been stopping to give hugs, Millan said.

Two kids approached the police chief while he talked. Only Millan's side of the conversation could be heard over the phone:

"No I'm fine thanks. I appreciate it. I appreciate it."


"YOU guys doing OK?"


"I know you liked Tony and Matt, fellas, I know. Things going good at school?"

Tokuoka, shot in front of his wife and two of his children, was a 39-year-old father of four. Wallace, 32, had recently visited a daughter in Ohio. He'd come back to work talkative and proud, showing pictures of himself with his girl at a baseball game. At an amusement park.

Millan thought of those photos as he looked at Wallace's patrol rig, flecked with blood and evidence markers, and tried to make sense of what he saw.

Read The Village, the ADN's blog about rural Alaska, at Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334.

Photos: Slain Hoonah officers
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