Palmer man accused of impersonating officer in traffic stop

Casey Grove

Anchorage police shot Ieremia Unasa in the arm during a 2004 rampage downtown. But the 26-year-old Palmer man, charged Monday with impersonating a police officer, now says he wants to help the cops.

Unasa was behind the wheel of his wife's white, 12-year-old minivan when he allegedly pulled over another driver Monday night near Wasilla on the Parks Highway, according to a criminal complaint.

The other driver, 29-year-old Ryan Marley, said Unasa used hand signals and the van's hazard lights to get him to stop in a parking lot. Unasa told Marley he was speeding, the complaint says.

Unasa identified himself as "Officer J.R." from the Palmer jail and said he was working undercover, according to the charges. Unasa asked for Marley's license.

"Marley said Unasa asked him to get out of the vehicle and 'give him a hug' multiple times," the charges say. "Marley refused to exit the vehicle and drove away from the parking lot."

Unasa later told Alaska State Trooper Kristopher Sperry he was just trying to help the police and wanted to be a trooper, Sperry wrote in the complaint.

If that's true, it would be a surprising role-reversal for Unasa.

In 2004, police said Unasa drunkenly rammed several vehicles in downtown Anchorage -- including three police cruisers -- and mowed down a line of parking meters. A police officer and three others were injured, and Unasa didn't stop even when officers shot at him six times, striking him once in the arm, police said. Court records show he later pleaded no contest to first- and third-degree assault, criminal mischief and drunken driving.

In the Monday impersonation case, Unasa apparently admitted he'd pulled over drivers on other occasions. He told Trooper Sperry people believed his police officer act because he used his cellphone and phone charger as if he was talking on a police radio, according to the criminal complaint. Unasa also said that, in the past, he'd pulled over a drunken driver, a driver smoking marijuana and once talked to a 17-year-old girl who was smoking.

"Unasa stated he wanted to help troopers and be a trooper," the complaint says. "Unasa acknowledged it was not his job to pull people over and realizes it is against the law to impersonate a police officer."

Unasa is being held at Mat-Su Pretrial Facility -- the Palmer jail where he said he worked -- on $10,000 bail.

Troopers ask that anyone else who may have been contacted by Unasa acting as a police officer call them at 907-745-2131.

Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.

Anchorage Daily News