Crime & Courts

Jurors rule in favor of city, police department following 2nd trial over man shot by Anchorage police

A lawsuit against the Anchorage Police Department and three of its officers has ended after nearly three years with jurors ruling in favor of the city, finding police did not use excessive force when they shot and killed Shane Tasi during a June 2012 confrontation.

The Estate of Shane Tasi — his wife Jean Taualo-Tasi and three children — sued the city in December 2013 for upward of $1 million for the death of their family member.

The case was moved from state court to federal court, but claims originally addressed in the lower court were included in the verdict reached last week. That means the issue is most likely finalized after years of litigation.

"The plaintiffs have the right to file appeals if they so desire, but I can't anticipate what they would appeal," said an attorney for the Municipality of Anchorage Pamela Weiss. "From our standpoint, the case is resolved."

Local attorney Phillip Weidner, who represented the family of Shane Tasi, did not return requests for comment.

The lawsuit focused on two claims and asked for monetary damages due to emotional and financial distress.

[Family of Anchorage man police killed sues city, seeking $1 million-plus in damages]

Tasi's family accused officer Boaz Gionson of firing unwarranted additional shots at Tasi and claimed two other officers kept them from seeing Tasi in his final moments. Those arguments, among other interpretations of the shooting, formed the basis for claims of excessive force and false arrest.

Gionson shot Tasi, 26, three times while responding to 911 calls about a commotion at Tasi's home in Mountain View. Other callers told police a man was hitting cars and attacking a dog in the neighborhood. Police said Tasi refused to put down a broomstick after being told four times to stop while outside of his apartment.

Two officers held Taualo-Tasi and her children in a laundry room of the apartment building in the aftermath, according to the lawsuit.

A toxicology report revealed that Tasi had alcohol, metabolites of marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids — also known as Spice or K2 — in his system when he was shot.

City officials cleared Gionson of criminal wrongdoing. Gionson left the Anchorage Police Department in December 2013 to work for a law enforcement agency out of state.

This year's two trials on the family's claims were a long time coming. In December 2014, one year into the litigation, the Anchorage Assembly authorized the city to spend as much as $500,000 on the lawsuit. Weiss did not have an exact figure Tuesday on how much defending the city ultimately cost.

[City gets extra $250,000 to fight lawsuit after Anchorage police shooting]

In February, on the eve of the first trial, Weidner called for the city to settle rather than prolong the court battle.

[Attorney for family of Anchorage man fatally shot by police calls for settlement]

The first trial in April focused on both claims. It lasted a dozen days. The jurors ruled in favor of two officers — Joshua Vance and James Williams – deciding no unlawful detainment of the family occurred following the shooting.

But the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision on the claim of excessive force by officer Gionson, Weiss said. The issue prompted a second trial, which started on Sept. 26 and lasted about nine days.

Weiss said the city's defense did not fundamentally change from trial to trial. The defense streamlined their argument a bit, she said, but most of the components from the initial presentation before jurors remained the same. The same use-of-force expert, witnesses and reports were used.

"The facts of the case didn't change between the trials," Weiss said. "We have consistently denied that there was excessive force used against Shane Tasi. (The shooting) was justified by the circumstances."

It's unclear how the second jury reached a different conclusion. Attorneys were not permitted to speak to the jurors after the verdict was handed down.