Two men charged with murder, who were arrested on Thursday after spending three weeks on the run, made their first court appearance in Anchorage on Monday afternoon.
"We've kind of come a long ways. I know we have a long road ahead of us," said Nicole Vaitohi, speaking on behalf of victim Sosaia Finau's family. "Just seeing their faces and knowing that they're off the streets is a big relief."
Mickee Thompson, 19, and Robert Smith, 18, have been charged with first- and second-degree murder. Police say they fatally shot 21-year-old Finau on April 12.
"It's very hard (to process)," Vaitohi said. "Everybody involved — way too young."
After three weeks on the run, a tip led to the arrest. Thompson and Smith were found hiding out at a home on the 3400 block of Spenard Road, police said.
Investigators are still trying to determine how long they had been hiding at the Spenard residence, and where else they might have stayed during the manhunt, police said Monday.
During Monday's short arraignment, both men were assigned public defenders and both entered non-guilty pleas.
Finau's girlfriend told Anchorage detectives that Thompson and Smith came by her apartment April 12 on Mountain View Drive. The woman asked Thompson to return a set of apartment keys, charging documents say.
Finau stepped in to break up an ensuing argument, police say.
Thompson and Smith both shot Finau multiple times and then fled on foot, charges say. Finau's girlfriend said she thought Thompson "emptied the clip" during the shooting, and Smith also fired several shots. At least 20 shell casings were found at the scene, documents say.
On Monday, Vaitohi said that the night Finau stepped in to split up the argument was the first time he had met either Thompson or Smith.
Vaitohi, a family friend who first met Finau through work, said that he was "always smiling," loved music and playing guitar, and was deeply involved with his Mormon religion.
"He wasn't just some thug off the street. That was not him at all, he was a young man of God," Vaitohi said.
Finau was close with his family, and has four siblings and a nephew, Vaitohi said.
"It has been called a mistake," Vaitohi said of Finau's fatal shooting. "This was not a mistake. This was a choice. And this is a choice that comes with consequences. And we should be raising our kids from day one to learn that there's consequences to your actions. And that's what we're here for. We're here to be Sosaia's voice. We want to make sure that he gets his justice."