A federal judge this week dismissed a wrongful-death lawsuit filed against the Municipality of Anchorage and three police officers by the family of a man the officers shot to death in 2019.
Bishar Hassan, 31, died April 1, 2019, after police fired multiple times responding to what they said was a report of a man “waving around” a gun. The weapon turned out to be a BB gun.
The lawsuit filed in 2021 by Hassan’s family gained support from activists who called for better de-escalation training and pushed for the Anchorage Police Department to outfit officers with body cameras. Dash camera footage of the shooting was publicly released by the Hassans’ lawyer nearly three years after his death.
In an order released Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason dismissed the lawsuit and said officers acted reasonably because they believed Hassan posed a threat.
The civil suit filed by Hassan’s brother and mother sought $20 million from the municipality, involved officers and other city employees for wrongful death and various civil rights violations. The lawsuit said police used excessive and unreasonable force when they shot Hassan.
The shooting occurred after police officers Nathan Lewis, Matthew Hall and Brett Eggiman responded to 911 calls that reported Hassan brandishing a handgun near the Walmart on A Street, Gleason’s order said.
Police contacted Hassan at a nearby bus stop and the shooting unfolded in mere seconds, according to the order. Police directed Hassan to stop, but he reached for what appeared to be a gun in his waistband and began to raise it as he walked toward them.
The three officers fired a total of 13 times in less than three seconds, according to the order. Officers later realized that Hassan had a BB gun, not a handgun.
An investigation by the Office of Special Prosecutions determined the officers’ actions were justified. They were not criminally charged. No law enforcement officer in Alaska has been criminally charged related to a death in recent years.
Gleason sided with the city and officers in Monday’s order and dismissed the 11 claims brought by the Hassan family, largely citing the video footage in the 34-page document. The officers’ conduct was reasonable because Hassan posed an immediate threat to their safety when he pulled the gun from his waistband, she wrote.
A rally last year drew a crowd of roughly 100 people after the dash camera footage was publicly released. Hassan’s case is one of few shootings captured on video in recent years because Anchorage police do not wear body cameras.
The suit was among few throughout the state filed in recent years related to deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers.
Attorneys in the case could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday morning.