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Family of man slain in officer-involved shooting needs to know the truth

  • Author: Krista Smith, Scott Smith
  • Updated: October 10
  • Published October 10

Micah McComas, center, in plaid shirt, with family celebrating his mother’s birthday in Anchorage on Sept. 20, 2016. Also pictured, from left, are his father, Clifford “Mike” McComas; his mother, Debbie McComas; sister Krista Smith; and nephew Seth Elliott. Micah McComas was killed during a police traffic stop in Seward early Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. (Courtesy McComas family)

This week our family has become a reluctant but passionate champion of the rights of victims and victim's family's rights. On Sunday, Oct. 1, we were informed that our son, brother and brother-in-law Micah McComas had been killed in Seward. Alaska State Troopers visited our parents' home outside of Anchorage that morning to tell us that Micah had been killed. Details were sketchy to nonexistent. Like most do today, we began scouring the internet and social media sites for any clue as to what might have happened to Micah. Grieving began, but there was no closure. We literally had no details of his death.

On Monday, Oct. 2, we found out on Facebook that Micah had been killed in a shooting that involved an officer of the Seward Police Department. We were never officially informed that Micah was killed in such a shooting at a Safeway parking lot at 1:47 a.m. For the first few days, our information came sporadically through media sources on the internet. Micah's sister, Krista, eventually spoke with the chief of police of the Seward Police Department. He told her that there were cameras on the officer and in the police car. Apparently, according to Alaska state law, we have to wait until the investigation has been completed, which has been estimated at six weeks, for the videos to be released. The conversation with the chief was pleasant and respectful, and he seemed like a good man, ready to do the right thing; however, the investigation had been turned over to the Alaska State Troopers. We have to imagine that the chief had seen the videos and knew the truth, whatever it may turn out to be, but policy prohibits him from sharing. At this point, we have not heard from the Alaska State Troopers directly, though our attorney has made contact.

Before we go any further, it is important that anyone who reads this letter understands very clearly that we are ardent supporters of our police, our military and our first responders. Scott's uncle was a state trooper in his home state of Mississippi, and we believe that virtually every police officer, when given the chance, will do the right thing. We know that the No. 1 goal of each police officer and his family is for he or she to get home safely each night. We also know that people are fallible. We know that people make mistakes. We know that people abuse their power. But we wholeheartedly believe that is the exception, not the rule. We don't support kneeling for the national anthem, and no matter what happened in this situation, we will always stand. We cover our hearts during the Pledge of Allegiance and stand for the national anthem. We also support people's right to peacefully protest, even when we don't necessarily agree. We have traveled the world, and no one will ever convince us that the United States is not the greatest country in the world.

If Micah caused the officer to fear for his life or the life of others, then Micah died with the consequences, as we have to live with them. If Micah did not, then our intent is to ensure that those responsible and those who have aided and abetted will reap the consequences. At this point, we have no ill will toward anyone — we simply want to know what happened.

Micah made a number of mistakes in his life. He would be the first to admit that fact. If you visit nottakingakneetakingastand.com, you can read his poetry on the subject. However, as tends to happen in these cases, many have tried to vilify Micah. He had a number of arrests. He was a person. He was a poet. He was a son and a brother. He was a dad who did not get to see his son because of time spent behind bars years ago, probably the greatest regret of his life. Those who know him will also tell you that he was a gentle guy, compassionate, kind and loving.

They would also tell you that he knew the law better than you and I, and probably better than a lawyer or two. Attacking a police officer would be incredibly out of character for Micah. He was a felon, but a nonviolent one. Not having a driver's license and having a "record" is not grounds for shooting someone. The incidents that occurred the morning of Oct. 1, 2017, should be considered in isolation. The facts of this particular morning stand alone; to brush them under the rug would be a tragedy. But, to criminalize him and allow these beliefs to permeate and create a disregard for finding the truth is a travesty and a dangerous disservice to our communities.

This process is difficult. It is difficult to grieve because we don't really know what we are grieving. Are we grieving a bad decision by Micah that caused an officer to fear for his life, or are we grieving a senseless execution? It is difficult to maneuver the bureaucratic process. We are receiving conflicting reports. We have talked to eyewitnesses. The investigation has moved from Seward to the Alaska State Troopers, and we have no understanding of the process. We have been told by eyewitnesses that Micah was handcuffed prior to the shooting. We were told he was shot multiple times. We were told he died in the parking lot. We were told he died in the ambulance. We were told there are no security cameras at Safeway. We were told that there are security cameras in the Safeway parking lot. It had been reported that the officer was injured "but would survive." Then reported that the officer received "non-life threatening injuries," and yet the passenger in the vehicle has stated emphatically that she heard no struggle, no argument, and the officer did not appear to be injured at all and was standing talking to the responding officer when he arrived after the shots had been fired.

The name of the police officer who did the shooting was released after three days, but the name released was not the actual name of the officer. It was corrected after the media revealed that name released was incorrect. Our early information came from the internet and our attorney, but now we are being contacted by members of the Alaska community with information. What's the truth? Honestly, the narrative is inconsistent. We don't know, but there are people who do, and we are slowly but surely discovering facts. We believe that body cam and police car video would clear up the facts for all involved. We have heard nothing about a weapon, and feel pretty confident that if a weapon had been present, it would have been plastered all over the police website.

In the end, a man is dead. This is the elephant in the room, so let us address it.  Officer-involved shootings are one of the biggest lightning rods in our society today. But, we do believe that this phenomenon is bigger than just being about race. This is about who has a voice, and who doesn't. This is about disenfranchisement. We all know that where there are people who are disenfranchised, there are evil people who will take advantage.

Disenfranchisement comes in many forms. Race is probably the most prolific source of disenfranchisement. But things like socioeconomic class and criminal records can equally silence someone's voice. Micah was white. Micah was not wealthy, he was not even middle class. Micah had a criminal record. But, none of these are reasons to be killed. If a police officer is going to take a life in the United States of America, there has to be a high bar. In our opinion, that bar is the imminent threat on an officer's life or the lives of other citizens. If that bar is met, lethal force is warranted.

Like most, we watch with disgust at some of the shootings of unarmed citizens that we see on social media, and like many of you who are reading this, we wonder what we can do about it. We also see shootings of those who threaten the lives of officers and citizens and thank God that we have brave men and women ready to stand in harm's way on our behalf. Our family believes in the power of the people to bring about change and to force institutions to do what is right. At this point, our family wants to see the videos that were taken of the incident that took Micah's life. We don't want to distribute the videos. We want to watch them.  We want to grieve. If Micah is to blame, we accept his fate. If he is not, we will not stand for anything less than total justice.

Today, whether you are on your knees in prayer or in protest, we ask that you stand with us and take a quick moment to share this post, this letter or website with folks who you think will care. Then take your knee again, in prayer or in protest. Each night we are on our knees in prayer, but each day we stand up and we'll keep standing up until we are given what is the right of any victim's family — the truth.

Krista Smith is the sister and Scott Smith is the brother-in-law of Micah McComas, a Chugiak man who was shot and killed in an incident involving a Seward police officer during a traffic stop there on Oct. 1. They live in South Carolina.

The views expressed here are the writers' and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com. 

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