UPDATED STORY: Near Riot Goes Unreported, to be Discussed at Community Forum

William B. Lyons Park. Photo from the Anchorage Park Foundation

August 28 – UPDATE:

Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew now says that additional police reports have surfaced regarding the fight and what he characterized as a near riot that took place at Lyons Park in the Mountainview neighborhood on July 28.

Mew wrote in an email on August 28 that, “I should point out—for future reference—that the police reports do mention the crowd after all.  I recently read a bunch of them that hadn’t worked their way through the system when I did my interview with you Still, they deal with the crowd matter obliquely, as the focus of the reports is on the specific elements of the specific crimes charged.  One report estimates the crowd at 100, and indicates that one of the defendants agreed on that score.”

Per municipal code and state statute, the APD does not release police reports, dispatch tapes or 911 tapes while a case is still under investigation. The case against the two defendants, Cory Naea and Jordan Molia is still under investigation.

Read the original story below.

An attack in an Anchorage Park is being characterized by police as nearly sparking a riot. The incident stemmed from an assault that took place at William B. Lyons Park in the Mountainview neighborhood on July 28. It drew dozens to the park and led police to dispatch nearly every officer on duty. However, the incident did not make it into official police reports or make a single headline in the news, and police and the community have kept mum on the incident until now.

According to state court documents police found a seriously injured man at the park, Anthony Williams. Cory Naea and Jordan Molia were arrested and charged with assault. A District Attorney describes the assault during an on August 3 bail hearing for Naea.

“This is a fairly serious assault. As you know from the probable cause statement, it involves mutual fighting and then allegations of kicking in the head and whatnot, when the victim was down. And the injuries are fairly serious – the victim sustained a fractured sinus cavity,” Anchorage Police Officer Derek Hsieh said.

Hsieh was working the swing shift patrol on the evening of July 28 around 8:00 p.m. when he was dispatched to the fight at Lyons Park. When he pulled up to the park, he says this is what he saw.

“Other officers were already on the scene. They had several people in custody. There were indications that a violent encounter had occurred. There was blood on the grass and broken bottles and things like that,” Hsieh said.

As police were arresting Naea and Molia, and getting Williams off to medical care, Hsieh says the crowd began to grow and some got aggressive.

“But unfortunately there were some people who had come across the street from the neighborhood to the west and had arrived in vehicles who wanted to be more than spectators and wanted to get out on foot and at least verbally confront the police,” Hsieh said.

Police Chief Mark Mew says the situation escalated into a near riot, but somehow that never made it into official police reports. Tensions have been running high between law enforcement and the Polynesian community since July 9, after an Anchorage Police Officer shot and killed Shane Tasi who was brandishing a stick in the Mountain View neighborhood. The Anchorage Community Police Relations Task Force has been discussing the incident and trying to get the police and the community to work together so as to avoid future incidents. Mew says what happened on July 28 represents an ominous turn of events and it worries him.

Map from the Anchorage Park Foundation

“People were coming and joining the fracas and so soon the size of the crowd got way bigger. I’ve been told perhaps from 25 to 50 people. And they weren’t dispersing and they were getting louder and the situation was escalating and becoming dangerous. It looked like it was escalating into some kind of a riot and we basically had to bring everybody in,” Mew said.

Chief Mew says every officer on duty was dispatched, somewhere between 25 and 30. Mew says police can use array of tools to deter rioters – batons, pepper spray, rubber bullets, tasers, and lethal force is always an option. Officers did not have to use any of those to deter the crowd in Lyons Park. However, he says, they’re prepared to if necessary. He says he hopes using such methods can be avoided through his work with the task force. So does Lucy Hanson with the Polynesian Association of Alaska. She says Polynesian elders, have up until now, looked to their traditions to handle problems in their community.

“What usually happens in our culture is the elder will then go talk to the family of whoever is doing something bad. You know and talk to them and solve the issue. That’s how we take care of things. We iron it out by talking and understanding and make sure that the kids know that this cannot happen again in the future. It is so sorry that and sadly that this happened to these kids and very sadly that somebody got hurt from this,” Hanson said.

Neither Molia nor Naea have a record of committing a crime in Alaska. Hanson says she wants to work with law enforcement, but since the Tasi shooting many in her community mistrust the police.

“I think that relationship was or that understanding or the trust, you know, was driven away from what happened in a couple months or a month ago. And I think that that’s what we’re working towards – to hopefully to get the understanding from the from the community and police department to work together,” Hanson said.

Prosecutors are reviewing the evidence against Molia and Naea. A hearing is scheduled for the end of the month. They both face charges of assault in the second degree, a class-B felony offense. The Anchorage Community Police Relations Task Force, along with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission is sponsoring a forum with a representative from the Department of Justice on September 13. The July 28 incident is sure to be a topic of discussion.

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Daysha Eaton is the News Director at KBBI in Homer. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.