Family of Man Shot by Officer Holds Vigil, Calls for Change
Friends and family members of the man who was shot and killed by an Anchorage Police Officer Monday held a vigil for him Thursday evening. The name of the officer who killed the man was released the same day.
That’s Tammy Joe, singing — an in-law of Kenneth John who was shot by an Anchorage Police officer Monday. About a hundred or so people who came out to remember the man killed in the fifth officer-involved shooting this year.
The police synopsis of what happened goes like this:
On Monday evening, an APD Officer pulled John over for a routine traffic stop near downtown. When the officer made contact with the him, police say the 26-year-old John got out of his SUV and approached the officer with “two bladed weapons.” The officer, who was by himself, fired at the driver. John was transported to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
But the family and friends of John, who gathered to remember him, see things differently. His second-cousin Leonard James read a scripture from the book of Jeremiah at the spot where John was killed and said it was directed toward the APD.
“They do not say in their hearts let us fear the Lord our God who gives us the rain in it’s season, the autumn rain and the spring rain and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest. You’re inequities have turned these away and your sins have deprived you of good. For scoundrels are found among my people. They take over the goods of others. Like fowlers they set a trap. They catch human beings, like a cage full of birds. Their houses are full of treachery,” James read.
James says he thinks John was shot on his way from visiting the memorial for his cousin, Detlef Wulf, who was also killed in an officer involved shooting in the same area, this spring. Police say Wulf pointed a gun at officers before they shot him. James says he doesn’t believe the allegations against either man. Although his family is hurting, James says the deaths of the two young men are an opportunity to call for change.
“This is no longer a family problem,” James said. “This is a community problem, and unless the community stands up and says something about this injustice that’s happening to all these victims, nothing’s gonna happen.”
“These cops, they’re getting paid vacations after they gun people down. Paid vacations.”
At the vigil, James asked witnesses to come forward and talk with an attorney working with the family. James says the family has plans for a pot-latch in John’s home-village of Grayling this weekend and they are making plans for his burial.
Police have released the name of the officer involved in the shooting, Christopher Simmons, a Senior Patrol Officer and 10-year veteran of the Anchorage Police Department. The investigation of the incident is ongoing. As with all officer-involved shootings, the case will be reviewed by the state Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals.
There have been five officer involved shootings so far this year, three of them fatal. The department’s ‘use of force’ policy is under review and changes are expected later this year.