Widow of police officer killed by Hoonah man seeks judgment over poor training claims

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JUNEAU, Alaska — A jury will decide a wrongful death lawsuit in the case of a Hoonah police officer gunned down in 2010.

The widow of Officer Matthew Tokuoka is seeking damages from the city of Hoonah, claiming officers were inadequately trained to deal with the mentally ill, the Juneau Empire reported (http://is.gd/TTNtem).

A jury was seated in Juneau on Tuesday in the trial that could last up to two weeks.

Hoonah resident John Marvin Jr. was convicted in the 2010 shooting deaths of both Tokuoka and Sgt. Anthony Wallace as they stood in the street near Marvin's home. Marvin is serving consecutive 99-year prison terms.

Haley Tokuoka-Yearout, Tokuoka's widow who has since remarried, is seeking at least $100,000 in damages. However, her attorney is expected to have a financial expert testify that the lost income from her husband's death could amount to nearly $3 million, and that wouldn't include damages for pain and suffering.

In 2010, Marvin was convinced he was under siege by police, according to testimony. Before the shooting on Aug. 28, 2010, a marked cruiser drove past Marvin's home twice. Wallace was giving his mother, who was visiting from out-of-state, a ride along.

Wallace pulled the police car over after seeing the Tokuokas, who were throwing away dinner scraps at a trash bin across the street from Marvin's home. Haley Tokuoka said she saw Marvin shaking what she believed was an ammunition box in a window. She pointed it out to her husband and Wallace, and said Wallace then shone a flashlight in the house.

Attorneys claimed at the criminal trial that flash of light confirmed in Marvin's delusions that he was targeted by police, and the two officers were shot and killed moments later.

Her lawsuit alleges Wallace partially caused the deaths when he flashed the light. She also claims the city should have properly instructed officers how to deal with the mentally ill.

Lawyers for the city dispute the claim and say only Marvin is to blame for the deaths. They intend to call Marvin, who is a third-party defendant in the lawsuit, to testify. However, since his conviction is on appeal, he is expected to assert his Fifth Amendment right, allowing him to refuse to take the stand.

"We'll see what he has to say," the city's co-counsel, Frank Koziol, told the jury pool Tuesday.

Mark Choate, who is Tokuoka-Yearout's attorney, earlier said asking Marvin to testify is a stunt.

"It's just theater," Choate said a mid-March court hearing in unsuccessfully arguing that Marvin not be allowed to be called as a witness.


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

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