Arlen Skaflestad, a reserve officer for the Hoonah Police Department, got the call on his cell phone as he was bringing fuel to his boat at the harbor a couple hundred yards away from his house.
Hoonah Fire Chief Bill Wolfe heard it over the police radio.
For Paul Comolli, a volunteer firefighter/EMT and former Juneau and Hoonah police officer, it was over his scanner while he was at home watching TV with his wife.
Volunteer firefighter Owen James heard it over his police radio, and originally thought someone was playing around on the scanner. He went downtown anyway, just in case.
Alaska Wildlife Trooper Andy Savland, stationed in Hoonah, missed the first call while sleeping, and then received another call from Alaska State Trooper dispatch in Ketchikan shortly thereafter.
All their stories are the same relating to the moment they learned an officer, then a second officer, were shot down on the main street of Hoonah around 11 p.m. on Aug. 28, 2010 — they jumped into action and rushed to the scene.
On Friday, the six or seven local law enforcement officers, volunteers and EMTs who scrambled to the location of the fatal shootings of two police officers told their stories to the jurors during the second day of the murder trial against defendant John N. Marvin Jr., 47. It provided some of the missing pieces to the puzzle about the immediate aftermath of the shootings and how Marvin became the prime suspect that at the time was not released to the press or public.
Marvin is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, and weapons misconduct, for allegedly shooting and killing Hoonah Police Department Sgt. Anthony Wallace, 32, and Officer Matthew Tokuoka, 39. He was arrested about 36 hours after the shootings after barricading himself in his house. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
Each of the emergency responders heeded the call of action, but after that, the testimony diverges and much of it is contradictory, as jurors were warned during opening statements. Chaos and confusion ensued as local law enforcement within the small Tlingit village tried to figure out whom and where the shooter was, while also providing life support care to the officers.
Part of the confusion lay in statements from one of the dying officers.
At the scene
As he testified to on Thursday, the first day of the trial, the first person to arrive at the liquor store parking lot in the heart of the city’s center where Wallace and Tokuoka were shot was then-police chief John Millan.
Millan, alone on the scene with the two officers who lay on their backs in the street and Wallace’s mother — who was on a ride-along — said Tokuoka was unable to answer the question of who shot him, and the only thing Tokuoka said was that he couldn’t feel his legs.
Wallace was too much in a shock to speak. However, Millan told the jury while under direct examination from District Attorney David Brower that Wallace was able to lift his arm, and said two words: “John” and “Wow.”
Millan, who shares the defendant’s first name, said at first he thought that Wallace was holding up his hand to be held for reassurance, but Millan said he then realized Wallace was pointing in the Marvin’s house and referring to Marvin.
When pressed under cross examination from Marvin’s attorney, public defender Eric Hedland, Millan then admitted that that’s not what he told Alaska State Troopers when they interviewed Millan the following afternoon on Aug. 29 at the command post. It is what Millan testified to at grand jury, though, a week after the shootings. District Attorney Doug Gardner (Brower’s predecessor) had asked Millan during the grand jury what the raised arm meant to him, in retrospect.
“The district attorney asked me at grand jury, based on your now rested review of the circumstance, is this what you believe? And it is what I believe, and it absolutely makes sense. When I was interviewed by the Troopers, I believe I told you I’d been up for well over 24 hours through the worst day of my life, so if I made a slightly inconsistent statement when I was interviewed, I can’t help you on that, sir,” Millan said to Hedland.
“The thing I’m having trouble with there, though,” Hedland replied, “is during the same interview with Troopers when you said they didn’t say anything, you said he grabbed your hand and said ‘John, wow.’ The only thing he could say to you was ‘John, wow.’ ... You made no reference to Mr. Marvin in that (Trooper) statement, right?” Hedland asked.
“If that’s what it says, I won’t accuse you of lying. Apparently I didn’t,” Millan said. “But he pointed to Mr. Marvin’s house.”
“Well, that interview was done by Investigator Long, and we can ask Investigator Long,” Hedland said.
“I’m not going to dispute the results of it,” Millan said. “I’m just telling you what I believe now. It was made when I was extremely, like I told you, extremely exhausted and tired, and the district attorney specifically said, in retrospect, would that make sense? And then I realized, yes, in my opinion. Officer Wallace was trying to tell me that the shooter was — he was not saying John Millan. It was John Marvin.”
From the scene to the clinic
The next person to arrive on scene was reserve officer Arlen Skaflestad, who parked his Dodge pickup truck in the middle of the street, and ran over to the chief and two officers still lying on the ground. Wallace’s mother Deborah Greene was still there but left shortly thereafter, upon the police chief’s instructions.
“I got out of my vehicle and went over there, and I started asking questions, and the chief’s like ‘I don’t know what’s going on yet,’ and I proceeded to go over and try to get some information out of Tony and Matt,” Skaflestad said when questioned by Brower.
Skaflestad said he asked Wallace what happened and where the shots came from, but Wallace didn’t respond. He then asked Tokuoka.
“He was able to mouth words to me, but not speak,” Skaflestad said. “He told me that he didn’t know.”
Still in what was being referred to as the “kill zone” or “hot zone,” an ambulance arrived on scene, but since the area was deemed unsafe, Skaflestad told them he, Millan and volunteer firefighter Owen James would put the officers in the back of his pickup truck and meet up with the ambulance down the block.
Once there, Skaflestad says he tried to find out more information from the officers about the shooter.
“Tony had actually started mouthing some words and trying to talk to me,” Skaflestad said.
But the only thing Wallace said was that he couldn’t breathe, and that he wanted to take off his ballistic vest.
James testified he did not speak to either one of the officers about who the shooter was.
As the ambulance drove off to the clinic, Skaflestad stayed behind with the police chief to assist with scene safety.
“The scene — we didn’t know where anything had happened other than where Tony and Matt were laying. We didn’t know where it came from, or any of that, so that seemed like the most logical position to start,” Skaflestad told Brower.
He confirmed under cross examination that they were not set up there at the time to keep a visual on Marvin’s house, which was located some about two houses down from the shooting location while still in its line of sight. That would have meant that he and other emergency responders had spent time in the kill zone but no shots were fired at that time.
At some point, Skaflestad talked to Wildlife Trooper Andy Savland, who said he was going to start to cover the backside of the area to help with scene containment and to look for the shooter.
Skaflestad stayed on site for the next five hours until additional officers from out of town relieved him. He then went to be interviewed by Troopers at the command post set up in city hall.
At some point he called Fire Chief Bill Wolfe, who had arrived on scene and accompanied the officers to the clinic with other medics. Skaflestad said he called Wolfe because “we had zero information as to what happened,” Skaflestad said. “And I asked him if he got the opportunity to talk to Tony or Matt, to try to get some information as to what happened. ... I got a call back at some point in time, I don’t remember when it was, but he told me that Tony told him it was John Marvin. ... The words that were used was Bill Wolfe informed me John Marvin went ‘crazy’ or ‘berserk.’”
Under cross-examination, Hedland questioned the timing of that phone call conversation, which contained the vital information that Marvin was the suspect. Skaflestad agreed that presumably Wolfe would have relayed that information to him immediately, however, the call came as much as an hour or two after the shootings.
Still under cross, Skaflestad conceded that while first on scene with police chief Millan, Millan did not tell him that Marvin was a suspect.
“In the process, somewhere between when I first arrived and when I got the guys in the back of my truck, somewhere in that time frame, he had mentioned that Tony had — was laying on the ground and reached out his arm (inaudible) and looked at John Millan and said, ‘John, wow.’ And that was all I got,” Skaflestad said.
“OK, so did that mean anything to you at the time?” Hedland asked.
“Not at the time.”
“Chief Millan wasn’t saying, ‘Hey, we need to take cover from Mr. Marvin’s house right now?”
Skaflestad added under re-direct from Brower, that at some point he and the chief agreed a certain person was responsible for the shootings — Marvin.
He said, “Initially, we had discussed that we really didn’t have anything to go on, but we did have an idea of somebody who we could possibly look into.”
From then on, the investigation became focused on Marvin’s house.
At the clinic
Jeff Chelmo, a physician’s assistant in Hoonah, went to the local clinic to help after receiving a call on his cell phone from dispatch around 11 p.m. He testified Friday Tokuoka was the more critical of the two, and he died within 15 minutes of being there. He had been shot twice in the chest, Chelmo said.
At first, Tokuoka was able to make eye contact, wiggle his toes and follow Chelmo’s fingers with his eyes when instructed. He could also nod when asked basic questions about if he knew who and where he was. But he faded fast. Chelmo testified he only asked Tokuoka medical-related questions, and nothing about the shooter.
Wallace, on the other hand, was very verbal, Chelmo said. He had been shot in the upper right thigh and the upper back in the shoulder blade area. Chelmo said EMTs did not originally find the back wound until later.
Chelmo testified Wallace never told him how he was shot or who shot him.
Maybe 10 to 20 minutes after arriving at the clinic, Fire Chief Wolfe tried to elicit information out the wounded officers about who shot them. He was tasked to do that by reserve officer Skaflestad, who had remained back at the scene.
Wolfe says he asked Tokuoka, but Tokuoka was already unresponsive and could only mumble.
Wolfe then asked Wallace what happened — only Wolfe and Comolli were listening to what he had to say in the crowded, chaotic clinic that is two doublewide trailers pushed together.
“He said, ‘He went whacko on us. John Marvin shot us. He went whacko on us in the green house,” Wolfe said under direct examination from Brower. “... He was pointing out John’s house.”
Wolfe then testified under cross-examination that John Marvin was already a suspect in the case. Hedland also pointed out that his statement to Brower was inconsistent with prior statements he gave to Troopers the day after the shooting.
“Do you recall saying to him that you asked Officer Wallace who shot him, and he stated, “I can only tell you two things, I was talking and John Marvin went ballistic and started shooting.”
“I don’t recall that,” Wolfe said.
Hedland followed up by asking, “While you were asking Officer Wallace who — if he knew who shot him, just so we’re clear, there was already a theory by everybody that John Marvin had gone ballistic and started shooting. Right?”
When asked about “the green house,” Wolfe said Wallace was referring to Marvin’s house, which is contradictory to photographs seen by the jury. It’s a neutral gray, or brownish color, not green. Wolfe said he couldn’t remember if he told the investigating Troopers about the green house statement.
Volunteer firefighter and former police officer Paul Comolli headed straight to the fire department when he heard of the shootings, and got into the ambulance that was just was leaving. Skaflestad’s pickup met the ambulance at the safer meeting spot around the corner, and Comolli and other EMTs hopped into the back of the truck, and immediately began provided care and dressing their wounds as they drove to the clinic.
Comolli immediately focused on Wallace and never left his side until a Coast Guard helicopter medevaced Wallace two and a half hours later to Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau. Wallace died not long after arriving in the emergency room.
Comolli testified he recalled the conversation between himself, Wolfe and Wallace about who the shooter was a little differently than his fire chief, Bill Wolfe, remembered.
“I asked him,” Comolli told Brower from the witness stand. “Obviously he had been shot, and I asked him who shot him.”
“And what did he say?” Brower asked.
“He said John Marvin,” Comolli said. “... He said ‘John Marvin did.’”
Hedland then asked during cross-examination, “Not John Marvin went ‘whacko’?”
“I remember him saying, ‘John Marvin did,’ “ Comolli replied.
“John Marvin went ballistic?” Hedland continued.
“I don’t remember that,” he said.
Hedland established that by that time, Wallace would have already had the opportunity to talk, and listen, to the police chief, the reserve officer and mother as well as overheard chatter from the crowded clinic by the time he made that statement to Comolli. That testimony left open the possibility that maybe Wallace was repeating what he had heard by then without any personal knowledge about it.
Comolli also testified that before they had arrived at the clinic, while treating him the back of the truck, Wallace relayed to him that Wallace told Chief Millan ‘Wow’ earlier right after Wallace was shot.
“He related that he communicated with John (Millan) the word ‘wow’ after he had gotten shot,” Comolli said. “... He looked at Chief Millan, and said ‘Wow.’ That one word. Not ‘John, wow.’ Just ‘wow.’”
Through the night, ‘til the morning
Law enforcement officers from out of town, including Juneau Police Department officers and Alaska State Troopers, arrived in Hoonah early the next morning to assist the local responders as they kept watch over Marvin’s home for the next 36 hours, and eventually arrested him. Investigators then began executing search warrants and conducting interviews.
Some of them were called to testify in court on Saturday. For that story, please see Monday’s newspaper.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.