Trooper who shot man had history of conflicts

Posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2003

ANCHORAGE - Several incidents have turned up in Arthur Jesse Osborn's past in a review conducted after the Alaska State Trooper shot and killed an uncooperative disabled man on a highway turnout in January.

During his short time on the force, Osborn, 26, has tussled with a lost Japanese tourist. He frightened a neighborhood grocery store owner whose business had been burglarized. He pepper-sprayed a teenager in the back of a Bronco and wrestled a paraplegic into a headlock, according to reports.

Several people whose encounters with Osborn went awry said the trooper escalated confrontations.

"In Japan, such an unruly way never happens," said Kyouji Hiramatsu, 31, who said he was roughed up by Osborn in confusion over his passport.

Osborn, a former wrestler from Seward, started in law enforcement as a corrections officer at the Spring Creek Correctional Center, home to Alaska's most dangerous felons. In March 2001, he joined the troopers. He is among a large group of young officers stepping in to replace veterans hired in the 1980s boom years and now retiring in waves.

On Jan. 4, Osborn was working the graveyard shift out of the Soldotna trooper post. He and trooper Joseph Whittom were called to check out a suspicious sedan in a pullout off the Sterling Highway.

Inside was Casey Porter, 30. Porter was disabled from a car crash in August and used a cane to work the clutch.

Osborn ordered Porter to show his hands and step out. When he didn't comply, Osborn blasted him with pepper spray, a nonlethal but painful weapon used by troopers to tame suspects.

Porter didn't surrender. Instead, his car moved forward, toward Whittom. Though Whittom's patrol car was between him and Porter's moving sedan, Osborn feared for the other officer's safety and fired his pistol five times at Porter, according to troopers. Three rounds hit Porter in the back and one in the shoulder. Porter died at the scene.

After three days of administrative leave and a fit-for-duty psychological assessment, both troopers were back on patrol. Osborn has since been transferred to the Palmer post.

Troopers said they could not discuss Osborn's record because of privacy concerns and the ongoing investigation into whether the shooting was justified.

Some people now accusing Osborn of rough treatment have criminal records. But that doesn't give police free rein, said Joe Ray Skrha, who represents criminal defendants in Kenai.

"It's become a regular occurrence for clients to report excessive force on a regular basis by officer Osborn," Skrha said.

Officers aren't supposed to resort to force if people cooperate, said Maj. Doug Norris, deputy director of troopers. But an officer who does use force repeatedly may simply be the first to respond to gun calls, drunken fights or domestic disputes, Norris said.

If citizens have concerns about any trooper, they should bring them to troopers' attention, Norris said.

"I don't want to have a trooper that is abusing people or demeaning people or that makes people feel bad the way they talk to them," Norris said. "We don't tolerate that."

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