Family pushes to reopen investigation into February officer-involved-shooting

Published: Jun. 8, 2020 at 10:41 PM AKDT
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As Anchorage

and the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, some protestors in Anchorage have begun to rally around a more local case.

Questions surrounding the details of a

have led to a push from family members and protesters to reopen the investigation.

“On February 16, 2020, my brother was shot around 3:30 in a parking lot near Merril Field,” said Desmond David-Pitts in an interview Saturday. David-Pitts’s 16-year-old brother, Lufilufilimalelei Polu, also known as Daelyn or Dre, died in the shooting. According to a report from the Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecution, Polu, only identified as L.P. because of his age, reportedly pulled a gun from his jacket and fired it at officers during an early-morning traffic stop.

“The officers can be heard on the audio telling L.P. ‘don’t reach for it,’” the report reads.

The report goes on to detail that APD officer Jason Cusack fired at Polu three times from the rear window of the vehicle - Polu was a passenger - after Polu allegedly fired twice at another officer.

But that’s where David-Pitts says the information he saw about the bullets’ trajectory conflicts with the report.

“He is, presumably in the report, shot three times from the back, but only one connects with the back of his head, but yet two are shot right here,” he said, pointing to his forehead. “And the blood splatters up, so how?”

The report goes on to conclude that Cusack was justified in his use of deadly force.

“When Officer Cusack fired at L.P., he was acting in defense of himself and Officer Vanderbunt, who had just been shot and who was continuing to try to disarm L.P.”

However the report only addresses the legality of Cusack’s actions.

“I did not review this matter to determine if the officers’ conduct was appropriate under any use-of-force policy, nor do I express an opinion as to the appropriateness of any applicable policy,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Jenna Gruenstein in the report.

David-Pitts, unsatisfied by that conclusion, organized a protest Friday against police violence, but also demanding that the investigation be reopened.

“Justice for Dre,” joined cries of “black lives matter, no justice, no peace,” and “I can’t breathe” that weekend as David-Pitts participated in several other rallies in Anchorage and Palmer.

“I want conversation, I want communication, I want reciprocation.” he said. “I demand all of this, and I think they can do that, they’re just choosing not to.”

But David-Pitts may be getting some conversation soon. In an email to KTUU Monday, the Office of Special Prosecutions confirmed they will reach out and meet with the family before deciding whether or not to reopen the investigation.

A spokesperson for the Anchorage Police Department said in an email Tuesday that "APD turned the investigation over to the Office of Special Prosecution at the State of Alaska Department of Law. Any inquiries about the outcome of the investigation should be directed to OSP."

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