Man killed by police in Alaska had been in jail days earlier

Published: Apr. 3, 2019 at 6:55 PM AKDT
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When Bishar Hassan's life ended on an Anchorage street near a bus stop flanked by baseball fields, an office and an apartment building, and a vehicle overpass, it was the final event in a what witnesses and police have described as an afternoon of bizarre, frightening behavior.

9-1-1 callers told police the 31-year-old was acting erratically and waving a gun around in a Wal-Mart parking lot, police said. By the time they caught up with him, he'd boarded a bus and ridden several blocks north, toward downtown. He exited at 16th Avenue and A Street, greeted by police as he walked.

According to police, Hassan ignored commands, pulled a gun from his waistband and pointed it toward them. Three officers fired. He died of his wounds.

Five days earlier, on March 26, he'd bonded out of jail in Anchorage, held there for six days after being picked up for failing to show up at a court hearing. Before a misdemeanor charge in 2018, only traffic violations appear on Hassan's record. In Feb. 2018, while working at a seafood processor in Unalaska, Hassan was charged with harassment and offensive physical contact after a woman reported what police investigated as a possible sexual assault.

Hassan had kissed the victim and forced her hand over her genitals, according to an account of the incident in court records obtained from Unalaska. The court record also showed Hassan was aided in the criminal proceedings by a Somali translator.

He was scheduled to enter a plea in the case late last month.

People who know Hassan did not want to speak on camera, but told KTUU Hassan was well-known within the Somali community and that he sometimes had a difficult time communicating, due to some cognitive and mental health issues, along with the language barrier.

On Wednesday, Anchorage Police told KTUU its officers are skilled at working through communication challenges, but that this situation was too dangerous, too time sensitive, to employ those skills.

"As for this particular case, applying those tools and/or skills was not an option for our officers due to the public safety threat and the officer safety threat the suspect created. It happened in a matter of seconds," said MJ Thim, the department's communications director.

The shooting is under investigation.