Assaults against police spike in Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Statistics gathered by Alaska State Troopers show the state has seen an increase in assaults against law enforcement.

Officers are dealing with more aggressive behavior from suspects, the head of the state patrol told KTUU-TV.

“We take every step possible to apprehend a suspect, but really when an individual becomes assaultive, that risks the police officer’s life, or someone else’s,” said Col. Keith Mallard.

His comments came after Friday’s deadly trooper-involved shooting on the Glenn Highway near Thunderbird Falls. Justin Lloyd Abrahamson, 29, was shot and killed after “assaultive” behavior with a bat, Mallard said. Officers had tried different attempts to subdue Abrahamson, including the use of a Taser.

It was the sixth trooper-involved shooting in 2012.

FBI statistics show an upward trend in the number of assaults against officers across Alaska, while nationally, the numbers have decreased.

In 2010, the most recent statistics available, 386 officers were assaulted in Alaska. That’s an increase over 315 officer assaults in 2009 and 287 in 2008.

The Anchorage Police Department has had three officer-involved shootings this year.

In June, an officer shot and killed Shane Tasi after the 26-year-old approached the officer while swinging a broken broom handle. A few weeks later, Harry Smith, 59, was shot and killed by two officers who believed the BB gun he was pointing at police was a firearm.

Anchorage police spokesman Dave Parker said after the incidents that officers have priorities during dangerous situations.

“Our first priority is the preservation of innocent life,” the lieutenant said. “Second priority would be the preservation of officers’ lives, and the third priority would be the preservation even of the subject’s lives that we’re dealing with, who are acting out and creating the problem.”

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