The scenic Village of Hoonah, Alaska is a small Tlingit community of 800 — the Tlingit are an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast — that lost two of its three full-time police officers to gunfire late Saturday night. In yet another law enforcement ambush, the officers killed in the attack were Sgt. Tony Wallace and Officer Matt Tokuoka, ambushed by a 45-year-old Hoonah resident identified as John Marvin Jr.
Marvin was known to the police from prior contacts, but his motive for the brutal attack is not clear. Hoonah Mayor Windy Skaflestad told KRBD radio that about one year ago Marvin tried to wrestle Sgt. Wallace’s weapon away from the officer. The mayor speculated, “He picked on the wrong person when he went after to wrestle Tony, because Tony is a wrestler, a state wrestler champ. But they had quite a bit of bump-ins with him for about a month or two about a year ago. So I think that’s what set all this off.”
Matt Tokuoka was off duty at the time of the attack. Matt was with his wife Haley, their six-year-old son, and their two-year-old daughter. The family had just left Matt’s father-in-law’s home, where they had spent the evening with his wife’s family. Matt had stopped his car to talk with Wallace, who was on duty. Wallace and Tokuoka were engaged in a conversation, when John Marvin approached and opened fire on Wallace without warning. As Wallace went down, Tukuoka exited his car in an attempt to assist and told his wife to “get away!” Marvin then shot Tokuoka in front of his wife and children.
To add to the outrageousness of this act, Wallace’s mother, who was up from Florida visiting her son, also witnessed the shooting. Sgt. Wallace died while in surgery in Juneau, which is 40 miles to the west of Hoonah. Officer Tokuoka was pronounced dead early Sunday in the clinic in Hoonah.
Two Extraordinary Young Men
Sgt. Wallace was originally from Ohio. He attended the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, where he attended the National Technical Institute of the Deaf. He wrestled for the university and in 2008 he was inducted in the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Wallace did not believe his hearing deficit should prevent him from a career in law enforcement. In a 2009 interview published on the university website, Officer Wallace had this to say about living his dream as a police officer in Hoonah, “I have had tremendous support from my fellow police officers and have gained their confidence by proving every day that a person with my hearing deficiency poses no problems on the job. I have always believed that I could do the job of a police officer and here I am.”
Prior to coming to the Hoonah Police Department Officer Tokuoka was Staff Sergeant Matt Tukuoka of the United States Marine Corps, serving in special operations.
As of Sunday evening, Marvin was still barricaded in his home. The Alaskan State Police were on the scene and evacuating homes near Marvin’s. The Juneau Police Department SWAT Team was transported to the scene by the U. S, Coast Guard. Bob Prunella, who is acting village administrator, said of the stand-off, “This could go on for a while. They really want to get him alive.”
This seems to be the year of the police ambush. Try to maintain a 360 degree awareness at all times, and be careful out there.