AD Header Dropdowns

AD Main Menu

Toxicology report: Man killed by Anchorage cop had taken synthetic drugs

Suzanna Caldwell
Suzanna Caldwell photo

A Mountain View man fatally shot by police last month was found to have alcohol, metabolites of marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids -- also known as Spice or K2 -- in his system, according to a toxicology report released by Anchorage Police on Tuesday.

Shane Tasi, 26, was shot by Officer Boaz Gionson June 9 after he approached the officer brandishing a 39-inch long broom handle. Tasi ignored multiple requests from Gionson to drop the weapon.

The state office of special prosecution later found that Gionson was justified in shooting Tasi.

Tasi's blood alcohol was 0.185, more than twice the legal driving limit. Police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker said few studies have been done showing how synthetic cannabinoids interact with other substances, like alcohol or other drugs. In some cases, he said, it has been found to trigger psychosis.

“This is kind of a morphing drug,” Parker said. “It's very dangerous.”

Only six seconds elapsed between the time Tasi left his apartment and when he was shot by Gionson, making it difficult for the officer to identify whether Tasi was affected by drugs or not, Parker said.

“They train us to deal with people who are on drugs, but it's hard to determine in that short of time,” Parker said.

According to 911 calls prior to the shooting, a man suspected to be Tasi was reported hitting cars and attacking a dog. A 911 call led police to Tasi's apartment on North Bunn Street, where witnesses said they heard screaming and a window breaking. Photos released by police showed Tasi's apartment in disarray, with a couch flipped over and a refrigerator knocked down, its handle torn off.

The sale of synthetic cannabinoids was banned by the state last year. While it's illegal to sell or possess, drug manufacturers have succeeded in altering the formula to avoid prosecution.

The drug is known to cause heart palpitations, vomiting and hallucinations.

In June, an Anchorage man was charged with raping a woman in broad daylight in Town Square Park, a busy area in downtown Anchorage. The woman was found to be unconscious and the man admitted to smoking spice with her prior to the incident.

Tasi's death left some residents wondering why a Taser, an electroshock weapon, wasn't deployed by police. Gionson, like many Anchorage Police Department officers, was not issued the less-than-lethal weapon. The department has said they will now attempt to equip every police officer with a Taser.

Members of the Polynesian community held a rally recently protesting the use of lethal force. A town hall-style meeting, sponsored by the Polynesian Association of Alaska and the Polynesian Community Center in conjunction with the mayor's office, is planned for Thursday at Anchorage Assembly chambers. Representatives from the FBI, Troopers and the federal Department of Justice will attend, as will police Chief Mark Mew and Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan.

Contact Suzanna Caldwell at suzanna(at)alaskadispatch.com