Officer’s widow, Hoonah shooting witness takes the stand

The widow of a fallen police officer took the stand Friday in her wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Hoonah.

Haley Tokuoka-Yearout recounted the events leading up to the shooting deaths of Hoonah officers Matthew Tokuoka and Tony Wallace in August 2010. Her testimony seemed to portray her husband’s colleague as either ambivalent or even oblivious about provoking someone who was mentally ill.

But first she testified about the tight relationship between the two men.

“Tony and Matt were really close,” Tokuoka-Yearout said. “If they weren’t working together, they were hunting together, or they were fishing together, or he was at our house having dinner. Tony was a great guy. Amazing. We love him. There’s so much good stuff to say about Tony.”

In answer to a question posed by her attorney Mark Choate, Tokuoka-Yearout said Wallace liked to play jokes.

“He did. He’s just a funny guy,” Tokuoka-Yearout said.

It was the second time Tokuoka-Yearout has described the incident on Hoonah’s Front Street in a courtroom. She also testified at length during John Marvin Jr.’s criminal trial in 2012 when he was convicted of two counts of murder. Although still heart wrenching, the emotional tenor of her testimony Friday was somewhat moderated compared to the criminal trial. Perhaps it was the passage of time, or perhaps it was because the questions posed this time were slightly different.

The questions over two years ago focused on whether Marvin shot the officers. The questions now center on what Wallace was doing and his training.

Choate set up chairs in the well of the courtroom to represent the seats of the Tokuoka vehicle before the shooting. Wallace had just pulled up in a police vehicle, activating the loudspeaker, lights and siren. Haley Tokuoka-Yearout described a subsequent conversation between her husband and Wallace when both men were out of their vehicles. She had just observed Marvin banging something on the floor of his house across the street.

“Matthew says ‘Tony, don’t draw attention,'” Tokuoka-Yearout remembered. “I said ‘I think John Marvin’s going crazy’ to him. And (Tony) says ‘Oh, we’ve been getting reports that he’s been going crazy all day.’ And then he takes his light out and he shines it into that same spot where the light was on (in Marvin’s house).”

Tokuoka was off-duty when he tried to help Wallace after he was shot. Tokuoka himself was shot moments later and died within a few hours at the Hoonah clinic. Wallace died after being medevac’d out of town.

Haley Tokuoka-Yearout, who has since remarried, also talked about how her then 5-year-old son regressed in development and behavior following the shooting. Wallace was playing with him and his little sister through the open vehicle window when he was shot.

Also during the civil trial Friday, the 13 person jury heard from a forensic economist who totaled up Matthew Tokuoka’s potential income if he retired as a police supervisor at the age of 67. Stan Smith of Chicago estimated Tokuoka could have earned just over $3 million.

“It would be the average of all the wages. Some may work some overtime. Some may work little,” Smith said. “It’s the average earnings of a full-time police officer.”

Smith came up with a figure of $2.4 million if Tokuoka did not become a supervisor.

Tokuoka also had value helping with the household management, chores and maintenance, and providing guidance and emotional support to Haley. For household activities, Smith estimated an additional $707,775.

Another witness, Haley Tokuoka-Yearout’s former doctor, described her depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in the months after her husband’s murder. Dr. Elliot Bruhl of Mount Edgecumbe Hospital conceded that holding regular appointments at the Hoonah clinic may have been an event trigger for her PTSD since that’s where she watched her husband die. He said that Haley’s subsequent move to Juneau with her two children was probably a good idea.

Haley Tokuoka-Yearout will wrap up her testimony Monday morning.

Tony Wallace’s mother, Debbie Greene, will then take the stand for the defendants, the City of Hoonah. Greene was sitting in the passenger seat of Wallace’s police vehicle during the shooting.

 

Editor’s note: Corrected to reflect Haley Tokuoka-Yearout’s full name since her remarriage.

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