Sitka teen tased repeatedly by police readies for lawsuit

The Alaska Native teenager at the center of a tasing incident in Sitka last year has hired legal counsel. Though he’s not yet filed a lawsuit, the lawyer representing Franklin Hoogendorn intends to bring his case before a Sitka jury.

Myron Angstman has run a private practice out of Bethel since 1977. He’s no stranger to cases involving police conduct on the job and has represented both parties. In 2007, he defended a Bethel police officer in a case concerning a taser gun and won.

Angstman then notified Sitka of Hoogendorn’s intent to sue. Municipal attorney Robin Koutchak says the city’s insurance company has retained its own legal counsel to organize a defense, Cynthia Ducey of Anchorage.

The FBI is leading its own investigation into Hoogendorn’s arrest. Angstman says that whatever the bureau uncovers will be brought into a court room. For Angstman, the video — with the police procedures as a measuring stick — is what this case is all about.

“It doesn’t really matter what I think the tape says or what you think the tape says or what the police chief thinks the tape says or what the city manager thinks the tape says because the jury has the final decision as to what that tape says,” Angstman said.

Sitka Police Chief Sheldon Schmitt reviewed the footage shortly after, and determined that the arrest – while uncomfortable to watch – fell within policy guidelines. Furthermore, Schmitt says the video only shows a small slice of the police encounter with Hoogendorn, which began when officers confronted him outside of a Sitka bar. In a previous interview, Schmitt says we’re not seeing the whole story.

“He’s not giving them his hands. He’s pushing off. At one point, he tries to kick the officers,” Schmitt said. “And having just fought with him, they’re still concerned that he’s going to fight more. Hence the use of the taser. They’re trying to get him to comply.”

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