Allegations of Police Brutality in Bethel

by Daysha Eaton on August 8, 2014

Bethel PoliceA woman from Arizona who works as a professor doing seasonal research in the Y-K Delta says she witnessed an arrest of a citizen by a Bethel Police Officer and alleges police brutality. City leaders tell KYUK they’re investigating.

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Around quarter after nine in the morning on Saturday, July 12th Linda Green says she saw a police car pull up next to a man walking past AC Store in downtown Bethel. Green says the officer and the man spoke briefly, then the officer jumped out of the car, grabbed the man’s arm and flipped him face down onto the pavement and tried to handcuff him.

AC Story, Bethel, Alaska.

AC Store, Bethel, Alaska.

“So he picks the man up horizontally from his backpack and his waistband about three feet in the air and slams him down, puts his knee back on his back, again tries to twist those arms around, unable to do so – three more times he picks that man up and slams him down into the ground,” said Green.

She says the large police officer then sprayed something into the smaller man’s face. Then, Green says, another man in plain clothes and an unmarked car pulled up and helped the officer. Green says the event was shocking.

“I was horrified. And I was standing there yelling, stop! Stop! Because it was just so horrific to see this type of action taking place,” said Green.

She took her complaint Police Chief, Andre Achee, to Interim City Manager, Greg Moyer and to Mayor, Joe Klejka. She filed a statement with the police department, told her story to KYUK and published a letter to the editor in the Delta Discovery newspaper. Once Green’s story got out around town, KYUK listeners wrote in to complain.

This email was read on KYUK’s weekly Talk Line program.“Anonymous emails coming in, the first one says I read an article in the Delta Discovery this past week and I was disgusted by what I heard. You’re supposed to be protecting and serving instead of mishandling and manhandling our some of our citizens in Bethel.”

Linda Green, University of Arizona Associate Professor.

Linda Green, University of Arizona Associate Professor.

Court documents and a police report about an incident that occurred at the same location on the same date and at the same approximate time tell a different story than Green’s.

A report says that there was no call for police help, but that an officer by the name of Andrew Reid, observed Wassillie Gregory, an “Indian” male, at 9:18am as quote, “clearly intoxicated”. The report says that Gregory made verbal threats to Reid and challenged him to a fight and that Reid was afraid that he might be grabbing for a weapon. However, there was no mention of Gregory having a weapon in the report or in a court affidavit. The report notes that an off duty Trooper and a probation officer stopped to help Reid and that Reid arrested Gregory. The report says Reid transported Gregory to the hospital where he was medically cleared and says that he did not have any injury other than a cut on his face.

(Court)“The State of Alaska vs. Wassillie Gregory.”

But notes from Gregory’s court hearing on July 13th, quote a prosecutor and a trooper saying Gregory could not appear because of injuries.

Behthel Police Department (2011)

Behthel Police Department (2011)

“(Judge:) The State of Alaska vs. Wassillie Gregory. (Prosecuting Attorney, T.A.:) Judge, I think Mr. Gregory is at YKHC. I think he suffered a broken … (Judge:) collarbone. (Aliberti:) Collarbone, thank you. I believe that maybe the trooper can confirm that. (Judge:) Was that Wassilie Gregory? Trooper: Yes, your honor. Last I heard he was being sedated, ah he wouldn’t be available. (Judge:) So he’s at the YKHC with a broken clavical? (Trooper:) Dislocated shoulder, possibly a broken bone, I’m not sure.”

In the affidavit, Officer Reid says he quote, “kindly tried to assist Gregory into my cruiser for protective custody when he pulled away … ” end quote. 48-year-old Gregory finally appeared in court on July 14th. Gregory was originally charged with disorderly conduct, harassment and resisting arrest. The charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest were dropped but he pleaded guilty as part of plea deal to Harassment 2, Offensive Physical Contact.

Green filed her statement with the Bethel Police Department on the same day she witnessed the incident, two days before Gregory took the plea deal. Green points out in her letter that being intoxicated in public is not a crime in Alaska. Alaska law allows law enforcement officers to provide assistance to people who are intoxicated in public and appear a danger to themselves and others. KYUK was unable to reach Gregory. Officer Reid was contacted for this story but did not return phone calls or emails. Other officers involved declined to comment. Green says she came to KYUK because nobody from the city would get back to her.

(Green) “At the very least, I thought, at the very least that the people in authority would want to talk to me. And that seems to add to a narrative about abuse of power in Bethel,” said Green.

Bethel city officials eventually told Green that they were conducting an investigation. KYUK contacted Bethel city officials for this story. They say they will not comment about an ongoing investigation.

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