The Alaska Department of Public Safety is conducting an internal investigation into a video that depicts a 20-year-old Kodiak woman thrown to the ground during an arrest by Alaska State Troopers.
The YouTube video titled “Young woman being arrested for nothing” went live on Monday afternoon, and as of Wednesday afternoon had more than 21,700 views and 470 comments.
Troopers were called to the home in Rasmusson’s Trailer Park Monday afternoon after a 911 caller reported a medical emergency involving someone who had swallowed pills. After it was determined that nobody needed medical help, Kodiak trooper Brian Mitchell asked about marijuana in plain view on a table in the living room.
The 11-minute video, filmed by someone in the home, shows part of a discussion between Skyler Waite and Mitchell, which ended in Waite’s arrest for disorderly conduct. A second trooper was also shown in part of the video but was not present during the entire conversation.
The AST state office learned of the video after someone posted it on the agency’s Facebook page. This isn’t the first time the state has received complaints against a trooper, but complaints typically come from emails and phone calls, not videos.
“As the rest of the world was discovering this video, we did too,” said Col. Keith Mallard, director of the Alaska State Troopers. “As soon as we saw it, we said we don’t know what happened there. Obviously there was stuff that happened prior to the video. The reality is that video only gives you one perspective.”
No laws forbid people from filming law enforcement officers in Alaska. As long as people are not getting too close to an officer or interfering with an arrest, they can’t get into trouble for filming an incident.
Darlene Turner, a retired trooper now running a bed and breakfast in Kodiak, spent 23 years in law enforcement, and said while video can be useful in investigations, it should be viewed in broad terms.
“Videotaping by police of situations or from people in crowd can be very effective,” Turner said. “You have to take the totality of what happened, you can’t take one specific frame.”
Mallard said the incident will be fully investigated, since the department looks into all complaints against troopers. Investigators from the Alaska Office of Professional Standards will contact witnesses, troopers and anyone else with information about the incident, and will write a report on their findings. The investigation is expected to take about one month.
“At this point we’re just trying to gather all the facts, objectively look at the situation and determine if there were any violations of policy and procedure,” Mallard said. “If there was, we’ll take the appropriate level of action.”
Waite declined to comment on the specifics of the case but said she has received an outpouring of support from people in Kodiak and beyond Alaska who have watched the video. More than 50 people have reached out to her, including some she didn’t know before the incident.
“A lot of people have expressed concern on Facebook, posting to my wall,” Waite said. “Basically everyone is saying they support me, that they stand by my decision I had made and that they hope justice is served. It was a shock to see that there were so many people behind me.”
Mitchell was not allowed to comment on the incident, but he filed an affidavit, which is a public document.
According to the affidavit, he entered the home to look for someone in need of emergency services, explained why he was there, and had to push past Waite in order to continue the search of the home.
“I had to push my way past her, which I interpreted as her attempt to instigate a confrontation,” Mitchell wrote.
Mitchell then asked about the marijuana because another person in the home was on felony probation, and possessing marijuana would be a violation of probation terms.
“While in mid-conversation with Waite, she pressed her hand against my upper left arm as if to usher me to the door,” Mitchell wrote. “Again I interpreted this as her attempt to instigate a confrontation. I warned Waite not to touch me and we continued to talk.”
As Mitchell prepared to leave, he stepped toward the door and said Waite attempted to move behind him, which made him concerned for his safety.
“Out of the corner of my eye I saw her reaching her left arm around me which I considered a prelude to a physical assault,” he wrote. “I immediately shoved her away to create distance between us.”
In the video, Waite claims she was going to shut the door.
The video shows the conversation and physical contact between the two, and also shows Waite being forced into a trooper vehicle as she continuously asks what she is being arrested for.
Waite was arraigned in Kodiak district court on Tuesday and is facing four misdemeanor charges of fourth-degree fear of injury assault, fourth-degree recklessly injure assault, resisting arrest by force and disorderly conduct. She paid $100 bail and was released Tuesday after her court appearance.
Waite was injured during the arrest but would not say what her injuries were. She said she wants to settle her case before thinking about taking further action.
“This isn’t just about me,” she said. “It’s about something that’s been going on for a while. It’s about shedding light on the subject and preventing it from happening again, and showing people what they can do to make changes. Most of all, I want everyone to be informed of what actually happened so they’re aware of their rights as a person, and to know that things like this should not happen.”
Contact Mirror writer Nicole Klauss at email@example.com.