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St. Petersburg woman witnesses police officer son's slaying in Alaska

Debbie Greene hadn't seen her only son, a police officer in Alaska, since last summer. So when she arrived in his tiny town of Hoonah to visit him last week, she got to ride along in his patrol car.

On Saturday night, the St. Petersburg mother watched as a gunman shot her son, Cpl.Anthony Wallace, 32, and off-duty Officer Matthew Tokuoka, 39, in an ambush. The shooting also occurred in front of Tokuoka's wife and two of his children, who were in his car that night, Alaska authorities said.

Greene awoke her mother, Mary Kay Cole, in St. Petersburg with a frantic phone call from Hoonah, a shoreline community of about 850 people.

Tokuoka was dead. Wallace was being airlifted in a Coast Guard rescue helicopter to the nearest hospital in Juneau.

"She was just destroyed," Cole, 74, told the St. Petersburg Times on Tuesday, recounting the 4:30 a.m. call from Sunday.

For years, Greene had watched her son excel despite the fact that he was hearing impaired. Now, she was left clutching her son's hand as he was on a gurney.

Later that morning, Cole received another call from her daughter.

"Momma, he didn't make it," Greene said. "He's dead."

• • •

After a standoff a with police, John Marvin Jr., 45, of Hoonah, was arrested Monday and charged with two counts of murder in the shooting of the officers, according to the Alaskan State Troopers. He was arraigned Tuesday.

Hoonah Police Chief John Millan said the city promoted Wallace to corporal early Saturday, but planned to officially raise his rank Sunday when his mom could be there. Instead, Wallace was posthumously elevated to sergeant.

Greene, 52, remained in Hoonah on Tuesday, waiting for authorities to complete an autopsy on the body of her son. She plans to bring his cremated ashes home to St. Petersburg, Cole said.

"They say God has a plan for everything, but I just have to question sometimes," Cole said. "This has just destroyed two families."

Wallace was born in Germany, but grew up in Ohio.

Greene raised him briefly, but a series of divorces separated mother and son. He kept in touch with her, though. In recent years, he called her at least twice a day, Cole said.

It was Greene's first trip to Alaska to see her son. The summer before, he came to St. Petersburg and gave her a wolf's skin, now hung like a trophy over a Native American blanket in her office.

In Alaska last week, the first thing they did was spend time outdoors together. They saw a bear in the woods. Wallace told his mother that he planned to take one down with a bow and arrow, Cole said.

"He was confident in what he did," Millan said.

A star high school wrestler in Ohio, Wallace was an All-American three times at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he also was part of the RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The school put him in its athletics hall of fame.

After graduating in 2003, Wallace joined the school's police force, following the career choice of his father, uncle and grandfather. He decided to give the Alaska town a shot in 2006, but left after six months to rejoin RIT's security force.

But he made Hoonah his permanent job in 2008, falling for the hunting, fishing and Alaskan life. Wallace was tops in his police academy class of 22, then became one of three full-time officers in the town.

"It has been a dream come true," he told RIT's news service in 2009. "I have so much to do and so many opportunities waiting for me."

Though he was hearing impaired, Wallace didn't wear hearing aids while working as an officer because he feared it would be seen as a sign of weakness, Millan said. He had good enough hearing from the front and sides on most frequencies — even picking up some sounds others missed.

His family was proud of him.

"We were happy that he went there (Alaska). It's a tiny island," Cole said. "There's only 850 people — you wouldn't think anything would happen."

• • •

About a year ago, Wallace and Tokuoka arrested Marvin near his house after a female neighbor accused him of illegally entering her home.

When the officers sought him at his house, he crept outside to an alley and charged at them. They shot him with a Taser three times. Wallace had to use an old wrestling move — something called a thigh lock — to finally get Marvin cuffed, records said.

Marvin was charged with attacking the officers, resisting arrest and trespass, but the case was dismissed in December. Court records don't disclose why, and prosecutors declined to explain this week, according to the Associated Press.

The officers received city commendations after the arrest, Millan said.

Where the officers were shot Saturday is near the same place that arrest occurred.

"There was a history between the men … It was well known that he didn't like Officer Wallace and Officer Tokuoka," Millan said.

Hoonah police said Marvin came up on the officers from behind Saturday. As the first shots were fired, Tokuako screamed at Greene to get down.

Greene grabbed the radio in her son's squad car, she told the Anchorage Daily News.

"Officers down," she called out.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

St. Petersburg woman witnesses police officer son's slaying in Alaska 08/31/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 11:11pm]
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