Jury: Alaska police not responsible for Duluth boy’s injuryA federal jury decided that Homer, Alaska, police were not responsible for the gunshot that left a Duluth woman’s young son brain damaged.
By: News Tribune staff, Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A federal jury decided Thursday that Homer, Alaska, police were not responsible for the gunshot that left a Duluth woman’s young son brain damaged.
The boy, Jason Anderson Jr., was shot in 2006 at the Homer airport when marshals and Homer police officers tried to arrest his father, Jason Karlo Anderson, 31, a violent drug dealer who was hiding in Alaska. There is disagreement on whether the shot was fired by police or the boy’s father. Police say Anderson, a fugitive from Duluth, shot the boy and shot at police, then killed himself.
The boy’s mother, Cherry Dietzmann of Duluth, sued the city of Homer and its police department for more than $23 million, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Dietzmann settled out of court with the U.S. Marshals Service for almost $3.5 million in 2011. But the jury in the case against the city issued a verdict of not guilty on all counts, city manager Walt Wrede said in a statement.
Dietzmann’s lawyers said the city should pay more than $23 million to help the boy, now 9, and his mother with medical bills and future care and to compensate for his suffering. The boy is confined in a bed and lives with a feeding tube and ventilator.
The boy’s father served time in federal prison for kidnapping two men as a teenager and had been living in Alaska under an alias, Brandon Dietzmann. He was wanted on federal drug trafficking charges, and marshals initially sought to grab him while he was getting a rental car at the Homer Airport and separated from his children.
But the airport was crowded, so marshals conferred with Homer police on a backup plan: blocking his Jeep and taking him at gunpoint.
Dietzmann’s attorney, Timothy Ford, said law enforcement should have done more to find out who was in the vehicle.
A lawyer representing the city of Homer, Frank Koziol, said a marshal saw a child’s car seat in the Jeep but couldn’t see either the boy or his sister, who wasn’t injured, through the darkened glass.
Lawyers for both the defense and prosecution say the elder Anderson saw officers approach, pulled a handgun and the shooting started.
Koziol said Anderson’s first target was his children, and he shot his own son in the face.
The city’s lawyer said forensic experts say the boy was shot at close range by Anderson. But Ford said doctors who treated the boy said the bullet appeared to enter his head from the back and left through his cheek, indicating that an officer shot the boy from behind.
Anderson’s brother, Luke Daniel Anderson of Duluth, died in similar circumstances a year ago. Confronted by Superior police after a reported carjacking and then a short car chase, Luke Anderson shot himself Feb. 17, 2012, behind the Downtown Mobile Home Park in Superior.