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Marshall Islands seeks details on shooting death of Marshallese

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MAJURO — The Marshall Islands government wants details about a police officer-involved shooting death of a Marshall Islander in Spokane, Washington on January 11.

Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Casten Nemra, center, takes the oath of office at parliament on Jan. 20. He has initiated diplomatic inquiries into the police officer-involved shooting death of a Marshall Islands man earlier this month in the U.S. state of Washington. He is pictured here with Finance Minister Alfred Alfred Jr., left, and Minister in Assistance to the President Christopher Loeak.  Photo by Hilary Hosia

Foreign Minister Casten Nemra said Friday his ministry has lodged a request through diplomatic channels for information. He called the shooting death of Marshall Islander Clando Anitok, 25, “unfortunate.”

Anitok, who was killed by a police officer in Spokane earlier this month, is the second Marshallese to be shot and killed by police in the state of Washington since 2017. Two-and-a-half-years ago, Isaiah Obet was killed by a police officer in the city of Auburn, Washington.

“We are actively engaged and have made formal contact with relevant U.S. authorities for more information concerning this incident,” said Nemra. “The investigation is ongoing and we anticipate to receive a report soon for more clarity.”

Anitok reportedly fled in a vehicle from what was reported as a routine traffic stop, crashed his vehicle into a fence within two blocks, and during a pursuit on foot, was shot in the face by a Spokane policeman. Anitok was unarmed, according to police.

“It is very unfortunate,” said Nemra of the shooting death. “I wish to offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Clando Anitok.”

The situations involving these two police officer-involved shooting deaths were significantly different. Obet, according to media reports in June 2017, was armed with a knife and went into two homes demanding money. A few minutes after a house resident he sought money from called “911,” Obet was shot and killed by a police officer while attempting to steal a vehicle from a female driver at knifepoint. Anitok’s situation started as an unspecified traffic violation and quickly escalated when he did not stop his vehicle.

Media reports from Spokane report the policeman saying he attempted to user a Tazer on Anitok but the Tazer malfunctioned. He then used his gun, shooting Anitok in the face. The reports indicated only one police officer involved in the incident. Police confirmed that Anitok was unarmed.

“How a traffic stop could end up with a policeman shooting an unarmed man in the face is a shocking statement about police work in America,” said an editorial in Friday’s Marshall Islands Journal, the weekly newspaper of record published in Majuro.

“Given the increasing population of Marshall Islanders in Washington state, this tragic incident should serve as motivation for the Marshallese community and government leaders to meet with police and other state authorities to establish a greater level of communication and interaction,” said the newspaper. “It could also be an opportunity to engage with the Marshallese community about appropriate responses to police interventions, given that in the current law enforcement environment in the United States, police seem prone to shooting people.”

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