Police conducting ‘criminal investigation’ in Marshallese death

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MAJURO — Police in the U.S. state of Washington have informed the Marshall Islands community in the area that they are conducting a criminal investigation into the shooting death by a police officer of a 25-year-old Marshallese man last month.

The police investigation in Spokane, Washington follows the shooting death of Clando Anitok January 10 during a traffic stop. He was unarmed when a Spokane policeman shot him in the face.

The police have informed the Marshallese community that they are conducting a “criminal investigation,” that is now “nearly complete,” said David Anitok, a Compact of Free Association Alliance National Network outreach coordinator who is helping to arrange meetings between the Marshallese community and Washington authorities.

Several thousand Marshall Islanders live in several large cities in Washington state, including Spokane. They are among more than 30,000 islanders now living through the United States.

Marshallese community leaders met earlier this month with officers from the Spokane Police Department about the shooting death of Marshallese Clando Anitok last month.

Marshallese leaders in Spokane also learned through a series of community meetings this past week that a new initiative of Washington state that requires two community members to be involved in any police investigation. They have yet to be selected, said Anitok, although the investigation is well along.

Anitok said Friday police authorities have informed him that: “We are investigating this as a criminal case. Once the investigation is completed, it will be turned in to the prosecutor to determine the next action.” This is expected to take from two-to-four months.

The Marshallese community in the Spokane area held meetings during the past week with representatives of the Spokane Police Department, staff with U.S. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris and Washington State Rep. Marcus Ricelli, and officials with the Center for Justice — a private firm helping the family of Clando Anitok and the community.

“The goal of these meetings was to provide safe space to learn about the incident that occurred, educate community members to ‘Know Your Rights,’ and a further process that will help the community grow together as one,” said Anitok.

The first meeting was held after school at Rodgers High School, organized by student leaders of the Rodgers Islander Organization. “The turnout was spectacular as nearly 50 Marshallese students, including some students from other schools, attended the meeting,” said Anitok. “They asked great questions that were spot-on to understand their rights as students and how to react when approached by a police.”

Marshallese high school students in Spokane, Washington gathered this past week to learn about what happened in the shooting death of Marshallese Clando Anitok, and to know their rights as well as how to respond to police.  Contributed photos

Students urged that a Marshallese community center be established to provide space for Marshallese to gather, especially at tough times like this one, he said.

The second meeting involved the broader community leaders from Marshallese Spokane community and community partners from the Asian Pacific Islanders Coalition and the NAACP or National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“At the meeting, we discovered more about the investigation timeline,” said Anitok. “We learned about Washington State’s new Initiative 940 (that) requires two community members to be involved in the investigation but have yet to be selected, according to the Spokane Police Department. We hope too that the police and community partners were able to see the community’s hospitality and cultural strengths as they sang and formed a line to shake their hands to thank them for being at this important community meeting.”

Clando Anitok is the second Marshall Islander to be killed by police in Washington state in the past two years. In 2018, another Marshallese man who had threatened various people with a knife was killed in the city of Auburn, Washington by a policeman.

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