The Nome Police Department is under scrutiny after some community members questioned why NPD officers used force on a man who was already on the ground.
The incident took place early on Sunday morning during bar break. The police report describes a scene where Milan Schield of Nome approaches two officers, Officer Jonathan Jachim and Officer Justin Stein, and Officer while they are interviewing a potential suspect in another case. Schield reportedly exhibited signs of intoxication and did not follow commands to leave the scene.NPD-Press-Release-from-August-24th-2020-Regarding-Milan-Schield
On police body camera footage, Schield can be heard telling police that he cannot put his hands behind him as his back is “f***ed up” but Jachim continues to insist that Schield put his hands behind his back. The police told Schield to put his hands behind his back again and when he refused, Officer Jonathan Jachim used force to restrain him while Sergeant Alex Le swept him to the ground. Le was called to the scene as back-up.
According to NPD, Officer Jachim’s body camera was knocked to the ground during the altercation.
Police then pepper-sprayed Schield which they allege made him more aggressive. Police say they asked Schield to put his hands behind his back and after he refused to comply again, police tased him. After the shock wore off Schield continued to struggle and police tased him a second time so they could fully restrain him in handcuffs.
Body camera footage from the scene shows Schield curling in on himself and trying to hide his free arm from being cuffed. Nome’s Deputy Police Chief, Bob Pruckner, told KNOM that police consider a suspect wearing only one handcuff “more dangerous than someone [who is] un-cuffed” as the dangling steel could then be used as a weapon.
Sierra Brown of Nome was at the scene when the incident happened. She claims that Schield was walking away when Nome police decided to arrest him. She says the police would not answer Schield when he repeatedly asked why he was being arrested. In the body camera footage, Officer Jachim asks Schield if he understands he could legally be arrested but Schield does not respond to the question and gives no signs of understanding or consent.
(Schield shouting at the officers) “What have I done? What have I done? WHAT HAVE I DONE?”
Brown was not sure if Schield was handcuffed when he was tased for the second time. Other eyewitnesses, who did not wish to be identified on the record, did agree that Schield was already on the ground when he was pepper sprayed and stunned with a Taser.
In a video shared with KNOM (*please note the video contains explicit language and content that may be disturbing to some), Schield is on the ground while he is tased but he does not appear to be restrained while he was tased the first time.
The event has caused some Nome-ites to take to social media and question why the force was necessary. Currently, the document which could answer that question, the Nome Police Department’s use of force policy, is completely unavailable to the public.
Deputy Police Chief Pruckner admits that police did not properly de-escalate the situation and that there was a “lack of communication” between the involved NPD officers and Schield.
Schield was taken to Norton Sound Regional Hospital for medical clearance and then taken to Anvil Mountain Correctional Center (AMCC). He has since been released but is being charged with five misdemeanors: disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and three charges of violating conditions of release.
Nome’s city leaders said during a recent public meeting that they plan on releasing the police body camera footage of the incident but have not decided how they would do so.
NPD says the incident is still under investigation.
Correction: In a previous version of this story, KNOM reported that Schield approached three officers during an investigation. There were only two. Sergeant Le arrived later when Officer Stein called for assistance.
Image at top: A Nome Police Department vehicle. Photo: KNOM file, Matthew F. Smith.