Last week, the city of Aniak thanked several residents for their courage under fire.
The village is still recovering from last August’s shooting spree, an ordeal that left one man dead and several people wounded. When the bullets started flying that night, five people risked their lives to help their neighbors.
When Joseph Yaska grabbed an AK-47 and started shooting, Rebecca Tanner was at home with her children. She looked out and saw a woman, shot and bleeding in the street. According to City Manager Kevin Toothaker, Tanner ran out of her house, pulled the woman onto her porch, and administered first aid while Yaska was still firing.
While Yaska allegedly shot into nearby trucks and local homes, Aniak residents banged on the door of State Trooper Anthony Wiles, the only law enforcement officer in town at the time. They helped him locate where the shooting was taking place at around 2:00 a.m. Wiles began evacuating families from their homes and then turned to three Aniak residents for help: Jesse Lang, Stephen Simeon, and Mike Fontaine. Toothaker said that Wiles handed the men flak jackets and they searched for the active shooter together.
It took the men several hours to find Yaska. Lang, Simeon, and Fontaine had all known him since they were children and they were also friends with Bruce “Gotor” Morgan II, the man who Yaska is accused of killing.
Rebecca Tanner, Jesse Lang, Stephen Simon, Mike Fontaine, and State Trooper Anthony Wiles were each commended for their bravery at Aniak’s City Council meeting last Wednesday. The city thanked their local heroes by waiving their sewage fee for the next month. They were also given Crowley Fuels gift cards and free hats, sunglasses, and coffee mugs donated by the Alaska Commercial Company. City Manager Keven Toothaker said that the men that they recognized are avid hunters and trappers and may find the fuel to be particularly useful.
Aniak’s City Council also recently met with state Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, and discussed public safety in rural Alaskan communities. Toothaker added that he also plans to attend active shooter training.