Could a broader federal probe of the Spokane Police Department be under way?
Although U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby joined other community leaders Wednesday in cautioning against drawing too many conclusions from the excessive force conviction of Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr., indications are growing that federal authorites are troubled by what they found here.
The U.S. Justice Department, on its homepage today, openly describes the case against Thompson as involving "an extensive cover up" following the fatal March 18, 2006 confrontation. In its news release announcing Thompson's conviction on charges of using excessive force in the beating of unarmed janitor Otto Zehm and lying about it to investigators, the agency noted that, "Thompson claimed the beating was justified because he felt threatened by a plastic bottle of soda the victim was holding."
Federal authorities confirm that at least one additional Spokane police officer - Sandy McIntyre - has received a target letter stemming from the Zehm fatality. Target letters indicate evidence is being presented to a grand jury that could lead to indictment against the recipients.
Additionally, Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said Wednesday that potential internal investigations against other officers over their handling of the Zehm tragedy won't be considered until federal authorities have notified her that their investigations are done, which hasn't happened yet.