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Sirens & Gavels

Couple describe Zehm-Thompson fight

A Spokane couple who was in the Zip Trip parking lot the night of the fatal confrontation between Otto Zehm and Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson testified today that Zehm never lunged or attacked Thompson with a pop bottle.

Russell Balow said Thompson stopped "very briefly" for a second or two when he was about eight feet away from Zehm. He saw his mouth move just before Thompson struck Zehm twice with his baton.

"He seemed suprised" by the baton strikes, Balow said of Zehm.

Oreskovich asked Balow if he saw a baton strike that “grazed his head or face first before it struck his shoulder,” to which Balow said yes.

“All you are saying is what appeared to you some 60 feet away watching an officer swing a baton?” Oreskovich asked. Balow again said yes.

His wife, Kerry Balow, told jurors that she saw Thompson deliver two  "overhand" "roundhouse" baton strikes that surprised Zehm.

Balow said she never saw Zehm use pop bottle in threatening manner.

"What happened to Otto Zehm after the 2nd baton strike?" prosecutors asked. "He fell down," Balow responded.

In cross examination, Carl Oreskovich emphasized that, though Balow couldn't hear what Thompson said, she saw his mouth move before the first baton strike.

"In your assessment of it he was speaking forcefully, correct?" Oreskovich said.

"Correct," Balow replied.

Read more in Tom Clouses's story from Yakima.

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