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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for August 2012

Sheriff’s Office touts new task force

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office issued statistics Thursday indicating that an on-going effort to target criminals responsible for residential burglaries has begun to pay off.

Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin said reported burglaries have decreased in unincorporated Spokane County by about 8 percent when comparing June’s numbers to those reports from July of this year.

And the drop is about 40 percent when comparing the first two weeks of July compared to the first two weeks of August.

In Spokane Valley, where the sheriff’s office contracts police services, that same July to August time period saw a 27 percent decrease in burglary reports.

“This decrease … shows the success of the implementation of the Sheriff’s Office Burglary Task Force,” Chamberlin said. “This decrease is also directly associated with citizens of Spokane County providing investigators with valuable, continues tips all summer long.”

Investigators rely on residents calling in suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.

“Without this type of ongoing assistance … it would be very difficult for the Sheriff’s Office to achieve this type of decrease with any type of crime in our community.”

Firefighter suspended over religious emails

A Spokane Valley firefighter says he'll continue using his government email account to send religious-oriented messages to fellow firefighters despite being suspended for two days and ordered to stop.

Fire Capt. Jon Sprague contends that he has a constitutional right to use taxpayer-provided resources to invite co-workers to a Christian fellowship group he founded. The Spokane Valley Fire Department's board of commissioners said that could be viewed as insubordination.

Spokesman-Review reporter Nina Culver explores the continuing conflict in today's edition of the Valley Voice.

Burglary suspects caught in the act

Spokane County deputies arrested a man and a woman who claimed to be staying at a furnished but unoccupied home on North Sands Road after they found the home ransacked.

The case started Monday night when the homeowner drove out to the home, in the 25200 block of North Sands Road, and found a Ford Explorer parked at the home. Deputies responded, but the vehicle left and could not locate the Explorer.

Neighbors called Tuesday night and said the same Explorer had returned. Deputies again responded and ordered two suspects out of the residence. Arrested were 23-year-old Chaun Herkimer and 35-year-old Karen Lilyblad, sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin said in a news release.

Herkimer said he was homeless and that he and Lilyblad just stayed one night. But deputies found a broken window where entry had been made and several items packed in duffle bags as is if they were being staged for removal.

The homeowner reported the entire house had been ransacked and estimated the damage at $5,000, Chamberlin said.

Both suspects were booked into jail on counts of second-degree burglary and first-degree malicious mischief. Herkimer also was booked on two unrelated warrants.

Jury sends child stalker to the island

A jury took under an hour, excluding lunch, Tuesday to civilly commit a convicted rapist to state custody likely for the rest of his life.

Albert A. Brooks, 67, showed no emotion as the jury confirmed that the state provided enough evidence to show that Brooks is a sexually violent predator who is likely to reoffend if released into the community.

“Naturally, we are disappointed,” defense attorney Marla Polin said. Testing “supported his self reporting that he was no longer experiencing these deviant fantasies.”

Charges mount for Friedlund

A Stevens County man charged with illegally raiding hundreds of thousands of dollars from the elderly woman under his care has been ordered to remain in federal custody at the Spokane County Jail.

John “Herb” Friedlund, 79, sought release Monday from U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno. But she ordered Friedlund — who takes medicine for a heart condition — held in custody pending reconsideration.

Friedlund was indicted last week and pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of money laundering and five counts of failing to file income taxes on money he withdrew from the retirement accounts of Frances Swan, who is now 107.

Investigators allege in both state and federal cases that Friedlund drained Swan's funds and wired large sums of money to men he met on the sexually explicit website gaysugardaddy.com.

The state case will remain on hold as long as Friedlund remains detained on the federal charges. If he is released, it would free up Stevens County prosecutors to proceed with multiple charges in state court.

Read previous coverage here.

Thieves muscle in on school fundraiser

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — A Eugene school's wrestling team was feeling pretty good about raising funds by collecting scrap metal until thieves muscled in on the action.

Churchill High School coach Scott Kearney expected Saturday's fundraiser would bring in more than $3,000, based on the $2 per pound a recycling company promised to pay.

The Register-Guard reports parents and friends brought old appliances, car parts and other metal to fill a large trash bin in the school's parking lot. But late Saturday night Kearney found thieves were plundering the stockpile before it could be hauled away.

The team plans another scrap metal drive fundraiser on Tuesday at the school, and this time the recycling company will pick it up before Tuesday night.

‘Drugstore cowboy’ author dies in Wash. Prison

SEATTLE (AP) — James Fogle, who wrote “Drugstore Cowboy,” an autobiographical crime novel that led to an acclaimed 1989 film starring Matt Dillon, has died. He was 75.

Fogle died Thursday at a prison in Monroe, Wash., about 30 miles from Seattle, said Selena Davis, a state corrections spokeswoman. A judge had sentenced him to almost 16 years in prison for holding up a pharmacy in a Seattle suburb in 2010, the last in a string of crimes that put him behind bars for most of his adult life.

Fogle died of probable malignant mesothelioma, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's office said Friday.

The ailing Fogle was emaciated and connected to several medical machines in the last week of his life, close friend Daniel Yost told the Seattle Times in a phone interview from Los Angeles.

He was terminally ill and barely able to breathe, but his sharp wit and creative drive were ever-present as he pushed Yost, one of his final visitors, to get another of his novels, the autobiographical “Doing It All,” onto the big screen, the Times reported.

“It's amazing he was still writing,” Yost , who met Fogle while working as a journalist in Portland in the 1970s, told the Times. “He said he never killed anybody, and I don't think he really hurt anybody. He was a person with a huge heart.”

Fogle had already spent much of his life in prison when he wrote “Drugstore Cowboy,” based on his experiences in a band of addicts who roamed the Pacific Northwest robbing pharmacies to feed their addictions. Filmmaker Gus Van Sant turned the novel into the acclaimed 1989 film.

Fogle only had a sixth-grade education but started writing his stories more than 40 years ago, the Times reported. Yost said Fogle occupied his time during lengthy prison lockups by writing unpublished novels and screenplays.

He wrote his only published novel, “Drugstore Cowboy,” in six weeks while serving a 20-year prison term for a pharmacy robbery in southwest Washington. Van Sant and Yost wrote the screenplay.

Straub promises innovation for SPD

Spokane Mayor David Condon made it official Wednesday, naming former Indianapolis Public Safety Director Frank Straub as his choice to take over leadership of the city's scandal-scarred police force. The appointment requires City Council confirmation, which could take up to a month to bring to a vote, but a majority already have indicated their support for the pick.

Straub brings an interesting background to Spokane. He's served in a various law enforcement capacities at the federal, state and local levels. His experience includes spearheading corruption investigations as a special agent with the U.S. Justice Department to helping craft strategies for improving community trust in law enforcement while overseeing public safety services in the upscale New York City suburb of White Plains. And while he held a key role in developing anti-terrorism training for the New York Police Department in the months following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and has led dignitary protection teams for the U.S. foreign service, Straub has never worked as a patrol officer in a local law enforcement agency.

The lack of street cop experience is a common criticism among Straub's detractors, of which he has many. An article on the Indianapolis Star newspaper's online site about Condon's announcement Wednesday quickly filled up with comments from readers happy to see him go.

In case you missed The SR's coverage of Straub's selection, you can find Wednesday's print edition version of the story here.

Ouch: Skull fractured in sword attack

Police are looking for a sword-wielding maniac who attacked a bystander in Spokane Valley earlier this week, landing at least two blows on the victim's head and fracturing his skull.

Investigators think they know who's responsible and are asking for help locating the man they suspect of being the attacker: 27-year-old Nicholas Howell. They ask anyone with information about where Howell is to contact Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

You can read Reporter Thomas Clouse's article from today's edition of The SR: by clicking here.

Home invasion robbery targets 82-year-old

 

Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies are seeking help identifying two men who reportedly entered the home of an 82-year-old woman Tuesday and stole several items.

The victim told deputies that two males, between the ages of 17 and 22, entered the home in the 12500 block of East Apache Pass Lane, through a sliding glass door. The two men found the 82-year-old resident in her bedroom.

The two males, who stood about 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10, were wearing shorts and bandanas covering their faces.

”They ordered the victim to lie face down on the ground while they rummaged through the residence,” sheriff’s Deputy Craig Chamberlin said in a news release.

The resident later discovered several electronic devices, jewelry and credit cards missing during what Chamberlin described as a home-invasion robbery.

Deputies called a Spokane Police K9 unit to the scene, but the police dog was unable to locate the two suspects.

Anyone with possible information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Spokane child killer gets 36 years

A Spokane man who pleaded guilty to killing a 1-year-old and beating another infant blind and brain damage was sentenced Monday to more than 36 years in prison.

James R. Cooley, 24, apologized the families of the children he abused and said he wished he could bring the dead child back, his attorney Mark Hannibal said. “But there is no way to do that.”

Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno sentenced Cooley to the high end of both second-degree murder for the dead child and first-degree assault for the toddler Cooley blinded.

“There is no amount of time I can give you that will make sense of this or restore what these people lost,” Moreno said.

Investigation just beginning in homicide

A 25-year-old man was found dead Sunday morning in what Spokane Valley authorities are investigating as a possible homicide.

Spokane County Sheriff’s detectives believe they know the identity of the deceased man but don’t know how he died, sheriff’s spokesman Deputy David Thornburg said in a news release. Thornburg said he doesn’t expect any more details about the case until today.

A driver discovered the man at about 6:20 a.m. on Raymond Road near the intersection with Mission Avenue.

“The male victim was found in the roadway only wearing a pair of shorts,” Thornburg said.

The man had injuries consistent with being struck or dragged by an unknown hit-and-run vehicle, Thornburg said.

“There was no evidence of the male being shot or stabbed,” Thornburg said. “There was a pair of shoes and blue jeans found near the body, but there was no identification to positively identify the male.”

He did have a number of unique tattoos that lead investigators to believe they know his name, but the sheriff’s office will not release that name until his family can be notified, Thornburg said.

An autopsy is scheduled for today. 

“Given that the exact manner of death is unknown at this time, investigators are treating this incident as a homicide,” Thornburg said.

Laughing driver caught after chase

Spokane Police arrested a 21-year-old woman today after she drove away from a traffic stop and continued to laugh as officers chased her through southeast Spokane until one officer finally ended the chase by forcing her to crash.

The chase started just before 5 p.m. when Officer Joe Pence noticed a 2000 Plymouth Breeze driving recklessly near Illinois Avenue and Perry Street. After attempting a traffic stop, Breanna Stead, 21, sped up to an estimated 50 to 60 mph and ran several stop signs, Officer Ben Green wrote in a news release.

“When the officers were chasing her, they could see her laughing in the rearview mirror,” Sgt. Zac Storment said. “We are really lucky it was Sunday.”

As Stead entered the Gonzaga neighborhood, Pence decided to terminate the chase because of potential danger to other motorists and backed away from the speeding car, Storment said.

But Stead then drove by the COPS Logan station at 802 E. Sharp Ave. just as several officers were changing shifts. “She was still driving like a maniac” so other officers re-engaged in the pursuit, Storment said.

The chase ended when the pursuing officers forced the Breeze into the concrete barrier near the Second Avenue exit on the Keefe bridge near the on-ramps to Interstate 90. She was arrested without incident and was not injured.

“She kept laughing even after the crash … and drinking from her Twisted Tea,” Storment said. “She kept laughing until they pulled her out of the car.”

Officers found that she hadn’t spilled a drop of her second 24-ounce can of Twisted Tea and booked her into jail on a felony charge of attempting to elude a police officer.

“It is unknown at this time why she chose to endanger the public in this way,” Green said.

Killing spree linked to white supremacy movement

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A couple accused in a three-state Northwest killing spree last fall now face federal hate crime charges alleging they killed four people as part of a white supremacist campaign.

Amanda Marshall, the U.S. attorney for Oregon, said Friday that a federal grand jury has indicted 32-year-old David “Joey” Pedersen and 25-year-old Holly Ann Grigsby on racketeering charges.

She says they're accused of going on their rampage to promote a movement that would purify and preserve the white race.

Pedersen has pleaded guilty in Washington state to killing his father and stepmother. He could face life in prison. Grigsby is awaiting trial.

The other victims were an Oregon teenager and a black man in Northern California.

Deputy prosecutor becomes burglary victim

A man charged with everything from harming a police dog and burglarizing the condominium owned by the Chief Civil Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor appeared in court Thursday and was held on a $100,000 bond.

Christopher A. Hill, 32, appeared before Superior Court Judge Annette Plese and a series of charges, including several counts of residential burglary, second-degree burglary, several thefts of vehicles, malicious mischief, attempt to elude police all from 2011.

Including in the litany of charges is the residential burglary of the home owned by Jim Emacio, who reported on Aug. 14, 2011, that someone had entered his home, located near Gonzaga, through his kitchen window. Emacio reported several items missing from his home.

Emacio did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Plese set Hill’s arraignment for 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday. See previous coverage of Hill here.

Accused bear spray robber gets $10,000 bond

The man accused of using bear spray to commit two robberies was ordered held on a $10,000 bond for a companion charge of assault.

Jeffrey M. Matthews, 29, appeared Friday before Superior Court Judge Annette Plese. However, documents had not yet arrived regarding two other robberies for which he was arrested.

Matthews was also wanted for a violation of probation for his manslaughter conviction from 2007.

 He was charged with third-degree assault after an employee at O’Reilly Auto Parts, at 2424 N. Division St., said a car drove into the parking lot last Tuesday. The driver, later identified as Matthews, began yelling at the employee and then sprayed him with the can of bear spray.

 The same vehicle was lined to two reported robberies on Friday and Saturday at the Trading Co., 13014 E. Sprague Ave., and Big Lots, 14024 E. Sprague Ave., in Spokane Valley. However, those charging documents had not yet arrived Thursday afternoon.

 Plese set Matthews arraignment at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday. See previous coverage of Matthews here.

Pyramid prank spreads to Vermont

Is it a trend or a copycat caper?

Less than a week after Spokane pranksters snagged the spotlight with their makeshift pyramids built from stacked picnic tables in city parks, police in Vermont are investigating similar hijinks.

The Associated Press reports that burglars broke into the public library in the rural Vermont community of Barton and stacked library furniture into the shape of a giant pyramid in the center of the main floor. Other furniture was left stacked atop bookshelves.

The handiwork was discovered Tuesday morning by library staff, which also noted that the only item that appeared to be missing was a date stamp used for checking out books.

(The Associated Press news brief on the burglary can be found by clicking inside to the full post)

Spokane losing first police ombudsman

Spokane’s first police ombudsman will soon be out of a job, and the city may be without a permanent replacement for several months.

Mayor David Condon has decided not to renew Ombudsman Tim Burns’ three-year contract that expires Aug. 24, said City Administrator Theresa Sanders. He will keep his job, however, until Oct. 31.

Sanders said Condon was uncomfortable extending Burns’ stay for the long term because the position is likely to change. The city’s Use of Force Commission is due to release its final recommendations for a reformed police oversight model next month. Condon also has said he will select a new police chief by the end of this month.

Read the rest of SR reporter Jonathan Brunt's article here.

Car prowling surge reported in county

The Sheriff's Office is warning of a surge in vehicle prowling in the Greenacres area of east Spokane County.

Nearly 24 prowlings have been reported to Crime Check since Monday. They've occurred mostly between Barker Road and Harvard Road, and north of Sprague Avenue to the Spokane River.

Many victims left their car doors unlocked or their windows rolled down, according to a news release. Some of the cars also contained electronics, purses, wallets and other valuables in plain sight.

Most cars were prowled during the late evening.

The Sheriff's Office reminds people not to leave valuables in their cars and to report suspicious activity to Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Spokane Police Department launched a “remove it or lose it” campaign last month that aims to help citizens prevent car prowlings. Read more here.

Photos show gunpoint 7-Eleven robbery

A reward is being offered for tips that help identify a man who robbed a Spokane convenience store at gunpoint early Saturday.

Surveillance photos released today show the man pointing a gun at a clerk at 7-Eleven, 1425 N. Maple St., about 4:30 a.m.

The robber is described as 5-foot-6 and 180 pounds, and in his late 20s or early 30s.

Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to leave their name to collect a reward but should lave a code name or number.

Robber gets 41 years for ‘92 murder

A serial bank robber and protected federal witness has been sentenced to 41 years in prison for the 1992 murder of a Spokane Valley furniture store owner.

Patrick Kevin Gibson, 60, was convicted of first-degree murder of the Nov. 7, 1992, shooting death of Brian Cole, 48, at Cole's Furniture Store on East Sprague Avenue in July after a bench trial before Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen.

Cole was killed during a botched robbery after the gunman said he was willing to hurt Cole's wife, who was in a scooter and witnessed the murder.

The crime went unsolved for 19 years before DNA from a fake beard left at the crime scene prompted detectives to arrest Gibson, who served 12 years in federal prison for a string of bank robberies that began in 1992.

He enrolled in the federal witness protection program after helping authorities convict his former cellmate of murdering a mother and her two children in Iowa in the early 1990s. That man, Dustin Honken, is now on federal death row.

Gibson also was convicted of robbing convenience stores and raping clerks in the late 1970s, about the same time he was shot in the face by a law enforcement official during a chase in Utah.

Gibson testified a partner in his bank robberies must have reused the beard, but Eitzen concluded he was the killer and had also robbed a children's store in Coeur d'Alene hours before the murder.

The trial began in May but was delayed when prosecutors learned “America’s Most Wanted” used the hat worn by the killer when re-enacting the murder in a 1993 episode. The trial resumed after authorities tested DNA samples from host John Walsh, a retired sheriff's detective and the actor who played the killer, Spokane County native Trevor St. John.

Eitzen sentenced Gibson on Friday to 493 months in prison. His lawyers have appealed his conviction.

Past coverage:

July 20: Gibson's bravado as robber didn't help

2 teen boys arrested in cop car crash

A Spokane County sheriff's car driven by Deputy Rustin Olson in a crash sits in the Sheriff's Office parking lot on Aug. 8. (SRPhoto/Jesse Tinsley)

Two teens have been arrested for placing wood and rocks on Pines Road that led to a patrol car crash just after midnight  Aug. 3 in Spokane Valley.

The 16-year-old boys scattered two-foot-long pieces of firewood, tree branches and a plastic bin filled with large rocks across the road before several deputies responded to an unrelated fight call down the street at South Pines Elementary.

Read the rest of Justin Runquist's story here.

Past coverage:Ap

Aug. 6: Deputy injured responding to hoax report

Piranhas, alligator seized on South Hill

Piranhas and a small alligator were seized from a South Hill apartment on Friday. (submitted photos)

Piranhas offered for trade on Craigslist led state fish and game agents to seize several of the exotic, human-eating fish from an apartment on Spokane’s lower South Hill.

 The rare find took another surprising twist when agents also found a small alligator in Christopher Ryan Harper’s apartment at 1206 W. 6th Ave. on Friday, as well as a suspected marijuana-selling operation, police say.

The alligator is being cared for at SpokAnimal, the piranhas were killed and taken as evidence, said Madonna Luers, spokeswoman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Luers said she couldn’t confirm the number of piranhas seized. Police said 20, but Harper said he only had six.

Read the rest of my story here.

Convicted conman pleads guilty to fraud

A conman who went to prison for duping people out of $124,000 for a fraudulent cattle farm investment is likely headed back here after pleading guilty to a similar scheme in North Idaho.

James Andrew Harris, 44, pleaded guilty to wire fraud Monday and faces up to 20 years in prison when he's sentenced Nov. 5.

Harris admitted to stealing about $108,000 from a Florida resident whom he'd solicited as an investor in the beef industry.

Harris told the victim he had a “connection” who helped restaurants, supermarkets and other purchasers of beef finance their purchases, according to a news release by the U.S. Attorney's Office. “Harris represented that there was a great deal of money to be made in financing the purchases and encouraged the individual to participate.”

Harris created the email account ibuybeef@yahoo.com to assist in the fraud, which occurred between July 2010 and June 2011.

The fraud began less than three months after Harris was released from federal prison after being sentenced to 27 months for the cattle investment fraud. Harris paid those investors with counterfeit checks, according to a plea agreement.
  

Man arrested for assault w/ gun, vehicle

A Spokane man was arrested early Saturday for allegedly threatening a man with a handgun, then running into him with his SUV.

Christopher Gregory told police he confronted Ike Scott Smith, 30, about a woman named Lisa and property that might be in his home at 7722 N. Altamont St. about 6 a.m. Saturday.

Smith told Gregory he didn't know what he was talking about and got inside his Ford Explorer. Gregory knocked on the SUV's window, and Smith rolled the window down, stuck a gun in Gregory's mouth and threatened to shoot him, according to court documents.

Gregory ran to his car that was parked on Altamont, but Smith backed his Explorer out of the driveway and onto Altamont, then used it to push Gregory into the driver's door of his car.

Gregory fell down and scraped his right arm, right knee and lower back area. Deputies found Smith at North Haven Street and East Hoffman Avenue about 7:20 a.m. and say he ran from the Explorer when he saw them. Police caught up with him and found a gun in the SUV, as well as dents consistent with striking Gregory.

Smith was booked into jail for two counts of first-degree assault, resisting arrest and felon in possession of a firearm.

Gun confrontation leads to 2 arrests

Two men were arrested on felony assault charges after witnesses told police they pointed guns at woman sitting in a car near a Spokane Valley bar early Sunday.

 Charles Willy Jackson, 25, and Anttwon D. Scurlock, 21, are accused of confronting the 27-year-old woman across the street from Goodtymes Pub, 9124 E. Mission Ave., about 12:16 a.m.

Police say the woman said she recognized Jackson when he confronted her and was able to identify Scurlock after he was arrested.

A Washington State Patrol trooper contacted Scurlock in front of the Holiday Inn Express. He located a black handgun near him and seized it as evidence.

Jackson also was arrested near the scene. The men were booked into jail for first-degree assault. Police did not not indicate a motive in court documents.

Jackson was arrested in May 2010 for a November 2009 incident in which he was accused of shooting out the back window of an SUV. He was ordered to spent two months in jail after pleading guilty in September 2010 to second-degree malicious mischief and possession of a controlled substance.

Co-defendant Cedric Burton was convicted of second-degree assault for trying to run two men over just after the shooting and went to prison for that and for driving Edward Thomas from the scene of the murder of John S. Williams in January 2011.

Thomas was convicted of federal gun charges related to the murder and faces 16 years in prison when he's sentenced in November. A plea agreement says he won't be charged with murder if he doesn't appeal the convictions.
  

Suspect had victim’s obituary in his truck

Detectives search murder suspect Daniel Arteaga's home at 19329 E. Valleyway Ave., in Spokane Valley on Tuesday. (SRPhoto/Meghann Cuniff)

Detectives found a newspaper containing murder victim Kim Schmidt's obituary when they searched the truck of her suspected killer recently.

Daniel R. Arteaga, 40, had the obituary in his GMC truck, along with .45 caliber handgun in a fanny back, cartridges and magazines, DVDs and a notebook and earrings.

Detectives seized those items Aug. 7 after Arteaga was arrested for first-degree murder. They also seized nearly 100 items from his home at 19329 E. Valleyway in Spokane Valley.

Among the times found at Arteaga's home were notebooks and at least 29 firearms, including shotguns, rifles and pistols. Arteaga has a concealed weapons permit.

He remains in jail on $1 million bond for first-degree murder. He's accused of killing Schmidt, who was found dead of a gunshot wound to her head at her home in north Spokane on Jan. 1.

Arteaga has been married for about 22 years and told detectives his wife of 22 years didn't know he'd been having an affair with Schmidt for about 6 1/2 years.

Detectives believe Schmidt's desire to end their relationship and the money he owed her may have been a factor in her murder. Schmidt and Arteaga also were named in two lawsuits, and Schmidt had told Arteaga she was romantically involved with another man.

Man brought gun to fistfight, police say

A Spokane man was arrested this weekend for allegedly bringing a gun to a fistfight outside a bar in the West Garland District.

Kellen P. Ward, 30, is accused of pointing a semi-automatic pistol at a group in the parking lot of the Revolver North bar, 633 W. Garland Ave., on Saturday about 2 a.m.

A witness told Spokane police that his friend, Neno Testa, fought with several people from the bar into the roadway, where several people were knocked to ground. A white Lincoln Town Car arrived and a man weighing about 225 pounds and wearing glasses exited and brandished the gun. Witnesses said he told the group “you…think you’re bad? I'll kill you,” according to court documents. The car fled westbound on Garland.

Police stopped it at North Jefferson Street and West Garland Avenue and arrested Ward, who they say was driving. He matched the description of the gunman, and police found a handgun in the car.

Ward, a convicted felon, was booked into jail for unlawful possession of a firearm.

Records show Ward pleaded guilty in 2006 to attempting to elude a police vehicle and conspiracy to possess a controlled substance.

Switch to back seat saves man’s life

A man's decision to move to the back seat of a car as he drunkenly argued with his brother may have saved his life early Sunday, police said today.

Spokane County sheriff's Deputy Jeff Thurman doesn't believe the man would have survived the crash into a large steel pole at South Schaffer Road and South Dishman Mica Road had he been in the front passenger seat, which is where the impact occurred.

Instead the man received only minor injuries, as did his brother, Stephen Stebbins, 18.

Stebbins was driving southbound on Dishman Mica when he crossed over into the northbound lanes and soon collided with the pole.

Stebbins was pulling the steering wheel back and forth prior to the crash, which caused the vehicle to slide sideways into the pole.

Stebbins was arrested for DUI Unconscious and taken to a local hospital for a blood draw. He was released to hospital custody, and charges will be forwarded to prosecutors once blood results are back.
  

Suspect cleared in May home invasion

A Spokane man arrested for a May home-invasion robbery has been cleared of wrongdoing in what his lawyer says was a case of mistaken identity.

Joshua Clint Epperson, 32, still faces seven felony gun, drug, burglary and theft charges for a May 1 burglary.

Police believe Epperson stole guns, electronics and jewelry from a home in the Country Homes area to help pay a $1,000 debt to his heroin dealer. Epperson's girlfriend, Chelsey M. Loe, also is suspected in the case. Investigators searched the couple's home at 51 E. Crown on May 6 and recovered meth and suspected stolen property.

Epperson was summonsed to court for an arraignment but arrested just a few days before for a May 22 home invasion robbery in the Indian Trail area. Robbery and kidnapping charges were dismissed in Spokane County Superior Court on Thursday. Epperson is to stay with a friend in North Spokane if he's released from jail. His lawyer said he possibly has a job at a tattoo parlor.

Suspects Erik J. Zacher, 26, and Nathan W. Day, 21, still are charged for the home-invasion robbery. Nathan T. McDaniels, 28, alias Gardner, was sentenced last month to 10 years in prison.

Past coverage:

May 30: Police: We saved repeat offender's life
  

Encounter with jurors sparks debate

Buried in the transcripts unsealed last week of the secret jury hearings held by a federal judge in the Karl F. Thompson Jr. case, was an apparent chance encounter between the jury forewoman and the alternate juror.

Jury Forewoman Diane Riley said she was having an electrical problem at her Ellensburg home and called her utility company. That company sent Donald Finn, who was identified during jury selection, as a line worker who was later determined to be the alternate juror.

Finn told the judge he could find nothing wrong at Riley's home and he seemed to suggest that Riley made the call to give her a chance to convince him that the jury made the right call.

“I said, well, my feelings were it’s just, you know, just a big dog and pony show,” the alternate juror said. “The guy passed away at the scene, Karl had to pay for it. And I said that’s kind of the way I saw it.”

Riley said as soon as Finn recognized her, he started inquiriing about the jury's decision to convict Thompson of using excessive force and lying to investigators about his 2006 encounter with Otto Zehm.

“He started asking questions about it, and … he expressed then how he had been agitated and angry that the jury found Mr. Thompson guilty,” Riley said. “He felt the witnesses were fake, paid dog and pony show, and that he didn’t believe anything that any of them said.”

Riley said she told Finn that he was not part of the deliberations and all the discussions the jurors had. She added that she’d learned information from an author about alleged past transgressions by Thompson.

During the May 23 hearing, U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle asked Riley about what the author told her. “Is this relevant?” she asked.

“I’m not trying to trick you. I’m really not. And you’re not in any way on the hot seat,” Van Sickle said. “I’m just trying to gather information, to be honest with you, and this is the right way to do it that I’m aware of.”

Read past coverage here.

Do you know this child porn peddler?

Federal authorities are trying to identify a woman who is featured in child pornography with victims who have yet to be rescued.

The woman could live anywhere in the United States. She is depicted in several videos discovered in June during a child pornography investigation in Colorado.

  The videos featured two young girls, estimated to be tween 3 and 7 years old, who were also featured in child pornography seized in Los Angeles in June 2011.

 The material found in Colorado appears to be first time investigators could see an adult's face. A man who also is shown sexually abusing the girls digitally obscured his face in the material, making him unrecognizable.

The woman appears to be white, about 25 to 35 years old with a medium building, black to dark brown hair and blues eyes. She has a large mole on the back of her left thigh.

Several of the images were created in February 2010. The material depicts a home “which appears to be of typical North American construction found in several areas of the United States.”

The home has standard North American electrical switches. Agents noted two U.S. Army duffel bags, a U.S. Army poncho liner and U.S. Army desert boots in some of the image. Agents also observed a cardboard box with “Sunkist” written on it and a mattress with “Serta Perfect Sleep” written on it. The book “Animal Tracking Basics” by John Young and Tiffany Morgan is on a nightstand.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says the identities of the victims and perpetrators are unknown, and the victims have yet to be rescued.

Prosecutors in Washington, D.C. issued an arrested warrant this week for the woman on charges of sexual exploitation of children and conspiracy. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigation.

“Jane Doe's information and photos are being distributed through law enforcement channels by the HSI's Victim Identification Unit, HSI Los Angeles and NCMEC in a unified effort to find the perpetrators and rescue the two children,” according to a news release.

Anyone with information is asked to call 1-866-347-2423 or submit tips online.

Ex-Shock player in solitary confinement

Judy Reisner wants her son, Kevin Ellison, to get mental health treatment, but he sits in the Spokane County Jail. (SRPhoto/Dan Pelle)

A former pro football player arrested for arson in June remains in solitary confinement at the Spokane County Jail, and his mother says his mental health issues will worsen without treatment.

Kevin Marcus Ellison, 25, who was a starting linebacker and defensive back for the Spokane Shock arena football team, has twice been denied release from jail for mental health treatment. His lawyer appealed U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno’s last decision, but U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko rejected the appeal Aug. 1, citing in part an altercation Ellison had with jailers last month.

Ellison’s mother, Judy Reisner, traveled from Los Angeles to Spokane to visit Ellison in jail on Wednesday. He’s not doing well, she said.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 20: Kevin Ellison to stay in jail without bail

June 14: Shock player says God told him to start fire

Watch me talk about this story with KHQ's Dave Cotton:

Man, 78, sent to prison for pot dealing

A 78-year-old man who allowed drug traffickers to use his property just south of the Canadian border in Ferry County will spend 2 1/2 years in federal prison, a judge ruled Thursday.

Alvin Oliver Shields had 700 pounds of marijuana on his property when federal agents searched it in 2009. His lawyer, Jeffry Finer, said he retired from drug trafficking two years before a grand jury indicted him in September.

Shields and his wife live in Lebanon, Ore. His criminal history includes only a conviction for petty larceny in 1958.

Finer described him in court documents as a good humored man with poor hearing and early signs of dementia. He graduated high school in the 1950s but can't remember the year. He also couldn't initially remember the name of his first wife.

“Mr. Shields was ultimately able to provide it to Probation when he noticed it was tattooed on his left arm,” Finer wrote.

Prosecutors say Shields lived in Canada for 30 years. Federal agents began investigating Shields in 2003 after a Border Patrol agent found four duffel bags with 140 pounds of marijuana after four people ran from Fourth of July Creek Road, west of Danville, into Canada.

The agent then saw Shields “driving slowly in a van with the rear cargo doors propped open,” according to a plea agreement.

Then in 2008, a multi-agency investigation determined Shields was letting marijuana traffickers in Canada transport pot to his property, where it was then taken to Spokane and stored for distribution by U.S. drug traffickers.

Shields pleaded guilty in May to money laundering, structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements, conspiracy to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana (dating back to 2003) and three counts of failure to file income tax returns.

He was sentenced Thursday in Spokane by U.S. District Judge Rosanna Peterson to 30 months in prison followed by five years of probation. The court is recommending he be housed at the federal prison in Sheridan, Ore., to allow his wife, whom Finer described as “aged and unwell,” to visit.

Finer said a short incarceration period “will promote respect for the law and provide general deterrence to others who, like Mr. Shields, may find criminal opportunity in owning property alongside the border with Canada.”

Woman crashes stolen car into house

Police released this photo of the crash at North Pittsburg Street and East Wabash Avenue Wednesday.

A woman being pursued by police crashed a stolen car into a house in north Spokane Wednesday then tried to hide in a stranger's garage, police say.

Kristina M. Groce, 21, ran from the crash at 4906 N. Pittsburg St. and entered a home at 1711 E. Wabash Ave., uninvited, asked to use the phone and told the homeowner not to call police, according to court documents.

Officer Dan Cole tried to stop Groce after realizing the 2003 Toyota Celica she was driving was stolen. Cole said Groce drove over 60 mph and ran a stop sign at Wabash and North Nevada Street before crashing into the home.

“Luckily no children were in the yard,” police wrote on Facebook.

The car's owner was at a laundromat earlier that day when someone grabbed his keys and stole his it, police say.

Groce was booked into jail for possession of a stolen motor vehicle and attempting to elude police.

Crew paints yellow line over dead raccoon

This photo provided by Sean McAfee from Aug. 2 shows a dead raccoon that McAfee saw with the road dividing line painted over it before he stopped his motorcycle to take the picture on Franklin Rd. in Johnstown, Pa

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (AP) — The “squirrelly” configuration of a western Pennsylvania road helped cause a state road crew to paint a double-yellow line over a dead raccoon.

Motorcyclist Sean McAfee snapped a photo of the mistake before it could be cleaned up and submitted it to the Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown (http://bit.ly/MkHa1K).

He says he almost crashed, he was laughing so hard.

PennDOT spokesman John Ambrosini says paint crews usually have a foreman on the job who clears away any dead animals before the paint-spraying truck equipment passes by. This crew didn't have a foreman and the equipment was too big to turn around in traffic, remove the animal and repair the paint. He says the “the squirrelly geometry” of the narrow road didn't help.

But the crew did try to stop the paint gun.

Dummy on noose shocks Vegas drivers

This image provided by KVVU-TV shows a billboard with a mannequin dangling from a hangman's noose near The Strip in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/KVVU, Peter Dawson)

By MICHELLE RINDELS,Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Even by Las Vegas standards, it was a shocking billboard: A mannequin dangling on a hangman's noose below a black sign with the ominous words “Dying for Work.”

Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Jeremie Elliott says the 911 calls started coming in as the sun came up early Wednesday, with drivers worried the stiff, black-suited dummy swaying at the end of a rope along Interstate 15 near Bonanza Road was a real person.

“It's a publicity stunt, obviously done in bad taste,” said Elliott, adding that officials were focused on getting it down quickly to avoid distracting drivers during the morning commute.

The graphic display along the interstate was one of at least two unauthorized signs spotted Wednesday morning in the Las Vegas area. Another found on Highland Avenue and Desert Inn Road was white with black lettering that read, “Hope You're Happy Wall St.,” and a similar mannequin hanging off the edge.

A woman who answered the phone at Lamar Advertising Co., which owns one of the billboards, labeled the act vandalism and said the display was being removed. She did not provide her name.

Clear Channel Outdoor, which owns another sign that was affected, said they pulled the display immediately and plan to work with law enforcement to punish whoever is responsible.

“We condemn the destructive behavior against one of our billboards because it is illegal and punishes our advertisers,” Clear Channel Outdoor spokesman Jim Cullinan said in a statement. “This is not an innocent protest, but it is illegal and dangerous behavior that Clear Channel Outdoor and the industry will not accept.”

Although the billboard alarmed drivers, it's unclear whether regulations in the area ban roadside signs with graphic depictions of suicide. A spokesman for the Nevada Department of Transportation said there didn't appear to be state regulations on the matter, and a spokeswoman for Clark County was also not aware of rules against the subject matter.

While nobody has publicly claimed responsibility for the signs, the Occupy Las Vegas group, which is affiliated with the larger Occupy Wall Street movement, posted photos of the displays on its website. Its caption says the Nevada governor's budget has slashed social programs and aid to suicidal adults.

Sebring Frehner, an Occupy supporter who posted the photos, told The Associated Press he didn't know who put the hangmen up, but applauded the message behind it.

“People saying it's in bad taste are living sheltered lives and don't pay attention to what affects the working class,” he said.

Tips sought on CdA gun, car thefts

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that solve a gun and car theft at a Coeur d'Alene business.

Someone entered Tate Engineering, 1103 N. 4th St., early July 30 and stolen two guns and credit cards, as well as a 2003 GMC Sierra pickup.

The truck has “Tate Engineering” written on both doors and is black with Idaho plates K462722.

Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to leave their name to collect a reward but should lave a code name or number.

‘Sovereigns’ arrested after SWAT standoff

Two men arrested after a SWAT team standoff in Otis Orchards Wednesday have been identified as Michael Francis Hicks, 55, and David Ray Galland, 58.

A sheriff's detective was driving east on Interstate 90 near Sullivan Road when he saw a red truck in front of him with what appeared to be an invalid or modified license plate. The detective advised dispatchers, who confirmed there was no record of the plate.

A sheriff's deputy and a Liberty Lake police officer, both in uniforms and riving marked patrol cars, responded to assist the detective in stopping the vehicle. They followed it northbound on Harvard Road in Liberty Lake, then eastbound to the 25600 block of East Kildea Road in Otis Orchards where they attempted to stop the vehicle.

The truck pulled into a circular driveway “in an attempt to return westbound on Kildea Road,” according to a news release, but the patrol cars blocked it. Hicks, the driver, and Galland refused to exit the vehicle. The deputy, detective and officer didn't approach the truck because of its sovereign license plate and the occupant's refusal to cooperate. The SWAT team was called because law enforcement believed “there was a high probability the occupants may be armed,” according to a news release.

The men's truck had stickers and signs indicating they were part of a growing “sovereign” movement that questions government authority

Hicks and Galland were eventually cut from their seat belts and taken into custody, ending the three-hour standoff. Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich joined SWAT team negotiators because self-proclaimed sovereigns typically recognize the sheriff as the highest law enforcement authority, he said.
“They were, thank goodness, nonviolent and it ended very well,” Knezovich said.
Neither man spoke with police. They were booked into jail for obstructing a public servant and refusal to cooperate. Hicks also is charged with third-degree driving while license suspended.
  

Idaho killer returns to prison for assault

A convicted killer who left prison in 2008 is headed back there after a jury in southwest Idaho convicted him of assaulting a family member with a large knife.

Donald Leonard Houser, 39, was living in Plummer in 1995 when he shot his former girlfriend, Angela LeSarte, to death in front of Bobbie's Bar in Plummer.

LeSarte's father is former longtime Coeur d’Alene Tribal Chairman Bernard LeSarte. She was the mother of four children.

Houser was sentenced to 15 years in prison in February 1996 for second-degree murder and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. He began his five-year probation period on Oct. 30, 2008, and worked part-time on a ranch in Washington County and at a hardware store in Weiser, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He started working full-time as a self-employed mechanic in November 2010.

Houser was arrested on Aug. 22 for aggravated assault. He was sentenced in April to two to three years in state prison. He was sentenced today to two years in federal prison for violating his probation on the murder conviction. One year of his federal sentence will run concurrent to the state sentence, the other will run consecutive, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

New details revealed in Schmidt homicide

A former scuba diving instructor arrested for murder dated the victim for years and was described by her friends as violent and controlling, according to information released Wednesday.

Daniel R. Arteaga, 40, remains in the Spokane County Jail on $1 million bond after appearing before Superior Court Judge Annette Plese Wednesday on a first-degree murder charge.

Artega must surrender his passport should he post bond. Deputy Prosecutor Gayle Ervin described him as an “international traveler” whose trips which include excursions to the Caribbean and Fiji.

Read the rest of my story here.

Alternate juror blasts case against Thompson

New documents released Thursday show that the only person who raised issues about juror misconduct in the trial that convicted former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. was an alternate juror who was not privy to the final deliberations.

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle called for the secret hearings in May after attorneys learned that the alternate juror told a court security officer that jurors improperly discussed the case prior to deliberations that resulted in the Nov. 2 conviction.

“I thought the government put up a terrible case. Horrible,” said the alternate juror, whose name was redacted. “I thought they got it wrong.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Feds seek Ariz. property in Ridpath probe

Federal investigators are attempting to seize an Arizona property owned by Spokane real estate investors as part of a broader probe into alleged fraud by the couple, who are tangled in the complicated ownership of the former Ridpath Hotel complex.

FBI agent Lisa Jangaard filed a request last week to seize an office building in Sun Lakes, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix. According to court files, Greg Jeffreys and his wife, Kimberly Jeffreys, obtained $600,000 from an investor as partial payment for the purchase of an upscale office building in San Francisco.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

PCP found on Valley prowling suspect

A psychedelic drug best known for stories of strange and violent behavior by its users was found on a car prowling suspect early Monday in Spokane Valley.

Deputies first thought the small piece of paper found in a plastic baggie in Eric Faux's pants pocket was LSD on blotter paper, but field tests showed it was actually PCP, or phencylidine.

Faux, 25, was contacted in the area of 12200 E. 1st Ave. about 6:30 a.m. after a man called 911 to report a stranger looking in his vehicle and trying to open the front door to his home.

Deputy Jared Kiehn arrived to find Faux standing under the man's carport. When asked where he lived, Faux “shrugged his shoulders and laughed,” according to a news release.

Kiehn handcuffed Faux but Faux attempted to run away. He was arrested for obstructing and subsequently searched. That's when Kiehn found the PCP.

Faux was taken to jail for obstructing, second-degree vehicle prowling and possession of a controlled substance.

While en route to the jail, Faux “was yelling at passing cars, growling, having a conversation with himself and sweating profusely,” according to a news release. 'Deputy Kiehn advised the jail nurse of Faux possibly having ingested PCP when he arrived at the jail.”

Photos show assault suspect; ID sought

Police are trying to identify a suspect in a Fourth of July assault that left a man beaten and burned at his makeshift camp near High Bridge Park.

  Surveillance photos show the victim at the Sunset Grocery with a young man police believe may have attacked him.

Spokane police officers contacted the victim at a hospital about 8 a.m. and learned he had been severely beaten and burned sometime during the night at his camp in a large gravel and grass pasture near Sunset Boulevard and Government Way.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to give their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Jury indicts Tasered fugitive for gun

A grand jury has indicted a mail thief who shot a round from a fire arm after being shocked with a stun gun by U.S. Marshals last month.

Tony L. Gust, 33, faces up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

He was arrested July 20 after federal agents found him at his home in the 22000 block of West Jacobs Road, northwest of Airway Heights, and watched as he ran into his trailer and “armed himself with a firearm,” according to a news release.

He was struck with a taser, and “subsequently a round was fired from the weapon Gust was holding,” the news release said. Gust was arrested without further incident.

Gust was arrested in January 2011 after a postal inspector recognized him from surveillance video that showed him breaking into post office boxes at the Opportunity post office, 11712 E. Sprague Ave.

He was sentenced in June to three years of probation, but that was revoked in October and he was sent to jail for six months. He left in April and was to participate in a treatment program.

Authorities noted his “troubling history of violence and offenses involving firearms,” in court documents filed in May 2011, which his lawyer attributed to Gust's “physical, mental and dependency problems” and said treatment would serve well.

He remains in custody at the Spokane County Jail after pleading not guilty to the charge on Tuesday. A probation violation hearing is scheduled for Aug. 21.

Dump truck joy ride strikes power lines

Police say a man stole a dump truck and took it on a drunken joy ride that destroyed light poles and power lines in the city of Colville.

Robert Gene Bankston Hartman, 28, told officers he didn't mean to knock down the lines when he stole the dump truck from a construction site and drove it through town. He said he'd had about 14 beers when police confronted him about 9:45 p.m. on July 23, but later told police he'd actually been drinking vodka.

Police had heard residents were trapped in their homes at South Wynne Street and West Columbia Avenue because of down power lines. They soon realized Hartman and the stolen dump truck were to blame. Hartman abandoned the truck at 1st Street and Railroad Street and ran, but an officer blocked his path with his police car.

About 1,400 people lost power for about two hours because of the melee. The area extended from Highway 395 at Pingston Creek to just south of Colville, from Valley Westside just east of Colville High School, police said.

One witness told police that Hartman was laughing while he was striking the power lines.

Hartman's blood alcohol level registered at .226 and .220. The legal limit for driving is .08.

Hartman is charged with first-degree malicious mischief, second-degree taking a motor vehicle without permission and drunken driving.

Scuba instructor arrested for murder

Detectives search murder suspect Daniel Arteaga's home at 19329 E. Valleyway Ave., in Spokane Valley on Tuesday. (SRPhoto/Meghann Cuniff)

A Spokane diving instructor romantically linked to a woman who was found shot to death on New Year’s Day has been arrested as a suspect in her murder.

  Daniel R. Arteaga, 40, was arrested at the Public Safety Building Tuesday after voluntarily reporting there for an interview. He is expected to appear in Spokane County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon via video from the jail, where he is booked on a first-degree murder charge for the shooting death of Kimberly Schmidt.

Read the rest of my story here.

Juror: Thompson lawyers twisted words

The forewoman of the jury that convicted former Spokane Police officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. of excessive force said in a letter to a federal judge that defense attorneys have twisted her words in their effort to force a new trial for the decorated officer.

The documents are contained in files previously sealed by U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle.

Read the rest of my story here.

Woman gets 18 1/2 years for murder

The woman convicted of killing a Spokane man in December has been sentenced to 18 ½ years in prison.

Melinda R. Barrera, 32, was convicted last month of killing Robert A. Nelson following a bizarre altercation where Barrera was struck in the face with a cell phone and her boyfriend struck Nelson with a baseball bat.

The same jury acquitted 22-year-old David C. McLaughlin of killing or assaulting Nelson but found that Barrera was guilty of second-degree murder after she admitted firing the shot that killed Nelson.

Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen sentenced Barrera to a total of 224 months in prison with credit for 239 days already served in the Spokane County Jail.

McLaughlin was sentenced recently to a year in prison for felony drug possession.

Past coverage:

July 5: Couple convicted, aquitted in murder

June 22: Trial starts for couple in shooting death

May 8: Murder suspect now facing meth charges

Dec. 10: Shooting suspect recalls chaos

Woman awakens to burglars in home

A homeowner awoke to two strangers inside her home early today, and Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to an arrest.

The woman said she awoke to what she thought was a window breaking just after midnight at her home in the 8500 block of East Red Oak Drive in the Bigelow Gulch area, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

She called 911 after she looked downstairs and saw two men standing outside the foyer area next to a guest bedroom. She believed the men were white and wore white tank tops and dark shorts, but it was too dark for her to be sure.

The men ran out the front door when they saw her.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to give their names to receive a reward but should leave a code name or number.
  

Victims sought in Valley burglaries

Spokane County Sheriff's detectives are looking for victims of unreported burglaries in the Spokane Valley area that may be connected to a trio of suspects arrested last week.

Victims of burglaries between June 21 and Aug. 1 are asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233, the sheriff's office said today.

Marina Florianovich, 24, Vyacheslav Znovets, 20, and Michael Mendez, 20, are accused of burglaries that occurred mostly in the area south of East Sprague Avenue. They drove a black 1997 BMW with blue rims in nearly every burglary, most of which occurred during the day.

Valley property crimes detectives arrested the suspects while searching homes in the 3500 block of South Woodward Road and the 100 block of North Walnut Road last Thursday.

Detectives located several thousands of dollars worth of jewelry stolen in the burglaries. Among the stolen items believed to be connected to the suspects is a Michael Jordan rookie card valued at $2,500, according to court documents.

2 charged in attempted carjacking

Two suspected car thieves tried to steal a vehicle from a stranger outside a north Spokane restaurant, police say.

 Bennie Lee Carson, 31, and Charles A. Nickens, 27, followed the man north on North Division Street and confronted him when he pulled into the McDonald's parking lot at Division and East Heroy Avenue about 7:15 a.m. on June 27, according to police.

The victim said one of the men reached into his waistband as he approached and made it appear as though he had a firearm. The other man told the victim “he liked his rims and wanted his keys so he could drive his car.”

Wright refused and “aggressively walked past” the men and into McDonald's, where he called police. A friend who was to meet the victim at the McDonald's that morning witnessed the incident an through the men were perhaps confronting him over a driving dispute.

The victim's friend is an Avista meter reader who said he considered using his “dog stick” meter reader to stop an assault should it occur, according to court documents.

Police found the car in the Shadle Park Wal-Mart later that day. One of the occupants said she got the car from a man named Bennie, “a car thief who steals and traffics in stolen vehicles,” police wrote.

Carson and Nickens were charged last week with second-degree robbery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle - police say they car they followed the victim in was stolen.

Carson also faces possession of stolen motor vehicle charges for cars found at his home at 2415 E. 1st Ave., where police believes he strips stolen vehicles, in June when police responded to a report that he was assaulting his girlfriend. The home also was the target of a SWAT team heroin bust in March.

Carson was arrested on car theft charges July 1. Nickens also was arrested last month and has been in jail since. Prosecutors filed charges for the attempted robbery on Aug. 2.

Sex offender wanted for failure to register

A sex offender with a history of not registering with authorities is wanted on a felony warrant again.

 Eric Paul Alger, 24, was convicted of indecent liberties in Spokane County in 2005.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to his arrest after he failed to register as required.

He has at least three past convictions for failing to register, including convictions in 2009 and 2010 when he was sent to prison.

Alger was named a Crime Stoppers fugitive for failing to register as a sex offender within two months of being released on April 19, 2010. He was sentenced in August 2010 to 20 months in prison.

A new, $25,000 warrant was issued July 31 after Alger again failed to register. He's required to check in with authorities weekly because he is a transient.

Anyone with information on his current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, or submit tips online here. Tipsters do not have to give their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Deputy injured responding to hoax report

Police continue to investigate a suspected hoax that led to a crash that injured a Spokane County sheriff's deputy early Friday.

Rustin Olson, 35, a six-year veteran, was responding to a report of a fight involving 20 people at South Pines Elementary School, 12021 E. 24th Ave., about 12:23 a.m.

The anonymous caller soon reported five additional participants. Olson and other deputies were responding with lights and sirens active because of the large number of people reportedly involved.

Olson was driving south on South Pines Road near East 7th Avenue when he struck a large piece of firewood that had been placed in the inside lane of the roadway. The wood was about 2 feet long and a foot in diameter. It became lodged underneath Olson's patrol car, causing him to lose control. The car ended up on its top n the southbound lanes of Pines Road.

Investigators found another large tree branch in the outside southbound lane of Pines Road near where the firewood had been placed. They also found a large, blue plastic Tupperware-type bin with a sign posted on it advertising a nearby garage sale. The bin, which was weighted down by several rocks, was located in the outside northbound lane a few hundred feet south of the wood.

Police found “absolutely nothing” at the school and believe the fight report is linked to the items placed in the roadway.

The plastic bin will be processed for fingerprints, and the anonymous caller's phone number will be traced.
Olson fractured vertebra in his spine and will be out of work for at least a week or two. He's been released from the hospital and is recovering at home.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

N. Idaho check theft suspects arrested

  A 28-year-old man and a 17-year-old runaway linked by police to check thefts in Coeur d'Alene are in custody.

Michael Graham Wilkins and Lacey Lynn Fugate were arrested at the Lake Drive Motel, 316 E. Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive, Friday about 6:30 p.m. after detectives received a tip that they were there, Coeur d'Alene police said today.

Police found property purchased with stolen credit cards and checks in the motel room, including a printer and package of blank checks purchased online.

Officers arrested Wilkins and Fugate on warrants out of Douglas County, Oregon, where Roseburg is.

They face new charges of grand theft and burglary in Kootenai County.

Taco truck protestor gets 7 years for guns

A Whitman County man who bragged about being involved with racist taco-truck protests in Kootenai County has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison for unlawful gun possession.

Jeremiah Daniel “J.D.” Hop's lawyer, Roger Peven, asked for him to receive between 15 and 21 months in prison, according to court documents, but U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley rejected that request on Wednesday.

Hop, 31, is to be on probation for three years after his release.

Hop was arrested during an FBI investigation April 20, 2011, for allegedly possessing an Izhmash 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun on March 25.

His brother, Michael Hop, said he was set up by an FBI informant who supplied the shotgun after suggesting they go shooting.

Federal agents searched his home in Pullman on April 20 and seized that shotgun, then searched a property in Colton and seized four rifles, a shotgun and more than 150 rounds of ammunition.

Authorities say Hop had talked of targeting abortion clinics.

Hop was convicted in California of third-degree rape of a child in 2005, a felony that prohibits him from possessing firearms or ammunition. The conviction stemmed from a consensual relationship with a girl who was 14 when she first met Hop. She wrote a letter that urged Whaley to keep him out of jail.

“I strongly believe he is NOT a danger to society,” the woman, now 23, wrote. “At the time I was being physically and mentally abused, he was my lifesaver.”

Other friends and family wrote letters supporting Hop, including the mother of his 6-year-old son.

Video shows North Idaho police shooting

Two Post Falls police officers were justified when they shot a fugitive to death in March during a chase that ended in a cul-de-sac in Hayden, authorities concluded last week.

Video from a police cruiser’s dashboard camera released Friday shows Justin Earl Nicholas Todd, 33, strike Idaho State Police Cpl. Michael Thomas Keys with a car before Keys and Post Falls police Officers Aaron Ogle and Bradley Johnson opened fire.

Todd, who died at the scene, was shot 10 times. Johnson fired 16 shots, Ogle fired one and Keys three.

Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall concluded this week that no criminal charges will be filed because the officers’ use of force was lawful.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

April 4: Video questions account of shooting

March 12: Man killed by Post Fall police identified

Ex-social worker pleads guilty to child porn

A man who once licensed foster care homes for the state pleaded guilty Friday to two federal counts of distribution of child pornography.

Darrell J. Rogers, who was 51 when he was arrested in April, was indicted following a search of his home in the 7100 block of North Westgate Place in the Indian Trail neighborhood of Spokane.

Rogers admitted using Internet file sharing programs to obtain the pornography, including images of children as young as months old, and denied that he ever inappropriately touched children.

His attorney Matthew Campbell and Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks agreed on a sentencing recommendation of five years in federal prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush set the sentencing for Nov. 13 at 10 a.m.

Hicks said the material federal agents downloaded from Rogers is some of the worst he's encountered in his 36 years of practicing law.

Man gets motorcycle back after 37 years

Don Arndt never thought he'd see his Honda XL 250 motorcycle again after it was stolen from the backyard of his house in 1975 when Arndt was 25. Now 62, he received a call from the Washington State Patrol Thursday that his bike had been recovered. (SRPhoto/Colin Mulvany)

When Don Arndt’s motorcycle was stolen from the backyard of his old Spokane Valley home in 1975, he quickly lost hope of ever seeing it, but he never gave up his endorsement to ride.

He hasn’t been on a bike since, but he’d recently been thinking about buying a new one and rekindling an old hobby. Now an unexpected reunion has put Arndt in the driver’s seat sooner than expected. And it’s a familiar one.

Read the rest of my story here.

Edwards arrestee appeals sentence

A Spokane methamphetamine dealer ordered to spend 15 years in federal prison is trying to get his sentence overturned, in part because it was investigated by a now-fired Spokane police officer.

David Brian Hill’s request is the latest twist in an investigation into potentially questionable partnerships between Spokane County law enforcement officers and local bail bondsmen and bounty hunters.

The investigation restarted earlier this year, and two Washington State Patrol employees, Dave Bolton and Jeff Thoet, spent six weeks on paid leave amid possible criminal allegations. The two returned to work late last month, but the investigation into their work with unlicensed bounty hunter Dennis Kariores is ongoing.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Jan 29: Officer's ruse with bounty hunter, fugitive led to suspension

Tattoo could help track mail theft suspect

   A 28-year-old Coeur d'Alene man and a 17-year-old runaway from Oregon are suspected of stealing checks from mailboxes in the Lake City.

Michael Graham Wilkins and Lacey Lynn Fugate are suspected of stealing two checks from a business' mailbox in the 100 block of East Locust Avenue around July 28, police said Thursday.

Police released their photos Thursday, along with a photo of an tattoo on Wilkins' right arm.

Wilkins is accused of adding his name to the checks and cashing them at Safeway.

An employee told police he cashes checks there recently.

A warrant has been issued for Wilkins' arrest. Fugate is a runaway from Douglas County, Oregon.

Anyone with information on their location is asked to call the Coeur d'Alene Police Department at (208) 769-2320.

Tips sought on CdA car prowlers

Thieves stole a a credit card from a car near Sanders Beach in Coeur d'Alene last week, then used it to rack up $185 in charges at Walgreens.

Surveillance photos from Walgreens released on Thursday show a man and two women, and police are looking for tips on their identities.

A photo of their vehicle also is included.  The victim told police he'd left his wallet in his unlocked car in the 900 block of East Young Avenue on July 26.

The vehicle was secure between midnight and 4 a.m. That's when the owner got a call from Citi Bank reporting fraudulent activity on his credit card and discovered his car had been prowled.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Coeur d'Alene Police Department at (208) 769-2320.

Hospital denies surgical scars say KKK

By KRISTI EATON,Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A lawyer for a Rapid City-area hospital being sued by a blind man who says the letters KKK were carved into his stomach during surgery said the accusations were contrived by other people and that every scar “is explained by the medical procedures that he underwent to save his life,” according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Vern Traversie, a 69-year-old Lakota man living on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, filed a federal lawsuit last month against Rapid City Regional Hospital, its board of directors, several physicians and others. He claims he was left with scars on his abdomen in the shape of the three letters following heart surgery last year.

YouTube videos featuring Traversie
went viral in Native American communities earlier this year. In them, Traversie talks about being mistreated at the hospital and shows his abdomen. Although he is blind, Traversie said he was told by others that the scars form the letters.

A May rally in support of Traversie drew hundreds of people, many of whom said his story exemplifies the racism that Native Americans experience in Rapid City. But others said they couldn't make out the letters, including police who investigated his allegations. No criminal charges were filed.

The defendants in the lawsuit said there is no medical evidence to suggest that anyone burned or cut letters into Traversie.

“Every mark on Plaintiff's abdomen is explained by the medical procedures that he underwent to save his life,” Jeffrey Hurd, one of the defendant's lawyers, wrote in response to the lawsuit. “Indeed, the allegations of a 'KKK' scar were apparently created by a group of unqualified people in Plaintiff's home town, who simply discussed why Plaintiff had certain surgical scars.”

The lawyer noted that the people who told Traversie about his scars considered several possibilities, including a single “K,” a bite mark, the word “oink,” or four “K''s, before settling on the three-letter acronym.

“After reaching this decision through speculation and conjecture, and with no attempt to consult with Plaintiff's healthcare providers … they told Plaintiff that he had been victimized,” Hurd wrote.

The hospital also refutes claims that Traversie was denied pain medication, and noted that he was told to have a home health nurse inspect and care for the incisional wounds after he got home.

Reached by phone at his home Wednesday, Traversie said he could not comment on the case and referred questions to his pastor, Ben Farrar, who is acting as his spokesman. Farrar said he wasn't aware of Wednesday's filing but that he expected the hospital to deny the claims.

Farrar said heart surgery patients can expect to be left with a vertical scar down the sternum and a few horizontal scars where drainage tubes would be inserted — as can be seen in photos of Traversie.

“What we cannot expect is haphazard slashes all over the abdomen as well as some cuts that seem to form letters of the alphabet. This is not what can be considered normal,” Farrar said, adding that Traversie and his attorney will decide what action to take next.

Woman tries to break into Ohio jail

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) — Police in southwest Ohio are perplexed about why a woman tried to sneak into a county jail before telling authorities to arrest her.

 Deputies with the Butler County Sheriff's Office arrested 36-year-old Tiffany R. Hurd on Sunday morning after she was caught trying to climb over a fence into Butler County Jail in Hamilton, near Cincinnati. It happened after jail staff leaving a late-night shift told Hurd to leave the property, but she told them to arrest her.

“She was repeatedly told to stop,” Sgt. Monte Mayer said. “They couldn't talk her out of it.”

Deputies asked Hurd to leave numerous times, but she refused and attempted to climb the fence again. That's when police took action.

“She got her wish,” Mayer said. “It wasn't in a traditional manner.”

Deputies say Hurd appeared to be intoxicated. In a statement about the incident, Sheriff Richard Jones said Hurd's actions caught him by surprise.

“I know the economy is bad right now, but I didn't think it was so bad that someone would actually try to break IN to jail,” he said.

Mayer said his colleagues had never heard of such a situation.

“To the best of our knowledge, we have never heard of someone trying to break into a secure area of the jail compound, hoping to get into jail,” he said. “That's a first.”

Hurd was arrested on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct. Bond was set at $2,500 during an arraignment Monday.

Hurd remains at the county jail. She has another court appearance scheduled Aug. 9. An attorney listed for Hurd did not immediately return a message Monday seeking comment.

Puerto Rico mayor camps on streets

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The mayor of Puerto Rico's capital says he will sleep aboard a bus on the streets of San Juan to prove they are safe.

Jorge Santini said Thursday that he and his family will spend several nights on a bus parked in different neighborhoods. He also plans to cook a typical rice-and-beans dish for residents of those communities as part of his re-election campaign.

Santini said he wants to prove that crime has not taken over San Juan, though many of the island's 1,117 homicides last year occurred in the metropolitan area.

Santini spokesman Ramon Alejandro Pabon did not respond to requests for more details.

Santini is known for occasional quirky acts. He recently sent out a holiday postcard that featured his family along with a taxidermied leopard sinking its teeth into an antelope.

Santini said his wife and three children also will participate in the sleepover.

Santini has been mayor since January 2001 and faces a challenge from local Rep. Carmen Yulin Cruz in the November elections.

3 burglary suspects arrested in Valley

Three burglary suspects were arrested today during searches at two homes in Spokane Valley.

Marina Florianovich, 24, Vyacheslav Znovets, 20, and Michael Mendez, 20, are accused of burglaries between June 23 and July 30 that netted thousands of dollars of jewelry, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Valley property crimes detectives arrested the suspects while searching homes in the 3500 block of South Woodward Road and the 100 block of North Walnut Road.
  

SpokaneSucks.com linked to Post Falls

A new website emerged today that questions the safety of the City of Spokane and the staffing levels of the Spokane Police Department.

Fliers advertising SpokaneSucks.com appeared this morning throughout the city.

 The website is linked to Jared Bartlett, 28, of Post Falls. Bartlett, a former Gonzaga University student, has not yet responded to requests from The Spokesman-Review for comment.

The website's creator paid to keep his or her name off registration information, but Bartlett's name, age and town of residence are included in the site's coding.

Bartlett is a poker player who's active on poker websites. He posted on a site's “off topic” discussion board Tuesday and asked “if it is possible to buy a domain name and not have other people know you own it?”

“…I am going to make this site quit contraversal and would prefer if no one else would be able to figure it out,” Bartlett wrote. “That includes the local media.”

Bartlett wrote Wednesday that he plans to create a political action committee, along with the website. “I'm SICK and TIRED of the…crime in spokane (the city I used to live in, and own my rental property in),” the post reads.

Related:

Dec. 11: Violent crime up, property crime down in Spokane County

Neglected animals include duck, sheep

A woman has been charged with felony animal cruelty after emaciated animals, including a duck, were seized from her property near Long Lake in April.

Sigrid Birgitta Winney, 63, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday and is scheduled for trial on Oct. 22.

SCRAPS Animal Protection Officer Darlene Brumley responded to complain of five goats with no foot or water at Winney's property at 29116 W. Long Lake Road on April 9.

A confidential informant showed Brumley another property at 15857 N. Coyote Ridge Road where six goats were being kept without food and water, and two dogs were tethered to a tree. Officer Francisca Rapier spoke with Winney on April 11, and Winney said she felt terrible when she realized the terrible condition “of the goats and pregnant sheep,” according to court documents.

Winney said “she had not actually put her hands on the animals over the winter, as she had been feeding in the dark at night,” according to court documents. Officers also observed about 10 cats living in filth. Some of the animals had to be euthanized.

Winney is charged with first-degree animal cruelty, second-degree animal cruelty, confining animals in an unsafe manner and operating a dog kennel without a license.
  

Home-invasion robber gets 10 years

A robber who fled a north Spokane home after being struck with a sword has been sentenced to nearly 11 years in prison.

Nathan T. McDaniels, 28, alias Gardner, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary and two counts of first-degree robbery and was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt to 129 months, according to court records.

McDaniels was arrested in May for a robbery  in the 9600 block of North Alpine Court, as was Nathan W. Day, 21.

Joshua Clint Epperson, 32, a level 3 sex offender, was arrested later in May. Erik J. Zacher, 26, was arrested in July.

The men are accused of entering the home about 2:45 a.m. on May 2, binding residents with zip ties and pistol whipping. The attackers asked about a safe and stolen several items. Police found a stolen Wii console and baggies of methamphetamine when they arrested Day at a home in the 900 block of East Wabash Avenue. They say he had a stolen handgun with him that may have been used in the robberies.

One resident told police four men knocked on the door and he let McDaniels in to use the bathroom. One of the men asked him if he wanted to smoke meth, and the man said he walked the men downstairs to wake up his girlfriend. That's when Day displayed the gun and the man was bound with zip ties as others stole items from the home, court documents say.

Reward targets fugitive sex offender

A sex offender wanted since January for failing to register with authorities is being sought by Crime Stoppers.

A reward is available for information that leads to the arrest of Jack Edward Johannbroer, 47, who was convicted of first-degree child molestation in 1993 in Spokane County.

Johannbroer is a level 1 sex offender, which is the classification considered least likely to reoffend. A $15,000 warrant was issued Jan. 30 in Spokane County Superior Court for failing to register as a sex offender.

He's been wanted for the crime before. In 2009, “Washington's Most Wanted” featured him and said he'd served more than four years in prison for molesting two girls in Spokane County, for which he was convicted of child molestation.

“Then in 2007, while living in Kennewick, a jury convicted him of beating his girlfriend and choking her until she passed out,” the TV show reported. “He only got probation for that crime.”

Anyone with information on Johannbroer's current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, or submit tips online here.

Tipsers do not have to give their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Shoddy DNA work delays sentencing

A Spokane County judge on Wednesday postponed the sentencing of a man convicted almost exclusively on DNA evidence after defense attorneys learned that tests identifying their client as the killer had been done by a crime lab technician who later was fired.

The technician’s work was so deficient that a co-worker described it as a “nightmare,” and an internal report said it could “not be trusted.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

July 27: Convicted killer to get new trial

Police chief candidates down to two

Mayor David Condon said Wednesday that he is “very confident” one of two remaining finalists will be the next Spokane police chief, despite a law enforcement panel’s recommendation that he restart the search.

Either Daniel Mahoney, the commanding officer of the Ingleside Police Station within the San Francisco Police Department, or Frank Straub, director of public safety in Indianapolis, will be the city’s next top cop.

Read the rest of my story here.

July 26: Read a summary of the candidates' interviews last week here.

Monkey smuggler killed in car crash

Gypsy Lawson stands on her porch and talks in March 2008 about her federal indictment after authorities accused her of smuggling a rhesus macacque into the U.S. following a trip to Asia. (SRphoto/Jesse Tinsley)

A woman who smuggled a monkey from Thailand to Spokane in 2007 died when her pickup truck went off the road four miles south of Northport, authorities said Wednesday.

Gypsy R. Lawson, 31, of Northport, was driving south on state Route 25 possibly around midnight, when her 1986 Nissan pickup went off the road to the right in a left-hand curve, the Washington State Patrol reported.

Lawson and her mother were convicted by a federal jury in December 2008 of smuggling an exotic monkey into the United States.

Read the rest of my story here.

Court overturns Idaho man’s convictions

BOISE - A Kootenai County man has been cleared of three felony charges, after the Idaho Court of Appeals ruled a jury didn’t have sufficient evidence to conclude he had a gun when he angrily confronted friends of his ex-girlfriend in 2010 after vandalizing their home.

David Loren Curry was convicted of burglary, aggravated assault and unlawful possession of a firearm, with a sentence enhancement added for being a persistent violator; the burglary charge was based on the argument that he entered a garage with the intent of threatening the occupants with a deadly weapon.

Read the rest of Betsy Z. Russell's story here.

Jury: Man groped Moody bible student

A man who sexually assaulted a 19-year-old Moody Bible Institute student at Mission Park in March has been convicted of a sex offense.

A Spokane County jury deliberated for about an hour and a half Tuesday before convicting John L. Sanders of indecent liberties.

Sanders faces five years to life in prison when he's sentenced Sept. 11, said Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Johnson. Intern Amanda Tufts served as co-counsel with Johnson.

Sanders, 41, will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Sanders, who was represented by public defender John Whaley, was arrested March 16 after a bible school student told police she'd walked to the park to relieve stress and saw someone trying to get her attention. She was not wearing glasses and “assumed it was someone from her acting class or her church,” according to court documents.

When she realized she didn't know the man, the woman said “she felt she might have an opportunity to minister” to him, according to documents.

Sanders then touched her breast and asked her to smoke marijuana with him, she told police. The woman tried to leave, but Sanders kissed her on the lips, grabbed her and made inappropriate comments and noises.

Two female officers arrested Sanders and say he repeatedly made kissing sounds at them and asked them have sex with him.

Police say Sanders was arrested for a similar incident in downtown Spokane in August 2011 for which he pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault. Sanders also has three convictions for second-degree theft.

Superior Court Judge Kathleen O'Connor presided over Sanders' trial this week.

Chinese exports case lands in Spokane

A Canadian man suspected of sending United States defense materials to China is in jail in Spokane.

Kevin Zhang, alias Zhao Wei Zhang, 41, was arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol near Metaline Falls on Monday. He’d been wanted since January 2011 on a sealed warrant in federal court in San Diego that accuses him of conspiring to send devices used in tactical missiles and drones to the Chinese.

The charge of conspiracy to export defense articles without a license accuses Zhang, who is a naturalized Canadian citizen living in Calgary, of finding U.S. citizens to legally purchase gyroscopes and send them to China or send them to Canada, where they would then be shipped to China. Zhang has family in China, according to court documents.

Gyroscopes are classified defense materials, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of State. Though available for purchase in the U.S., shipping the material abroad requires a license. U.S. policy prohibits exports of such materials to China.

Investigators say Zhang contacted a man in San Diego on April 6, 2010, and discussed purchasing Gyroscopes “at a premium price for the purpose of circumventing United States export laws and illegally shipping the Gyroscopes to China,” according to court documents.

Zhang also emailed an unnamed co-conspirator and client in China the next day and instructed him to find an export/import agent who does not “play by the rules” to help them get the Gyroscopes into China, the indictment alleges.

Zhang sent another email to the man in San Diego on May 25, 2010, suggesting that he find someone to smuggle the Gyroscopes on an airliner. An agreement was finalized on Oct. 1, 2010, for Zhang to ship three Gyroscopes to China in exchange for $21,000, according to the indictment.

A federal grand jury in Southern California indicted Zhang on Jan. 14, 2011.

He was booked into jail Tuesday about 8:20 p.m. and ordered to stay there to await transportation to California after he appeared Tuesday before U.S. District Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno.

Court documents say Zhang faces a maximum of 5 years in prison if convicted.

Hospital staff: Crash suspect faked it

Spokane police Officer Teresa Fuller rewards crash victim Danika Packard with a free ice cream coupon for wearing her bicycle helmet. (SPD photo)

A former Gonzaga Law School student pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a hit-and-run crash that police say could have killed a 2-year-old girl had she not been wearing a helmet.

Timmy Ngoc Nguyen, 22, is out of jail awaiting trial for charges of vehicular assault and hit and run.
Nguyen is accused of driving his 2003 Honda Element drunk and striking a family riding bicycles on East Maringo Drive.

He was taken to a hospital to get a blood sample and was unresponsive, but staff told deputies they believed “Nguyen had been faking his unresponsiveness,” according to court documents.
“Security had to hold him down to re-secure his restraints,” according to court documents. “Nguyen lunged toward security with his head and tried to bite them. Nguyen was very belligerent, uncooperative, and hostile towards everyone at the hospital.

Witnesses said Nguyen turned westbound onto Maringo from North Argonne Road but entered the eastbound lanes and hit a bicycle trailer carrying Danika Packard.

A witness followed Nguyen back to the Pasadena apartment complex at East Wellesley Avenue and North Pasadena Lane, where he was arrested. Nguyen was at a party there before he left in his Honda and struck the family, police say.

Deputies say Nguyen vomited in the back of the patrol car and appeared extremely intoxicated. He refused to talk to police about what happened but repeatedly asked if he was arrested and told them he was a law student, according to court documents. ”

Nguyen asked sheriff's Deputy Nathan Bohanek if he was going home after they left the hospital. Bohanek said no.

“He told Nguyen he ran over a 2-year-old kid and could have killed them,” documents say. “Nguyen was not responsive to that.”

Police seized Nguyen's Honda and noticed damage consistent with the crash.

Nguyen had been interning for Spokane lawyer Mark Vovos.

Nguyen's trial was scheduled Tuesday for Oct. 22, but that is likely to be postponed.

Pepper-spray attack suspect leaves jail

A Spokane woman accused of attacking an elderly woman with pepper spray in a North Side parking lot is out of jail on $2,000 bail.

Sherri L. Bester, alias Schlosser, 49, is accused of third-degree assault for an incident outside Home Depot, 9116 N. Newport Highway Sunday about 4 p.m.

Witnesses told Spokane police the attack was awful and unprovoked. “She was in so much pain,” according to court documents.

The victim told police Bester confronted her and called her husband a “jackass” for the way he parked. The woman told Bester “not to talk to her husband that way and that he is 82 years old.”

Bester told the couple they should not have their drivers license, then pepper sprayed the woman as the woman turned to walk into the store. The woman was temporarily blinded by the pepper spray and an extreme pain.

Police contacted Bester at her home about  8:15 p.m. Bester told an officer the woman “was asking for it” and that she used the pepper spray in self defense. Bester said the woman started it by the way her husband parked, according to court documents.

Bester, who has no serious criminal record, is to be arraigned Aug. 8. She left jail on Monday after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court.

Gun thief gets more time than murderer

A Stevens County judge on Tuesday sentenced a convicted gun thief to 125 years in prison — a term that’s about 100 years longer than the sentences handed down to three others for a murder committed using one of the stolen guns.

Superior Court Judge Pat Monasmith sentenced convicted felon Christopher G. Nichols, 27, to 125 years in prison, despite the fact that he had no role in the 2011 killing of Colville resident Gordon Feist.

Nichols wept, Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

March 8, 2012: 2 men get 25+ years in Colville murder

Sept. 26: Two more charged in Stevens County homcide

Aug. 2: Murder suspect may claim insanity

July 21: Police think botched theft led to murder near Colville

July 20: Slaying near Colville baffles neighbors

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