Sirens & Gavels

Police guild "circled the wagons" after Zehm

Jeff Harvey of the Spokane Police Department (Spokane Police Department)
Jeff Harvey of the Spokane Police Department (Spokane Police Department)

   In addition to revelations that Spokane Police detectives were feeding information about the Zehm investigation to Officer Karl F. Thompson, Jr., the grand jury testimony of Detective Jeff Harvey had several other insights into how the Spokane Police handled the case.

   Harvey was a vice president of the Spokane Police Guild when he was subpoenaed to testify in March 2009 before the grand jury investigating the March 18, 2006, beating of mentally disabled Otto Zehm, who later died from the incident.

   Harvey testified that he spoke with a forensics employee who had spoken to Detective Mark Burbridge, who investigated the Zehm confrontation along with former Detective Terry Ferguson.

   Burbridge showed the forensics employee a video of the Zehm confrontation and Burbridge “had drawn the conclusion that it appeared that the officers were following policy and procedure,” Durkin said, reading Harvey’s notes.

   Harvey also testified about a call he took on March 18, 2006, from Sgt. Dan Torok, who was one of several officers who responded to Thompson’s call for help in restraining Zehm.

   Harvey said Torok “had concerns that detectives were not following our critical incident protocol. They were asking way too many questions of the officers at the time of the incident.”

Harvey said the officers believed they should be given 48 hours before answering questions about the Zehm confrontation.

   Torok and other officers indicated that they wanted an attorney at the same time Spokane Police officials were telling the public that Zehm “attacked” and “lunged” at Thompson, who used the least amount of force necessary to subdue Zehm.

   Harvey’s notes show that he spoke to Ernie Wuthrich, the current guild president, at about 1 a.m. on the night of the incident.

   Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin asked Harvey about a reference in his notes about setting something up for Tuesday after the Zehm confrontation.

   “Tuesday morning we were going to circle the wagons, so to speak, get things together and figure out what’s going on,” Harvey said.

   Tuesday would have been three days after the confrontation, which is when Officer Jason Uberuaga told the same grand jury that several officers were called into a room with a union attorney to fill out their incident reports about the Zehm confrontation.

Read that story here.

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Thomas Clouse
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