Posts tagged: car accidents
A Spokane police officer who hit and killed an intoxicated pedestrian in his patrol car in January was typing a message into his onboard computer just before the crash.
Officer Gordon Ennis (left) told investigators he sent the message to another officer just before he struck John A. Van Curler (right) at West Montgomery Avenue while southbound on North Monroe Street on Jan. 30.
That detail was released publicly for the first time in a report this month from Spokane police Ombudsman Tim Burns, who concluded that inattentive driving was a factor in the tragedy but agreed with prosecutors that no charges against Ennis were warranted.
Prosecutors were aware of the text message when evaluating the case.
Burns called the crash “just one of those regrettable situations.”
“This officer’s going to have to live with that the rest of his life as well, and that’s a hard thing to live with, I suspect,” Burns said.
Past coverage: Feb. 12: Vehicular homicide standards high
For a vehicular homicide charge to be filed against a Spokane police officer who hit and killed a pedestrian last month, investigators must show that he was intoxicated, driving recklessly or driving with a flagrant disregard for the safety of others, according to Washington law.
Authorities said this week that Officer Gordon Ennis, an eight-year veteran, was driving between 34 mph and 39 mph in a 30 mph zone without his emergency lights and siren on when he struck John A. Van Curler, 52, at Monroe Street and Montgomery Avenue on Jan. 30.
Toxicology results from a blood-alcohol sample submitted by Ennis are pending.
High speed can be a factor in vehicular homicide charging decisions, but Ennis was driving just slightly over the speed limit.
“Is 34 to 39 driving down Monroe a willful or wanton disregard for life? No. That’s the average speed on Monroe,” said Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Dave Thornburg, who is investigating the incident with a team from the Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Police Department and Washington State Patrol. “It’s not that I’m a fellow officer and I want to protect him. If we had probable cause that night, we would have made an arrest.”
On June 10, a pizza delivery driver who was slightly speeding ran a stop sign and crashed into another vehicle, killing a 9-year-girl; the driver received a $500 ticket for negligent driving.
The Spokane police officer involved in fatal collision with a pedestrian Sunday is scheduled to return to full patrol duty.
The officer, identified Wednesday as Gordon Ennis, an eight-year veteran, has been interviewed by investigators and is scheduled to return to full patrol duty. He provided a blood sample the night of the crash, which killed John A. Van Curler, 52.
Investigators have not said if Ennis was driving with his lights or siren on, or at what speed, when he hit Van Curler at or near the intersection of North Monroe Street and West Montgomery Avenue about 10:30 p.m.
Ennis was responding to a report of trouble unknown at a home on West Spofford Avenue.
Van Curler (left) was born in Spokane and graduated from Shadle Park High School. He worked for years at Inland Empire Plating and had recently been living with his stepmother and collecting cans to exchange for cash, family said.
His brother, Jdon Van Curler, said the man battled alcoholism.
“Our heart goes out to the officer that was involved, because it obviously was not intentional or malicious,” Van Curler said. “It’s a terrible tragedy.”
The case is being handled by a team of investigators from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Police Department and the Washington State Patrol.