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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Otto Zeh

Oreskovich calls prosecution ‘vicious’

Karl F. Thompson Jr. arrives with his legal team, including Carl Oreskovich, far left, at the William O. Douglas Federal Building on Wednesday in Yakima.

Carl Oreskovich, a longtime defense lawyer representing Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson, told Judge Fred Van Sickle outside the presence of the jury that the prosecution of his client is the most vicious he's seen.

 That was after Oreskovich told jurors in his opening statement that this case is about that split second decision that a police officer has to make when apprehending a suspect “and protecting citizens like you and me.”

The “cruel irony” of the case is that the same quick decision making that brought him to the courtroom is “exactly the same quick-decision making” he used when he stopped a suicidal man from jumping from the Monroe Street Bridge and won the police department's lief-saving award, Oreskovich told jurors.

“It's not a case of 20/20 hindsight,” Oreskovch said, calling Thompson a “very good police officer” who left his lunch break to catch a fleeing criminal suspect. Thompson will testify, Oreskovich said.

“Police officers, particularly patrol officers, deal with risks on a daily basis,” including potential threats to their own well being, not just that of others, Oreskovich said.

He told jurors how Thompson was drafted by his coworkers for police chief (which went to Anne Kirkpatrick in 2006) and is well trained and experienced.

Thompson has the “training and experience of a man who's been shot at, who's had partners stabbed.”

“Being a good, responsible police officer,” Thompson looked at the dispatch report when he heard a report of a fleeing suspect who scared girls at an ATM, Oreskovich said.

Thompson realized that he was close by to the suspect and asked a confirming question to dispatch - “he took her money?” when he spotted Zehm in the Zip Trip.

“A police officer has a right to use force,” Oreskovich says. Police have tools, and they have a certain amount of time to be proactive.

“He observed that there were citizens, including two young girls inside the store at the counter,” Oreskovich said.

Oreskovich says surveillance video “doesn't give us all we need to have” because it doesn't show entire interaction, which Oreskovich described as violent.

“Thompson made very quick decisions, very quick commands, and when Mr. Zehm didn't drop the pop bottle” he struck him with baton, Oreskovich said.

Oreskovich told jurors that Thompson relied on his memory in interviews about the violent encounter.
“Unfortunately, he got some things out of order” in his story, Oreskovich said of Thompson. “Now he gets called a liar.

“This will be a long trial. I think in the end, the evidence will show this police officer was not acting in a bad purpose, but with the purpose he was charged with: to investigate and protect citizens. This honorable man is innocent of these crimes.”

Spokane police prepare for busy time

It's going to be a big few months for the Spokane Police Department.

With pending leadership changes and the federal trial of Officer Karl F. Thompson for the death of Otto Zehm set to begin next week, the department is preparing for a stressful time, as Capt. Frank Scalise said in the latest employee newsletter.

Scalise (pictured) said police are used to dealing with unpredictable change, “but the control part creates a little anxiety or frustration,” he said. “Critical incidents, whatever our involvement, add to this,” Scalise wrote. “Media coverage, particularly if not entirely favorable or even accurate, compounds this further.”

Scalise offers this advice to navigate what he calls “these sometimes treacherous waters of change.”

“I would offer you two things to remember. One is that you are involved in an extraordinarily difficult, honorable profession. Take pride in that. You’re part of the SPD. You’re part of your individual team within the SPD. I know the good work you’re doing, and so do you. Be proud,” Scalise wrote. “Secondly, remember what we can control – how we treat each other. This is true at all times, but even more so when we get into difficult times. We are likely facing such a time over the next six months – legal events, media coverage, and leadership change. Any of these events would be a big change all by itself, much less all at once. At these times, we need to pull together as a family. Treat each other well. Look out for each other. Because no matter what else changes, we know we can count on each other.”

The entire newsletter is available in PDF format here.

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