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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Richard Gill

Behavior expert testifies in Zehm case

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An expert on human behavior and reaction time testified today that Otto Zehm had no opportunity to see Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson until he was about 10 to 12 feet away.

By then, Thompson had already pulled his baton, said Dr. Richard Gill. “His speed was 7.5 feet per second. Three times the speed that Zehm was traveling at,” Gill said.

Gill went through surveillance of the video frame by frame for jurors in the trial's fourth day of testimony.

He said Zehm entered the store at a casual pace of 2.5 feet per second - the average walking speed is 3.5 feet - and has his back toward Thompson as he approaches the aisle, where he grabbed a 2-liter plastic bottle of diet Pepsi.

“Watch his hair and his head and you'll see at no point is he looking back at the direction Thompson is coming,” Gill said.

Gill said Zehm “maintained a slow, calm walking speed” inside and outside store, bypassed two exits once inside and didn't attract attention when he entered like Thompson (pictured right) did.

Gill said the video disputes Thompson's statement that Zehm approached him.

Once Zehm sees Thompson, “Thompson is continuing to move forward. Zehm is continuing to move backward,” Gill said.

Thompson said he ordered Zehm to drop it after stopping and making eye contact. But Gill says video shows Thompson continuously moving.

“Notice Thompson never stops moving,” Gill said. “…There's never a time that he stops.”

Gill said the first baton strike was delivered after about 2.4 seconds.

“In my opinion there is not sufficient time for that verbal exchange to occur,” Gill said.

Gill told jurors he believes Thompson's hand somewhere within a specific video frame not because he definitely sees it, but because of how the hand is positioned in the frames before and after.

Defense lawyers have said that it was really a car headlight, but Gill said he considered the passing headlight when analyzing the video.

In cross examination, Carl Oreskovich (pictured left in a file photo) emphasized that the video doesn't show Officer Steve Braun's deployment of a Taser. Gill said Thompson was “very clearly” seen using a Taser.

“What we don't see is what Otto Zehm is doing, correct?” Oreskovich said.

“The only thing that we can conclude from that is Mr. Otto Zehm is not standing up with his head over the shelving,” Oreskovich said. “You don't know whether he's in crouch manner under the shelves.”

Gill acknowledged so.

Oreskovich replayed video frames of Zehm walking in to try to show jurors that Zehm could have seen Thompson coming. Oreskovich also said the video shows Zehm's feet moving and Thompson moving away, but

Gill said Thompson didn't appear to be moving back because of a kick.

Gill said Zehm's fists can be seen in the air in two frames.

Oreskovich: “What we see is a free left fist no longer being held by Officer Thompson.”

Gill: “That is correct.

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