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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Spokane Police Department

Spokane Police body cameras demonstrated for media

The Spokane Police Department ran several members of the media through its VirTra virtual training system Friday to demonstrate the fidelity of its chest-mounted cameras currently in use by 17 officers in a pilot program.

The video below was captured by a camera worn by this reporter while completing one of several use-of-force training scenarios at the Spokane police training facility.

In the clip, four teenagers are playing with airsoft weapons when a fifth approaches, armed with a real gun, and fires on officers. The scenario is interactive and responds to voice commands from the participant.

Training instructors used the video to illustrate the imperfections of the technology.

“What these video cameras are recording, and what you're going to see, is still not what the officer sees, and what he feels, and what he hears, and what he's experiencing while he's at the scene,” Lt. Kevin King said to assembled media Friday. “It's very different.”

Police said they've stitched pockets into their jumpsuits to keep the cameras steady during lateral movement.

The body cameras are always filming. When they are switched on, 30 seconds of video prior to the camera's activation is recorded. Sound capturing begins immediately after the camera is turned on. Once the camera is on, it beeps every two minutes to alert the officer filming is taking place.

Sound begins 30 seconds into the above video. Technical issues delay the beginning of the training video, which starts around 2:20.

It should be noted: YouTube asked if I wanted to stabilize the video before uploading it because it's shaky.

Felon chucks allegedly stolen firearm in chase

A 26-year-old Spokane man with multiple felony convictions tossed a .45 handgun believed to have been stolen during a chase through a residential neighborhood Friday, according to court documents filed this week.

Joshua V. Fowler was booked into Spokane County Jail just after 4:30 p.m. Friday facing charges of attempting to elude police and unlawful possession of a firearm. A Spokane police officer, who said he recognized Fowler from multiple interactions, attempted to pull the 26-year-old over on suspicions he was driving with a suspended license.

“(Fowler) is as familiar with me and my Police Impala as I am with him,” the officer wrote in his report.

Fowler fled, according to the officer's statement, leading him on a car chase through an apartment complex parking lot, reaching speeds of 45 miles per hour. Fowler eventually left the car and reached for his waist, according to court documents. He was arrested nearby without incident.

The officer found the handgun and some ammunition in a bush nearby. The gun is believed to have been stolen in a residential burglary, according to court documents.

Fowler has three forgery convictions and a conviction for eluding police. Spokane Superior Court Judge Linda Tompkins set his bail at $5,000 on Monday. He remains in custody.

WSU professor, Spokane Police featured in CNN segment on crisis intervention research

A Washington State University professor of criminal justice and the Spokane Police Department have been featured on CNN for their collaboration on research into the physical and emotional responses of law enforcement in crisis situations.

As part of its “AC360” program hosted by Anderson Cooper, reporter Gary Tuchman visited a police confrontations lab run by students at WSU Spokane. Volunteers, including members of the Spokane Police Department, are placed in a virtual reality situation involving dramatizations of real-life confrontations, and their heart rate, brain waves and other vital signs are monitored as they make decisions about use of force.

You can watch the segment in its entirety below:



Professor Bryan Vila says the experiments are designed to determine the effect of training on decisions to use force in real-time.

“We still don't know if there's a connection between the training we give police officers and their performance in a combat situation,” Vila says in the clip.

The CNN report was filed as part of its coverage into the shooting death of an unarmed teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Spokane police highlight their involvement in the project as part of their ongoing efforts to train officers in crisis intervention, part of a settlement reached with the department in the wake of the death of Otto Zehm at the hands of former Spokane police officer Karl Thompson in 2006. Police have also turned to the classroom to practice and evaluate their techniques of crisis de-escalation.

Police want ‘chronic offender’ to stay in jail

A Spokane police officer who monitors “chronic offenders” asked a judge this week to help keep a man considered one of the city’s most prolific burglars in jail by setting bail high.

Zachory J. Davis, 22, was arrested Wednesday on a charge of possession of a controlled substance after he was pulled over for driving erratically. Davis was already facing six charges of residential burglary in addition to charges of trafficking in stolen property, possession of stolen property and fourth-degree assault, all from last year.

Officer Kyle Yrigollen said he and his partner in the police department’s Chronic Offender Unit met with Davis eight times to offer him services to help him get out of his life of crime. He got a job, but then failed to show up for an appointment with Yrigollen, and Davis’ employer said he had stopped showing up for work.

Second man accused of selling heroin arrested

Spokane police arrested 55-year-old Ernie Hern this week, the second of a pair accused of selling heroin out of a residence in the East Central neighborhood through March of last year.

Hern faces multiple possession and sale of drug charges after police used a confidential informant to buy heroin from him in January 2013, according to court documents. The informant allegedly twice bought heroin at home in the 200 block of Fiske Street, once from Hern and a second time a month later from Timothy Price, 36.

When authorities raided the house in March 2013, Price was there, but Hern wasn't. Price was arrested and scheduled to be arraigned, but never showed up, according to court records. He was taken back into custody last month and has pleaded not guilty to a drug trafficking charge.

Both Hern and Price have criminal histories that include past drug charges. Prosecutors are asking Hern be held on $1,000 bond in the new charge.

Pair of alleged ‘best friend’ teenage car thieves arrested

A pair of teenagers accused of stealing multiple cars they dumped when the gas ran out are both in jail facing auto and firearm theft charges.

Eli Olson, 19, was booked into Spokane County Jail on Friday after police pulled him over driving a Dodge SUV that had been reported stolen, along with a .45 caliber handgun that had been in the vehicle at the time it was taken. Olson said he was high on methamphetamine at the time of his arrest and that he'd stolen the car along with 18-year-old Austyn Witcher, who is “like a brother to him,” according to court documents.

In a subsequent interview, Olson said he and Witcher stole five vehicles that had been reported stolen by “punching the ignition,” manipulating the starter so that it can be engaged by a screwdriver, according to court documents. The two ditched the stolen vehicles when they stopped running and broke into another nearby car, their preference being Dodge and Nissan model cars, Olson said.

Witcher was subsequently arrested driving a 2000 Dodge truck that had also been reported stolen. Investigators recovered a gun in his belongings at a girlfriend's apartment, but the .45 handgun is thought to have been sold on the West Side, earning Witcher an additional money laundering charge.

Bail was set for Olson and Witcher on their charges at $25,000 and $50,000, respectively.

Where Spokane’s officer-involved homicides occurred in 2013

Five men died after confrontations with Spokane law enforcement in 2013, according to Spokesman-Review records. Investigations into the shooting by a multiagency task force ended in no recommendations for charges against any of the law officers. The five fatal shootings is up from one reported fatality during incidences with local law enforcement in 2012, according to Spokesman-Review reports.


Blue icon: Spokane Police Department was the responding agency.
Green icon: Spokane County Sheriff's Office was the responding agency.

Public safety reporters Kip Hill, Kaitlin Gillespie and others contributed to the creation of this map. Click on a map icon for more information on a specific event, and visit the Google spreadsheet it's based upon to change views of the information to your preferences. As a companion to this database, the Spokesman-Review is also publishing a list of all homicides we covered beginning Jan. 1, 2013.

Where Spokane’s homicides occurred in 2013

According to Spokesman-Review reporting, local law enforcement investigated 23 deaths as homicides in and near Spokane County in 2013. Public safety reporters Kip Hill, Kaitlin Gillespie and others kept track of each of the cases, and we're making our records available to you below.


Blue icon: Case has been resolved, either through legal procedures or the death of a suspect.
Yellow icon: A suspect (or suspect) is (are) in custody, and the case is moving through the legal process.
Red icon: No suspects have been apprehended to date.

Click on the icon to learn more about the case, and visit the Google spreadsheet for specific case details and customize the map to your preferences. As a companion to this piece, the Spokesman-Review is also publishing a list and map of the homicides involving law enforcement officers in 2013.

Spokane police watchdog reappointed, details jump in internal complaints

Last night was a big one for Tim Burns, the Spokane Police ombudsman.

He was reappointed for another one-year term, setting him off on his fifth year as the civilian watchdog for Spokane police. Burns was appointed for a three-year term in 2009 by then-Mayor Mary Verner. His one year extension last night came from Mayor David Condon and a unanimous vote by the City Council.

Burns also unveiled his 2013 mid-year report, which contained some surprising numbers.

First, of the 142 complaints against the department in the first six months of the year, 75 were classified as formal. Of those 75, 15 came from within the department. This is a huge jump when compared to the same time period last year, when just three complaints were internally generated, of 46 total complaints.

Burns told the City Council the increase was notable, but he was unable to say what might be driving the change. 

Burns also noted a decrease in taser use by police, which happened 14 times in 11 incidents this year. In the first six months of 2012, a taser was used 25 times in 21 incidents.

Finally, Burns said he was concerned by the increase in SWAT activations. In the first half of 2012, SWAT was called out 21 times. This year, it happened 29 times.

Check out the whole report on the ombudsman's website, or read it here.

Auto thefts continue to climb despite fatal shooting

File this under the FYI category.

The fatal shooting of a fleeing SUV thief March 25 by a gun-toting Spokane homeowner apparently has done little, if anything, to curb auto theft across the city.

In fact, the number of cars and trucks stolen across the city in the days following the the shooting climbed 15 percent over the previous week, according to crime stats compiled by the Spokane Police Department. There were 45 autos reported stolen during the week ending March 30, compared to 39 during the previous week.

Community debate over homeowner Gail Gerlach's decision to open fire on the fleeing thief, 25-year-old Brendon T. Kaluza-Graham, has continued to rage. Gerlach told police he thought the thief was armed and raising a weapon at him while driving away in the stolen SUV.

Photo: Police cat

A bold cat made his presence known to a Spokane Police officer’s patrol car this evening after a SWAT standoff came to an end.

He sniffed around the scene near Princeton Avenue and Monroe Street looking for news and ducked under the patrol car for a few moments.

And then the cat jumped on the car's hood - probably expecting a ride-along - and sniffed the roof's antenna before running off.

Officers, deputies awarded by FBI for MLK Parade investigation

Several Spokane Police officers and Sheriff’s deputies have been awarded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for protecting the community from a bomb planted by Kevin W. Harpham during the MLK Unity March in 2011.

(Pictured from left to right in front row: Lt. Matt Lyons, Cpl. Mark Fox and Sgt. Jason Hartman. Lt. Eric Olsen was absent from the award ceremony due to training, according to police spokeswoman Monique Cotton. Photo courtesy: SPD)

The bomb did not detonate because Harpham’s remote triggering device could not get close enough to the device. The bomb was laced with rat poison and placed on the northeast corner of Main Avenue and Washington Street, reports said.

Spokane Police Sgt. Jason Hartman and Lt. Eric Olsen were awarded Thursday afternoon for moving the march route, an act that’s believed to have saved several lives. 

Court documents show three contract workers discovered the bomb as Harpham walked in the march. Police changed the route before he could walk in range of the device - losing his opportunity to detonate the bomb.

Cpl. Mark Fox and Lt. Matt Lyons with the Spokane County Sheriff’s were also awarded by the FBI for their work with the bomb squad disarming Harpham’s device.

Harpham was arrested in March near his rural home near Addy. He was sentenced to 32 years in prison in Dec. 2011. 

Related documents: MLK bomb maker gets 32 years in prison | Parade change averted blast

Spokane’s police chief - groom to be

Congratulations to Frank Straub and his fiancee. The couple's marriage license application was submitted to Spokane County Auditor's Office this week.

Straub will soon be wed to Amber Myers. The couple moved to Spokane together earlier this year when Straub was hired as Spokane Police Department's new police chief.

Our city editors spotted the public record late last night while scanning the Northwest section of the paper. You can see the notice in the Dec. 21 edition on page A6. 

Slick, steep South Hill road - catalyst for multiple vehicle pile-up

Icy conditions got the best of a Spokane garbage truck during the Thursday morning commute as it slid down a treacherous South Hill road and collided with several parked vehicles.

The drivers said their chains and parking brake of a garbage truck snapped as they were outside helping another driver stuck in the roadway. The heavy truck slid down Howard Avenue and hit several parked cars near Sixth Street.

Nobody was injured during the pile-up, according to Spokane Police officers, but multiple vehicles were towed away due to damage.

Maureen Henderson was inside her stuck car as the truck careened toward her. It hit hard, she said, but it wasn’t as jarring as she thought it was going to be.

“Last year it was a school bus that knocked out a couple cars,” Henderson said. “If the city - if they would come and gravel this, it wouldn’t happen.”

Because the garbage truck is owned by the city of Spokane, officers could not cite the drivers, but the incident report will be examined by a traffic lieutenant who will decide if a citation merits the situation.

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said the drivers will not be held liable for damage to the other vehicles.

According to witnesses, the garbage men had finished picking up trash in a nearby alleyway when they stopped to help Henderson.

(The chains and parking brake of a Spokane garbage truck snapped during the Thursday morning commute. The truck collided with multiple cars on its way down Howard Street near Sixth Avenue. Nicole Hensley photo)

Burglar linked to additional residential break-ins

A thief accused of breaking into a South Hill home earlier this month has been linked to additional homes targeted Dec. 7, according to court documents filed Friday, but formal charges for those extra crimes have not been filed yet.

Police arrested 26-year-old Kyle P. Murphy after vigilant neighbors spotted a suspicious looking man checking out homes. Officers found him leaving a home in the 2800 block of south Manito Blvd. with a backpack filled with what they believed was stolen goods.

In addition to the 2800 address, detectives have linked Murphy to two burglaries in the 2100 block that occurred that same day, according to court documents, including the Emmersons who were featured in previous coverage.

Some of the property reported by neighbors as stolen were recovered inside a backpack including a fish finder that was meant as a gift to Scott Emmerson from his wife. The thief reportedly tore through the presents after breaking into the home through the dog door.

The fish finder will not be returned to the victims in time for Christmas, said Celeste Emmerson. They’ll have to wait until the investigations concludes while the gift remains at police property.

Murphy remains in custody at Spokane County Jail with a $15,000 bond.

SPD sent officers to city schools in show of support

Although more symbolic than practical, Spokane police sent officers to every school today in an effort to demonstrate that the community is working together to keep kids safe.

New Chief Frank Straub said he hoped it also would provide anxious parents with some level of comfort to see officers positioned near their schools as the nation struggles to make sense of the deadly Connecticut school shooting.

“The Spokane Police Department works very closely with Spokane Public Schools to be able to respond to emergencies,” Straub said in prepared remarks. “Every SPD officer is trained to respond to active shooter situations. We have trained in our local schools, developed joint plans, and have detailed layouts of every school within in the City to speed our response. Protecting our students and our schools is very important to us, and we have increased our police coverage at our schools today in light of the day’s events.”

You can find full coverage of the Connecticut shooting online and in Saturday's edition of The Spokesman-Review.

Woman hit by truck downtown, breaks leg

Nicole Hensley photo

A woman's leg was broken after she was hit by a truck in a downtown Spokane intersection this morning.

Around 7:55 a.m., the driver of a truck was turning left on Washington Street from Riverside Avenue and hit the woman, said Spokane Police Officer Brad Moon.

Medics transported her to the local hospital for her injuries. The driver was cited for failure to yield to the woman in the crosswalk.

(Spokane Police Officer John O'Brien holds an IV while medics tend to a woman with a broken leg after the driver of a truck hit her in a downtown intersection Thursday morning. Nicole Hensley photo)

New traffic school looking for students

Next time a motor officer hands you a traffic violation, you could be eligible for a seat in the city’s new traffic school.

The county already has a traffic school, but now the city does as well.The six-hour course starts Jan. 5 and gives drivers an alternative to a violation stamped on their insurance or driving record through Spokane Municipal Court.

One of the instructors, officer Nate Spiering calls the course a good first option for drivers that are offered the course. Depending on the traffic violation, drivers are handed a flyer for the class while they’re handed a ticket.

Spiering says once the course is completed, the violation is gone, like it never existed.

For some drivers, the class will be a refresher course, others - a revelation.

“Some people have been through driver’s (education) in the past six months, some never had,” Spiering said. “We’re hoping for a full encompassing education back to the public.”

The course will be taught at Spokane Police Academy and will focus on the correlation between speeding and distractions like cell phones. They’ll also talk about bicycle and pedestrian safety and other rules of the road that are unique to Spokane like u-turn restrictions in the city limits.

When drivers receive a ticket, they have 15 days to apply for the course. When you go to the municipal court clerk’s office for your ticket, you can pay $124, which is the standard penalty for a ticket in Washington state if you’re caught not wearing a seat belt or using your cell phone, for the class.

There are a couple more conditions at Spokane Police’s website that explain who is eligible and who is not so if you’re stuck with a ticket right now, check out the requirements and see if the traffic school is an option for you.

Weekend stabbing being investigated as self-defense

A man suspected of stabbing another man on Saturday night near the intersection of Nelson and Wabash, was never arrested because the incident is being investigated as self-defense, says Spokane Police spokeswoman officer Jennifer DeRuwe.

Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office is calling the manner of the victim’s death a homicide.

The victim, who was later identified as 25-year-old Robert H. Fletcher, died from multiple stab wounds and incised wounds, says medical examiner officials. Fletcher was pronounced dead after he was transported to a local hospital.

Witnesses told police the name of the possible suspect and he was located nearby.

Police have yet to identify him since they’re still investigating the homicide.

Man flees police, collides with vehicle in downtown intersection

A driver being pursued by Spokane Police for reckless driving in downtown Spokane hit another driver on Saturday evening.

The female victim had minor injuries when the other driver, later identified as 29-year-old Noah T. Grant, hit her vehicle in the intersection of 2nd Avenue and Jefferson Street.

Officer Micah Prim spotted Grant around 5:40 p.m. during a license plate check of a Nissan Pathfinder at Maple Street and 4th Avenue. The registered owner had an active felony warrant, said police in court documents.

The driver had difficulties turning left on 4th Avenue, ending up on the curb, making the officer believe he may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Officer Prim turned on his patrol lights, but the driver kept going and even accelerated when the sirens were flipped on.

The driver sped past a responding Corporal’s vehicle and ran a red light hitting another car in the intersection.

Police said in court documents that Grant fled the vehicle and ran down Railroad Alley where he slipped into a fenced area populated with wine racks. Frantically, Grant realized he was trapped. Another responding officer climbed the tall pile of wine racks into the fenced area and arrested Grant.

A switchblade knife found near Grant’s vehicle in the roadway was picked up as evidence.

Grant was booked into Spokane County Jail for vehicle hit and run with injury, attempt to elude a pursuing police vehicle, possession of a dangerous weapon, resisting arrest, driving with a suspended license and reckless driving.

He’s to be arraigned next week with a $25,000 bail on his charges.

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