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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Spokane River

Dog rescued from Spokane River

The Spokane Fire Department’s technical rescue team pulled a cold and tired dog from the Spokane River Wednesday afternoon in Riverfront Park.

The dog apparently fell down a steep embankment and was spotted swimming in the river near Canada Island, said Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer. “It was an animal in distress,” Schaeffer said. “The only way to rescue the animal safely was to treat it as we would a human.”

Firefighters used their equipment to get down the embankment and save the dog. A harness was fashioned for the dog and firefighter/paramedic Kelly Hoyt held the dog as he was pulled up the steep slope.

The dog appeared tired and didn’t struggle, Schaeffer said. “I think the dog was very surprised and looking for some help,” he said.

The dog’s tags enabled the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service to contact its owner, part-time Spokesman-Review employee Mike McLaughlin. McLaughlin said that the dog, named Dana, was frightened by Tuesday’s thunderstorm and bolted outside while he was trying to come in the front door of his home.

Dana is fine and resting quietly, McLaughlin said, and shows no desire for leaving home again. “She’s pretty worn out,” he said.

Police call river rescue a ‘media circus’

Crews rescue a man from the Spokane River in Riverfront Park on Jan. 13. (SRPhoto/Meghann Cuniff)

Spokane police didn't mince words when describing a recent water rescue in Riverfront Park - they called it a “media circus.”

News crews were at the park Jan. 13 after hearing reports of a man in the river. Spokane firefighters pulled him to safety.

In a weekly report summarizing Spokane Police Department activity, police said the man was hooked mid-river on a rope and was “significantly hypothermic and non-responsive.”

“In the ensuing media circus, the male was rescued by boat, warmed up at the hospital, and booked for his outstanding Assault/DV warrant,” the report reads. Police believe the man was attempting suicide, according to KXLY.

The report details other police incidents that week, including man hit in the head with a hammer while he slept and a patrol officer who tracked burglary suspects using text messages.

The report is available here. An archive of monthly reports is available here.

Drowned boy’s friend didn’t call 911

A 17-year-old Spokane boy who prosecutors believe is the first county resident charged with failing to summon assistance was arraigned Wednesday in Juvenile Court.

Police say the boy was drunkenly horsing around with 18-year-old Alexander Allen (pictured) on the Post Street Bridge July 18 when Allen fell into the river.

The boy didn't call for help, and he lied to Allen's family and to investigators about what happened, prosecutors allege.

Kayakers found Allen's body about a mile downstream from the bridge.

The boy pleaded not guilty Wednesday to failure to three misdemeanors: failure to summon assistance, reckless endangerment and lying to investigators. The arraignment originally was scheduled for Tuesday but was postponed a day.

The Spokesman-Review is not naming the suspect because he is charged as a juvenile.

The case was detailed in a story Tuesday. Check it out here.

Chief honors woman who tracked robber

Citizen Award recepient Carey Smith and Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. (Spokane Police Department photo)

A Spokane woman who helped police catch a bank robber last summer was honored today by Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. 

Carey Smith was driving north on North Monroe Street near West Dalke Avenue on July 20 when she saw a man running with orange powder coming from a bag he was carrying.

She turned around to follow him and memorized the license plate of his getaway vehicle. Smith gave the information to police, who were searching for a man who held up the Wells Fargo bank at Monroe and West Francis Avenue. 

Police spotted the car and followed it; suspect Lawrence A. Wideman (pictured) was arrested after driving through a metal fence into a cemetery and trying to escape in the Spokane River.

Wideman, 44, is a level 2 sex offender with a conviction in 2009 for third-degree rape of a child. He pleaded guilty to the bank robbery in October and was sentenced to 162 months in prison.

Kirkpatrick awarded Smith the chief's Citizen Award this morning at the Public Safety Building.

Dead man in river was on ‘bath salts’

A 31-year-old man found dead in the Spokane River last month had psychological problems that were aggravated by his addiction to a hallucinogenic drug sold as “bath salts,” his family says.

For months, Christopher Don Rogers had been in what family described as a downward spiral. He left a mental health facility in Portland against the advice of doctors and returned to Spokane, where he experienced drug-induced delusions that prompted him to call the police. He ended up at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center this summer – delusional and dehydrated from hours of running around barefoot in downtown Spokane high on bath salts, a synthetic drug that is banned in Washington and Idaho.

Read the rest of my story here.

Washington state has now permanently banned 'bath salts.' Read more here.

Father, son accused of Valley assault

Two Spokane men were arrested on felony assault charges Saturday after they severely beat a Spokane Valley resident near the Centennial Trail, police said.

Steven Robert Dreyer, 24, and his father, Christian K. Schuster, 42, were arrested after police found the 47-year-old victim with a large gash around his right eye and his left eye swollen shut in the  2800 block of North Mirabeau Parkway about 7:20 p.m., according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan.

The man said he visited a homeless friend at the Spokane River each each and on Saturday found him with a black eye. He said the two talked with other men on the river bank and “believe the assault matter was settled,” but that Dreyer then punched him in the face for no reason. Schuster pinned him to the ground while Dreyer continued assaulting them.

While police were talking to the victim, “a shirtless and intoxicated Dwight Lee Hubbard, 54, came out of the bushes and challenged the officer to fight,” Reagan said. “He was quickly overwhelmed and handcuffed.”
Schuster and Dreyer were booked into jail for second-degree assault; Hubbard was arrested on a warrant for trespassing.

 The victim was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where he received stitches.

Wanted: Info on man who died in river

Police are asking for the public’s help to determine how a 40-year-old man ended up dead in the Spokane River on Friday.

 Keith A. Millheim’s body was pulled from the Spokane River after being spotted under the Sandifur Bridge in People’s Park about 5:12 p.m.

Millheim’s body was pinned by a log “in a particularly treacherous and fast moving section of the river,” according to the Spokane Fire Department.

The “very difficult and technically challenging” recovery was a joint effort by the fire department’s marine unit and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office dive team members.

Police say Millheim was released from Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center on July 25. Investigators are trying to determine where he was and who he stayed with in the days after his release.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Police say suspect admitted bank heist

Police say a sex offender admitted to robbing a bank Wednesday in north Spokane.

Lawrence A. Wideman, 43, remains in jail on $150,000 bond for first-degree robbery. Police pulled him from the Spokane River after a chase that began with a gunpoint robbery at Wells Fargo, 6228 N. Monroe St.

Bank employees said the robber pointed a gun at a female employees and said “give me all the money or I'll shoot her,” before he fled with an undisclosed amount of cash.

A woman driving on Monroe Street followed Wideman after spotting him running with orange smoke billowing from his pocket, police said. She watched him climb inside a 1991 Subaru Legacy and called police with the license plate number.

Spokane police Detective Kip Hollenbeck was watching traffic near Spokane Falls Community College when he spotted the car and followed it on Government Way. Wideman sped through a metal gate at a military cemetery, abandoned the car and ran into the river, where police arrested him. A loaded .40 caliber Taurus semiautomatic was located near the river.

Police found a bag of dye-covered cash inside Wideman's Subaru, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Wideman is a level 2 sex offender with a 2009 conviction for third-degree rape of a child. He has several tattoos, including the phrase “God forgives. Outlaws don’t.” on his left shoulder, according to the Spokane County sex offender registry.

Autopsies: Bhutanese men drowned

Three Bhutanese refugees found dead in the Spokane River drowned in their submerged vehicle, officials said today.

Krishna Dhital, 21; Dilli Ram Bhattarai, 28; both of Tukwila, and Bhattarai’s cousin, 17-year-old Krishna Dhakal, of Spokane (above, left to right), were missing for nearly a month when police found their bodies in an Acura pulled from the river on Wednesday.

Police found a beer can in the car and say alcohol and speed may have been a factor in the crash.

But the men were in the river long enough that determining whether they were intoxicated when they died is difficult. The Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office is not pursuing toxicology reports.

The condition of the bodies also prevented them from formally identifiying the men until today.

Dhital, Bhattarai and Dhakal were last seen at a gathering June 11 at 1608 E. Mission Ave. They left about 10:30 p.m. in Dhital's Acura. Police believe the Acura left an embankment near the apartment complex before crashing into rocks and hitting the water.

News of their disappearance worried the Bhutanese community of 300 in Spokane. Their deaths have devastated their families and friends.

Read Jody Lawrence-Turner's story here.

Past coverage:

July 7: Three bodies found in car in river

3 bodies found in car in Spokane River

Krishna Dhakal and his family braved death to flee from Bhutan to Nepal to escape harsh cultural persecution and human rights abuses. He spent most of his life in refugee camps in Nepal, and resettled in Spokane two years ago seeking a better life.

Tragically, Dhakal, 17, likely died in the cold Spokane River, along with two life-long friends.

Foul play does not appear to be involved, police said.

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach's story here.

Body in river identifed as missing man

Michonda Weaver, center, waits for word of what happened to Leighton Welch, while two of her children Elijah, left, and Zackahriha have a snack in their South Hill apartment April 6. Welch's body was recovered from the Spokane River last Thursday. (Jesse Tinsley/SR)

A body found in the Spokane River on Thursday has been identified as a Coeur d’Alene tribal member missing since a phone call with his girlfriend ended abruptly in March.

An autopsy by the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Leighton L. Welch, 35, drowned, the Spokane Police Department confirmed Friday.

His body was pulled from the river close to the Stevens County line and near the Nine Mile boat launch, police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said.

Welch’s girlfriend, Michonda Weaver, said she was talking to him via cellphone on March 28 when he described a steep cliff and said he’d been spooked by a pit bull in the area.

The phone went dead after a crash and a scream, Weaver said.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

April 6: Spokane man's disappearance a mystery

Body in Spokane River is missing man

Police have identified a body found in the Spokane River on Saturday as a mentally ill man who was reported missing last week.

The body of Patrick Willard, 66, was found under the Monroe Street Bridge on Saturday afternoon. Detectives are investigating, police said today.

Police last Tuesday asked for help in locating Willard, who suffered from dementia and schizophrenia, officers said.

He was last seen Dec. 7 in the 3400 block of East 30th Avenue.

Family of man in river: ‘Heartbreaking’

A man found dead in the Spokane River on Sunday had a long history of mental illness and likely committed suicide, family said on Monday. 

Peter L. Jose, 34, had schizophrenia but regularly skipped his medication and frequently threatened to harm himself, said Mary Lee Gaston, mother of Jose’s ex-wife.

Gaston’s daughter, who also has schizophrenia, left Jose about a year ago, and he hadn’t seen their young daughter in months because of his ongoing struggle with his mental health, Gaston said.

Gaston learned of Jose’s death Monday after an autopsy by the Spokane County medical examiner’s office.

“It’s just heartbreaking, but it’s just totally out of our hands,” Gaston said. “When people are very, very mentally ill, they have another world they live in. And poor Peter did.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Jose is pictured during theater performances in 2000 and 2006. He was active in the now closed On Stage! theater group.

Autopsy complete on body in river

A body found in the Spokane River on Sunday has been identified. Detectives are contacting family and expect to release the man’s name on Tuesday, said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department.

Riverfront Park security staff spotted the body just north of the Skyride about 9:35 a.m. on Sunday and called police.

The corpse showed no obvious signs of trauma and did not appear to be in the water long, but officers said the cold temperature could be a factor. No identification was found.

Police said the man appeared to be about 30 years old. Investigation into his death continues.

Man’s mother: ‘Meth was his destruction’

Hannah Schelling last heard from her son, Christopher, when he called in November with a plea she’d never before heard. 

“He said ‘Mom, I’m in really deep. Can I come home?’” Schelling recalled.

She begged her only son to let her pick him up, but he promised he’d be at his parents’ home in southern Pend Oreille County the next day. He never showed up.

Kootenai County Sheriff’s investigators pulled Chris Schelling’s body from the Spokane River, east of Post Falls, last weekend.

A detective determined Schelling entered the water while fleeing a police chase in early December, just weeks after he promised his mother he’d come home.

His mother learned of his death on Monday - his 32nd birthday.

“He had an extremely tormented soul and he’s finally at peace,” said Hannah Schelling. “It was meth. Meth was his destruction.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage: Body in river identified as Spokane fugitive

Body found in river is Spokane fugitive

 A body found in the Spokane River west of Post Falls last weekend has been identified as 31-year-old Spokane fugitive wanted since December on car theft charges. 

A bail bonds company had offered a $1,000 reward for tips that led to the arrest of Christopher M. Schelling (left) after he failed to show up for a hearing in Spokane County Superior Court. When he didn’t show up for court in December, the bond company distributed wanted posters near a home on East Columbia Avenue that’s been linked to an ongoing drug and stolen property investigation.

On Saturday, a young man walking near South Richards Road, west of Post Falls along the river, found a body that aurthorities identified Tuesday as Schelling. Investigators identified Schelling through his tattoos.

Schelling’s body had “no obvious trauma,” said Major Ben Wolfinger of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department. But the initial autopsy results did not reveal his cause of death, and detectives are trying to determine how Schelling ended up in the river, Wolfinger said.

He was wearing clothes indicating cooler weather and appeared to have been in the water for several weeks or months, according to the Sheriff’s Department. He’d been reported missing and was last seen Dec. 3, Wolfinger said.

Schelling posted $40,000 bond in November on several felony charges stemming from arrests last summer, but the bond company started looking for him when he didn’t show up for court in December.

Crime Stoppers also offered a reward for tips that led to Schelling’s capture, but authorities had no leads until Schelling’s body was found Saturday.

Schelling was a longtime felon with convictions for attempting to elude a police vehicle, second-degree burglary, second-degree theft, drug possession and unlawful possession of a firearm.

He was charged last summer with second-degree theft, two counts drug possession, two counts of possession of a stolen motor vehicle, resisting arrest and possessing a motor vehicle theft tool.

A police dog helped capture him in June after he wrecked a stolen Suzuki motorcycle in Millwood Park, then ran from deputies into a nearby home.

A Crime Stoppers news release on Jan. 12 said he last listed in the 300 block of South Dishman Road in Spokane Valley. A news article about a robbery in which he was arrested in 2000 listed his hometown as Newport, Wash.

Anyone with information about Schelling is asked to call Detective Jerry Northrup at (208) 446-1300.

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