Some readers of Sunday's story about Matt Shea's continuance of a charge of having a loaded handgun in his pickup without a valid concealed weapon permit, which stemmed from a "road rage" incident, have wondered why the story appeared now rather than in November when the incident occured, December when the charge was filed or January when the continuance was signed.
The answer is simple: We didn't know about it until Friday, when copies of documents were delivered to the newsroom in Spokane.
The news media is not given access to the daily police incident reports, like the one that was filed on this case on Nov. 25. We do receive daily reports from Municipal Court for our Official Records column, but only those convictions that result in jail time or a fine of $500 or more. This case was given a "Stipulated Order of Continuance" until next January, which means there will be no conviction if he doesn't have another criminal charge by then.
Because they are court records, they likely would have turned up in the routine court checks we do for all candidates. But because Rep. Shea is in a primary with only one opponent, Democrat Amy Biviano, and both will advance to the general election regardless of the primary results, we have been concentrating on candidates in contested primaries at this point.
The documents arrived Friday. We checked Municipal Court records to verify they were authentic, and contacted Rep. Shea for a comment that afternoon, and held the story until he responded. Late Friday night, he directed us to his attorney, Bob Cossey, who we were unable to talk to until late Saturday afternoon and add them to the story, which then ran Sunday.
For readers who want more information about the documents, we're posting them here. Newspaper policy is to redact personal information, such as addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth, and I've done that with these documents.
A Spokane Valley legislator pulled a gun during a confrontation with another motorist last November in what police reports describe as a road rage incident. He was cited for two violations of state firearms law.
Republican Matt Shea, a state representative seeking a third term this fall, had a handgun in his pickup truck and had let his concealed weapons permit expire, a violation of state law, when he was contacted by Spokane police investigating reports of erratic driving and one driver threatening another with a handgun.
Shea eventually was charged with a single firearm count – having a loaded handgun in a vehicle without a concealed weapons permit – which will be dismissed next January if he has no further criminal violations before then, according to documents from the Spokane Municipal Court that were sent to The Spokesman-Review by someone with no apparent connection to his opponent’s campaign.
Shea declined to comment, referring all inquiries to his attorney, Bob Cossey.
The police description of “road rage” is probably accurate, Cossey said, but he contended the other driver was the one who was aggressive and angry.
Cossey insisted that the gun was not loaded. “Matt doesn’t keep a loaded gun in his car. He has small children.”
An attorney who serves on a committee with jurisdiction over most firearms legislation, Shea is an outspoken defender of Second Amendment rights. He is facing a re-election challenge from Democrat Amy Biviano in the 4th Legislative District. Both will move through the Aug. 7 primary ballot into the Nov. 6 general election.
According to police reports, Shea and two other motorists called 911 on Nov. 23 with reports of erratic driving on downtown Spokane streets. Donna Jasper, of Spokane, said she saw a green Chevy Lumina driving in a “horribly aggressive” manner on Monroe Street, speeding up, slowing down, changing lanes and stopping suddenly. She followed, recorded the license number and eventually lost the Lumina at 29th Avenue.
Leroy Norris, the driver of the Lumina, called police to report he had been driving on Monroe when a pickup truck cut him off and he had to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision. He honked his horn, made some “aggressive lane changes” with the pickup, and the driver of that vehicle “flipped him off.” The driver of the pickup pulled a handgun from the passenger side of the car and pointed it at him, he said. He “freaked out” and drove away “crazy” because he thought his life was in danger, he added.
Norris called the police at Monroe and Fourth Avenue and said he lost the pickup at about 14th Avenue.
Shea also called police to report the driver of the Lumina, and the investigating officer contacted him several hours later. Shea said he “may or may not have cut someone off” but said the driver of the Lumina at one point made a beeline for the front of his vehicle. He gave the officer the same license plate number for the Lumina as Jasper did.
Shea “thought he was being targeted due to his work,” the officer wrote in his report, and admitted pulling a handgun out of the glove box, which the other driver could have seen.
The officer asked to see the gun. “During our conversation, the defendant admitted to letting his concealed weapons permit expire several years ago,” the officer wrote. Shea asked about the law on carrying concealed weapons and the officer produced a copy for him to read, then told him it was illegal to have a loaded gun in his vehicle with no permit.
“His mouth became very dry (Cotton Mouth) as we continued to discuss the violation,” the officer wrote. “It was obvious to me he was extremely nervous …”
The gun was seized, Cossey said, although the police report doesn’t say so. The report said he was being charged with having a loaded gun in his vehicle, but Cossey said they “absolutely” would have contested that point at trial.
The weapons permit was expired, which Cossey attributed to “just the normal forgetfulness of people.” It has since been renewed.
Shea was cited by the officer for two firearms citations: having a loaded gun in his vehicle without a valid permit and drawing a firearm “under circumstances and at a time and place that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons,” both of which are misdemeanors.
Assistant City Prosecutor Mary Muramatsu eventually charged him in December with a single count of having a loaded pistol in his vehicle without a valid permit.
Cossey said the other charge, sometimes called brandishing a weapon, didn’t apply to the case. Shea did remove the gun from the glove box because he was concerned for his safety, his attorney said. “I felt pretty confident if this matter would have gone to trial.”
In January, the city agreed to “stipulated order of continuance” on the permit charge for a year; if Shea has no criminal violations in the meantime, the charge will be dismissed. Shea paid a $75 fee and agreed that the information in the police report is correct.
The continuance with a dismissal at the end of the year is a standard procedure and not a special arrangement for Shea because he’s a legislator, said Cossey, an experienced defense attorney. “He wasn’t treated any differently. It’s extremely common.”