A Spokane college student faces up to 90 days in jail for rescuing his friend from a car accident last summer.
The charge? Failing to obey a firefighter, who said he repeatedly told Shane Petersen to stay away from the bloody scene.
Petersen, 20, was arrested Aug. 27 after coming across an early morning collision on the North Side.
Recognizing one of his friends walking around the scene, Petersen stopped to help. About 25 people, mostly youths, were milling around and at least seven people were injured.
Petersen saw another friend, Troy Merriman, pinned under a pickup truck. His head bleeding, Merriman squirmed in pain as the muffler seared his skin.
With help from a bystander, Petersen lifted up the back of the truck so Merriman could free himself.
“I did what I thought was right,” said Petersen, a Spokane Falls Community College student and aspiring architect. “It was my friend.”
But while Petersen thought he was helping, officials testified in District Court this week that he was a hinderance.
Rick Oliver, a Fire District 9 lieutenant, said Petersen ignored repeated orders to stay away from the truck. He said Petersen walked around cussing and yelling and caused more confusion at an already tumultuous scene.
“He was confrontational, agitated and threatening,” Oliver said. “He was harassing everybody there … he was preventing me from doing my duties.”
The veteran firefighter said he worried Petersen would hurt himself or further injure Merriman, whom Oliver said he’d examined briefly before tending to other victims.
The pickup was on an embankment and in danger of sliding, Oliver said. He also said he was concerned about his own safety several times because Petersen was aggressive.
“I was afraid he might assault me,” Oliver said.
Petersen, however, said there were no paramedics or firefighters near the pickup when he lifted it with his friend. Later, when a bystander fainted in Petersen’s arms and Oliver told him to step aside, Petersen said he complied.
“I think it’s all more of a misunderstanding,” said Petersen, who has no criminal record. “I wasn’t trying to cause problems.”
Petersen’s mother, Sandy Sase, said she thinks her son is being picked on.
“If it had been me that moved that truck, they never would have done this,” Sase said. “I can’t believe it’s gone this far.”
A judge declared a mistrial in Petersen’s case Friday after public defender Gloria Porter accused the prosecutor of failing to comply with discovery rules.
Judge pro tem Richard Kayne agreed that deputy prosecutor Elizabeth Shadle didn’t provide the defense with a complete list of witnesses in the case, but said it was not done in bad faith.
He released the jury Friday after a day of testimony, and at least two panel members expressed frustration with the entire trial.
“I kept wondering, ‘Why am I here?”’ said one juror, who did not want his name used. “I can’t believe they’re wasting time and money on this one.”
Another juror was angry when told there would be another trial, scheduled for Thursday. “The kid’s a hero in my book,” he said.
Petersen said the charge has changed him in other ways he is not happy about.
A few weeks ago, Petersen and his younger brother were driving in downtown Spokane and came across another accident. His brother, a Boy Scout, wanted to stop.
“I said, ‘No way,”’ Petersen said. “We’re out of here.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo