Police Chief Terry Mangan didn’t break any laws when he confronted three men with a shotgun outside his home last month, Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Sweetser said Monday.
“I have to apply the law fairly and objectively,” Sweetser said. “There is no legal or factual basis to seek criminal charges against Chief Terry Mangan.”
Sweetser said Mangan acted within the scope of his duties as a law enforcement officer when he armed himself the night of March 8 and went outside his Spokane Valley home to investigate three men in a parked Chevrolet Blazer.
The men were waiting for fellow members of a citizens band radio club to find them by tracking their radio signal in a hide-and-seek game.
Two of the men - Bruce Rakowski and Bill Nelson - said Mangan cursed and threatened to shoot them.
Rakowski also accused the chief of hitting him with the gun and kicking him in a leg.
Mangan admitted confronting the men but said he never hit or kicked Rakowski or threatened the three men. He said he was concerned about the safety of his wife, who was due home at any time.
After reviewing a Sheriff’s Department investigation, Sweetser called many of Rakowski’s statements “inconsistent” with his earlier version of events.
Sweetser also questioned the man’s motives for going to a hospital after the confrontation. A doctor there said Rakowski’s complaints of pain and a stiff neck were “exaggerated” and there was “no physical evidence” to corroborate an injury, Sweetser said.
“As a consequence, Rakowski’s statements about the gun being placed up against his neck are not credible,” Sweetser said. “Rakowski’s entire version of the events is therefore suspect.”
Mangan’s neighbor, Wayne Babb, and Mark Bessermin, the third man inside the Blazer, offered the “most believable version” of how the chief had used the shotgun, Sweetser said. Their stories were consistent with Mangan’s.
Attempts to reach Rakowski were unsuccessful Monday.
Complained Nelson: “It’s a nice cover-up, kind of a sweep-it-under-the rug kind of thing.”
At Sweetser’s request, copies of the sheriff’s report on Mangan were sent to prosecutors in Pierce, Yakima and Clark counties for independent review. All agreed with Sweetser’s decision not to charge Mangan with any crime.
The chief said Monday he appreciated the Sheriff’s Department’s thorough, professional investigation into the case. “I’m obviously pleased with the results,” he said.
Sheriff John Goldman said the investigation, conducted by two veteran detectives, was “completely unbiased.”
“It’s critical in maintaining the public’s confidence and trust,” Goldman said.
City Manager Roger Crum is reviewing an internal investigations report from the Spokane Police Department to see whether disciplinary action is required against the chief. He said Monday his decision will be made soon.
The other prosecutors Sweetser consulted about the case said if a lawsuit is filed against either Spokane County or city, “the case should not be settled or dismissed, and a countersuit should be filed” for the expense of defending Mangan’s actions.
“We don’t intend to roll over and pay money on this case,” Sweetser said. “The cost of a frivolous lawsuit … should be borne by the complainants and not the taxpayers….”
Attorney Bevan Maxey, whom Rakowski hired shortly after the incident, was in trial Monday and could not be reached for comment.
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