African-American leaders in Spokane are accusing county prosecutors of racism for ruling out charges against a white woman who stabbed a black teenager during a fairgrounds brawl.
The president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s local chapter denounced the decision not to prosecute at a news conference Tuesday.
“I don’t agree with it; I just flat don’t agree,” said Billy Morris, who spoke on behalf of the NAACP.
If the victim were white and the attacker black, Morris said, the attacker would be arrested and jailed immediately. “The people of Spokane have more of a sense of justice than displayed by the prosecutor’s office in this case,” he said.
Thirty minutes later, the prosecutor’s office rebutted the racism charge.
“We looked at the facts and try to make the best judgment possible,” said Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll. “The information was presented and the determination was made in a race-neutral fashion.
“Our office has a long history of vigorously prosecuting race crimes, and we will continue to do so,” Driscoll said. “But our determination of this case is that this isn’t one of them.”
Karen Beeman, mother of East Valley student Tristan Beeman, has admitted stabbing University High senior Tim Buchanan during the Sept. 7 brawl.
It was the second time in three years Buchanan had been stabbed at the Interstate Fairgrounds during a clash with East Valley students.
Karen Beeman claims she Maced and stabbed Buchanan, 17, once to protect her 18-year-old son, according to Driscoll.
Buchanan punched her twice in the face after the woman sprayed Mace in his face, the prosecutor said.
According to Buchanan’s hospital report, he sustained three cuts from a double-edged boot knife that Karen Beeman got from her truck during the fight. The stab wounds were a half-inch to 2-inches deep.
“Based on her self-defense claims, we felt we couldn’t obtain a conviction,” Driscoll said.
Spokane County Prosecutor Jim Sweetser, in a prepared statement, said, “Karen Beeman believed her son to be in actual danger of great bodily harm by her claim that he was being beaten and kicked in the head. She had a right to come to his aid to attempt to prevent an offense against her son.
“The incident must be viewed through the eyes of Karen Beeman,” Sweetser said.
Spokane attorney Dennis Cronin, who represents the Buchanans, said he might file a civil lawsuit against Karen Beeman - and possibly the prosecutor’s office.
“No determination has been made yet, but you never know. It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve filed a suit against the prosecutor’s office,” Cronin said.
Morris, Cronin and co-counsel Carl Maxey said prosecutors should have explored other charges against the woman, including disorderly conduct.
Driscoll said he considered malicious harassment charges because racial epithets were directed at Buchanan and his black friends by a group of predominantly white East Valley students. But since Buchanan challenged Tristan Beeman to fight, Driscoll said he would be unable to prove the altercation was racially motivated.
Cronin countered by saying a person has the legal right to stand his or her ground.
“There is no duty to retreat,” Cronin said. “Tristan Beeman originally held the Mace. It’s the white people with the weapons in this thing.”
The prosecutor’s office ruled out filing any charges.
Most of Buchanan’s wounds have healed, and last week he played in his first football game of the season.
“It’s all up to the legal system now,” Buchanan said. “But I’ve just got to get back to living my life.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 color)
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