Local sports broadcaster Paul Sorensen walked out of a Spokane Airport Board meeting on Wednesday feeling pretty good.
In his mind, the board had just apologized for the way an airport police officer treated him in April after he left his 2-year-old daughter in his car outside the terminal.
But was it really an apology?
“The answer is probably yes and no,” said Dick Atwood, board chairman, after the meeting. “Yes, I regret the incident occurred, but we didn’t apologize for the actions of our officers.”
That’s not what Sorensen thinks.
“They obviously were apologizing for the fact the airport police didn’t act in a capacity they should have,” he said after the meeting.
The action in question was Officer Carol Brookshire citing Sorensen for leaving his daughter alone in an illegally parked car. Sorensen has described Brookshire as “badge-happy” and “Broomhilda.” He accused airport officials of “lying to cover themselves.”
On April 24, Sorensen left the girl while he and his two sons checked their luggage. Sorensen claims his car was close by and that he was only gone five minutes.
But Brookshire and a skycap who witnessed the incident said Sorensen was gone 15 minutes - long enough for Brookshire to page the owner of the Chevrolet Blazer twice with the same message: Return to your car.
When Sorensen did return, Brookshire cited him for the gross misdemeanor of leaving children unattended in a car while going into a tavern or other business that serves alcohol. The charge was later dismissed by the county prosecuting attorney’s office.
“He ignored me, he ignored the fact I was trying to get across that you don’t leave your child alone in a car,” Brookshire said in an interview Wednesday.
It’s advice echoed by Sue Manfred, director of the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.
Manfred would not comment on the Sorensen case in particular, but said: “In general, it is never a good idea to leave a child unattended in an automobile, locked or unlocked, no matter where it is.”
About seven weeks after the incident, Sorensen requested a written apology from Brookshire, the airport police department and reimbursement of his legal fees, which he said amounted to $1,000.
At Wednesday’s meeting, accompanied by his pastor, Don Gilmore, Sorensen was more conciliatory.
“I hope you would have some comment, some feedback and maybe some guidelines you could pass on to your personnel to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Sorensen told the board. “An apology? Do what you need to do. I don’t need an apology.”
Yet Sorensen walked away thinking he got one.
“We can’t do anything about this instance. We’re sorry about it. In the future we hope that it won’t happen to anybody else and will try our best to make that come through,” Atwood told Sorensen.
But that was not an apology for the actions of the airport’s police, Atwood said later.
“I do regret it (the April incident) happened, but officially the total board did not vote for an apology,” Atwood said later.
During his board presentation, Sorensen voiced his own regrets: “It was a very great lesson. I will never do it again.”