January 8, 1998 in Washington Voices

Sheriff’s Department Honors Two With Citizen Award

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:list

Last February, Kathy Asher interrupted a burglary, chased down the suspects, hit their car and forced them into a ditch on a rural road near Valleyford.

Today, Sheriff John Goldman will present her with the agency’s Concerned Citizen Award, given each year for outstanding assistance to the Sheriff’s Department.

Asher is one of two citizens to receive the annual citizen’s award. The second, Bradley Tyson of Cheney, followed several armed robbery suspects from a crime scene, obtaining their descriptions for police.

Sheriff’s officials admit the actions were risky and, despite the awards, said they aren’t encouraging citizens to take the law into their own hands. “We don’t recommend you run into fleeing suspects’ vehicles,” Sheriff’s Department spokesman David Reagan said. “In this case, it was fortunate it worked.”

Burglars hit Asher’s rural Valleyford home on a Saturday afternoon, while she was visiting with her parents two miles away. When she arrived home with her 16-year-old daughter, she found an unfamiliar car in her driveway.

When the man in the car saw them, he started honking his horn. Asher noticed the Thunderbird was crammed with stuff, but didn’t realize it was all hers - until a stranger walked out her front door, loaded down with her valuables.

“We started screaming. I was so freaked out,” Asher said. The man in the T-Bird drove off. Asher’s daughter chased after the car, trying to get its license plate number.

The second burglar - still carrying a box and pillow case - ran across a field, trying to catch up with his partner. He jumped into the car and the pair headed down the road towards Asher’s parents’ house.

“It happened so quick,” said Asher, who got into her own car and began pursuing them. “I just reacted.”

As she followed the T-Bird, the passenger turned around and flipped her off.

“This was the wrong thing to do,” said Asher, who then ran into the back of the Thunderbird several times.

“He spun a 180-degree turn right in front of my parent’s house,” she said.

The car landed in a ditch.

Asher saw her startled parents come out into the yard. She also saw one of the strangers coming towards her.

“He starts pounding on my windows, beating on my car,” said Asher, who quickly locked her doors. “He said ‘Give me your car.”’ The two suspects then bolted, running through a field towards a neighbor’s house. Asher’s father called the neighbor to warn him, then contacted police.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested the suspects in a barn a few hours later.

The men, Steven R. Venziano and Casey D. Beckham were sentenced to 87 and 28 months, respectively, for first degree burglary.

Looking back, Asher feels very fortunate.

“It probably wasn’t the right reaction,” she said. “I didn’t know they had my husband’s gun.”

She also didn’t know whether a third or forth suspect remained in her home, where her daughter, Lindsay, had been left behind. She didn’t know Lindsay would find the phone dead when she went inside.

“You think of what could have happened …” Asher said. “But I was just so mad. I thought, nobody has the right to do this.”

Sheriff’s officials said the citizen’s award is meant to honor citizens “for showing special concern for life and property.”

Such action, they said, “encourages greater respect for life and law in Spokane County.”

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT AWARDS FOR 1997

Medal of Valor: Deputies Joe Mastel, Eric Epperson and Michael Kittilstved.

Medal of Merit: Communications Officers Margaret Dearduff and Gary Pietz, Lt. David Wiyrick, Corp. Jim Speaks and Dep. Joe Mastel.

Unit Merit Citation: Lt. Gary Waterhouse, Detectives Dan Blashill and David Skogen, Dep. Bill Beeman, and Team Consultant Judith Coram.

Interagency Award of Merit: Airway Heights Police Department, WSP Spokane Detachment, WSP Trooper Jim Hill, Rebecca Roedl of Spokane County 911.

SCOPE Volunteer of the Year: Ed Jackson.

SCOPE Volunteer, Honorary Mention: Tom Danner, Jim Dalrymple, June King and Melany Box.

Sheriff’s Volunteer of the Year: Judith Coram and Tom Towey.

This sidebar appeared with the story: SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT AWARDS FOR 1997 Medal of Valor: Deputies Joe Mastel, Eric Epperson and Michael Kittilstved. Medal of Merit: Communications Officers Margaret Dearduff and Gary Pietz, Lt. David Wiyrick, Corp. Jim Speaks and Dep. Joe Mastel. Unit Merit Citation: Lt. Gary Waterhouse, Detectives Dan Blashill and David Skogen, Dep. Bill Beeman, and Team Consultant Judith Coram. Interagency Award of Merit: Airway Heights Police Department, WSP Spokane Detachment, WSP Trooper Jim Hill, Rebecca Roedl of Spokane County 911. SCOPE Volunteer of the Year: Ed Jackson. SCOPE Volunteer, Honorary Mention: Tom Danner, Jim Dalrymple, June King and Melany Box. Sheriff’s Volunteer of the Year: Judith Coram and Tom Towey.

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