A Spokane man was in critical condition late Saturday after a “very horrific fight” with several police officers in a Division Street convenience store, said Jim Nicks, acting Spokane police chief.
But the nature of the man’s health problems was not immediately apparent Saturday night. Nicks said the man began having trouble breathing several minutes after police subdued him, and he did not have obvious injuries that would explain the reaction.
“The officers were definitely within the (department) policy,” he said. “The officers used the lowest level of force possible.”
Though initial reports indicated the man had been struck with a Taser, Nicks said officers attempted unsuccessfully to use the device on the man. A Taser, or stun gun, fires electric probes that render suspects helpless.
The confrontation occurred at the Zip Trip at Division and Augusta, and it took five or six officers to eventually bring the man under control, Nicks said.
Initially, a single officer confronted the man in the Zip Trip after citizens called in reports of suspicious behavior in the area at about 6:15 p.m. Nicks did not identify the man but said he has a criminal record, including a previous assault on a police officer.
“The suspect lunged at the officer during the initial contact, and basically a fight ensued,” Nicks said. “It was actually hand-to-hand combat.”
Several more officers arrived, and the suspect kept fighting aggressively throughout the store, Nicks said. He said officers tried unsuccessfully to use their Tasers. The first officer involved used his baton, but Nicks said he didn’t know whether other officers had done so.
The man, who is more than 6 feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds, did not appear to have head injuries or other apparently life-threatening injuries after he was subdued, Nicks said, but officers called paramedics to be safe. Between 10 and 15 minutes after they arrived, the man began having trouble breathing and was rushed to the hospital.
Police are still investigating, and the officers involved were being interviewed Saturday night. The confrontation was captured on the store’s security camera, Nicks said.