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Car theft charge will go to trial

Fri., Aug. 31, 2007

A judge Thursday denied a motion to dismiss the car theft charge against Shonto K. Pete stemming from an incident earlier this year in which Pete was shot in the head by an off-duty Spokane police officer.

Superior Court Judge Robert Austin ordered the case to proceed to trial on Sept. 17, said David Partovi, who is representing Pete on a second-degree charge of taking a motor vehicle without permission.

Pete was charged following the investigation into the circumstances that occurred in the early hours of Feb. 26. Pete and off-duty Officer James “Jay” Olsen were later found to be legally drunk at the time.

Olsen and his friend, Renee Main, told investigators they saw Pete steal Olsen’s pickup and they gave chase. Olsen later admitted to firing several shots at Pete, whom Olsen said had turned and threatened him as Pete ran down an embankment toward Peaceful Valley.

But Pete told investigators that he was chased by a pickup from downtown and an unknown man began shooting at him.

Olsen, who’s been on the police force 16 years, faces a single count of first-degree assault and two counts of reckless endangerment as a result of the investigation.

“The gist of my argument was … no reasonable person will believe these witnesses – who shot my client or helped cover up the shooting of my client – over all of the physical evidence or lack of physical evidence,” Partovi said.

A search of the inside of the truck found no fingerprints or DNA from Pete, but one of his fingerprints was found on the exterior door jamb of the truck.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Doug Hughes argued in court that only one of Olsen’s fingerprints were located in the truck that he had owned for some time. Partovi said Hughes argued that just because investigators didn’t find fingerprints from Pete inside the vehicle doesn’t mean that Pete didn’t get inside and try to steal the truck.

Austin said he didn’t have enough information to dismiss the case and ordered it to proceed to trial.

Partovi said he expects to call a witness who told police he saw Pete running from a pickup matching Olsen’s description on the morning in question. That testimony would contradict what Olsen reported, that Pete drove the truck over to the 1200 block of West Riverside before jumping out and running.

In addition to the request for dismissal, Partovi asked Austin to order Main, who was with Olsen that night, to submit to a deposition. She previously had refused to answer Partovi’s questions, the attorney said.

Austin ruled that Main must submit to the deposition next week, Partovi said.

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