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Shooting probe offers timeline, new questions

More questions than answers have arisen from Monday’s investigation into an off-duty officer’s shooting of a 27-year-old man he believed was stealing his truck.

Veteran Spokane Officer James “Jay” Olsen is on paid administrative leave while sheriff’s detectives examine what happened after the officer left a downtown bar, spied someone taking his truck, chased him in a friend’s car and fired his personal gun at the man.

After the suspect abandoned the truck, Olsen chased him down a hillside between Riverside and Main avenues firing a gun “several times” toward a residential neighborhood, said Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Dave Reagan. Investigators haven’t said if the suspected thief was armed.

The 27-year-old man was shot in the head and remains hospitalized in satisfactory condition, officials said. He has not been identified.

It’s unclear whether Olsen, a 16-year department veteran, had his gun while at an Academy Awards party at Dempsey’s Brass Rail, police said.

According to Spokane Police Department policy, “an officer should not carry a handgun to a place or event where he/she anticipates consuming alcohol.”

Olsen is known to frequent the bar: “I know him. He’s a regular,” said bar manager Joe Labish. Olsen’s drink of choice: “Jack (Daniels) and Coke.”

Olsen volunteered a blood sample when Monday’s investigation began, Reagan confirmed Monday night. It’s unknown whether he was under the influence of alcohol when the shooting occurred.

Labish said Dempsey’s closed at 2 a.m.

According to investigators, the incident began about 3:30 a.m., when Olsen and a woman used her car to chase the suspected truck thief to the 1200 block of West Riverside Avenue, where the truck was abandoned. Olsen fired his gun at the man as he ran down an embankment into the Peaceful Valley neighborhood. After being injured, the man pounded on a door in the 1400 block of West Clarke, at the bottom of the hill near Main Avenue. The resident called 911 at 3:43 a.m.

The woman who was with Olsen, for unknown reasons, moved Olsen’s truck from Riverside to Main, near where the shooting occurred, Reagan said. Olsen’s truck was towed to a Sheriff’s Office garage, where it will be searched this week.

“Officer Olsen and his attorney were cooperating with the investigation,” Reagan said.

This is the second time in less than two years that Olsen has been in the news. In September 2005, neighbors living near 112 W. Montgomery Ave. were frustrated by frequent drug activity at a home owned by the police officer.

Dennis “DJ” Jones was convicted of selling drugs out of one of the five apartment units in the converted house. Olsen said he had no knowledge of the illegal activity.

Spokane police Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said there was an internal investigation into whether Olsen had done anything improper. It was unclear Monday what that investigation turned up.

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