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Lawyer: Man shot by officer had back turned

Shonto Pete is seen with a gunshot wound to the head he received on Feb. 26.
 (The Spokesman-Review)
Shonto Pete is seen with a gunshot wound to the head he received on Feb. 26. (The Spokesman-Review)

A man shot last month by an off-duty Spokane police officer during an encounter outside a downtown bar was wounded while his back was turned, and evidence from his emergency room treatment backs that up, the man’s attorney said Tuesday.

Spokane attorney David Partovi also said that an independent witness will confirm that his client, Shonto Pete, was not trying to steal the officer’s pickup, as the officer reportedly claimed after the Feb. 26 shooting.

Officer James “Jay” Olsen, a 16-year veteran of the Police Department, remains on paid administrative leave during the investigation by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Partovi said Tuesday his client wants to know why Olsen has not been arrested for attempted murder.

“He (Pete) wants a restraining order, and I want to see this cop treated like anybody else,” Partovi said, adding that anyone else under investigation for a shooting like this one would already have been booked into jail.

The Sheriff’s Office disputes that.

“That’s an assumption on his part,” said Sgt. Dave Reagan. “We have to have probable cause before we make an arrest.”

Stressing that the investigation is still active, Reagan declined to comment on either the bullet or the corroborating witness, the name of whom Partovi said he provided to investigators.

The attorney said the witness knows Pete but had not seen him in more than a year and is not a close friend.

The investigation originally was expected to be complete this week, but sheriff’s officials now say they need more time. Reagan has previously said that 41 law enforcement officers have played some role in the investigation.

Pete, a 27-year-old Navajo, was hospitalized for two days after one of Olsen’s bullets was removed from his head. Both Olsen and Pete have been unavailable for interviews since the incident.

But on Tuesday, Partovi said Pete was conscious during surgery, and he could feel the bullet being pulled out “front to back.” Medical personnel also told Pete it appeared the bullet entered from behind, the attorney said.

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