May 3, 2007 in City
Olsen pleads not guilty in off-duty shooting
Spokane police Officer James “Jay” Olsen pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three charges relating to the Feb. 26 shooting of 27-year-old Shonto Pete.
Olsen, 43, offered no comment as Superior Court Judge Michael Price set his trial for July 23 on one count of first-degree assault and two counts of reckless endangerment.
Pete is also facing a charge of second-degree theft of a vehicle in connection with the same incident. Both Pete and Olsen were found to be legally drunk when the events unfolded that morning at the 1200 block of West Riverside.
Meanwhile, about 400 pages of documents released Tuesday shed more light on the investigation in which Olsen told detectives a version of events that sometimes conflicted with statements by other officers at the scene.
For example, when Spokane police Sgt. Joel Fertakis responded to Peaceful Valley about 3:45 a.m. on Feb. 26 to investigate a shooting, he saw a pickup driving the wrong way on Monroe Street, he wrote in his report.
Fertakis stopped the pickup, registered to Olsen, as it turned westbound on Main and approached other emergency vehicles that were responding to assist Pete, who had been shot in the head.
Fertakis contacted the driver, a crying Renee Main, who had been drinking with Olsen at a downtown bar for hours prior to the shooting.
“As I exited my car I noticed what later turned out to be Officer Olsen walking (eastbound) on Main past the location of my stop on his truck,” Fertakis said. “I even lit him up with my flashlight but he had his hood on and I didn’t recognize him. He made no effort to contact me and said nothing to me.”
Fertakis quickly learned that Olsen had been involved in a chase with a man who reportedly had stolen Olsen’s pickup.
“Fearing for Officer Olsen’s safety I began walking across the vacant lot looking for Officer Olsen. I asked radio to call Officer Olsen’s cell phone and they replied shortly that his cell phone rang straight to voicemail,” Fertakis wrote. Fertakis later saw Olsen and recognized him as the man wearing the hood.
Olsen, a 16-year-veteran, had his cell phone with him but never called 911 to report what he said was a vehicle theft, or the chase, confrontation or shooting. Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Mike Ricketts asked Olsen days later if he was wearing his hood up as he first made contact with the officers. “Hood up? No,” Olsen replied, according to the files.
Ricketts asked Olsen if he remembered walking past Fertakis and Olsen said he did not, and he did not remember anyone shining a flashlight on him.
The detectives then explained to Olsen that Fertakis had earlier reported seeing a man he later found out was Olsen with his hood up walking past the traffic stop.
“I asked him again if he was sure he didn’t walk by Sgt. Fertakis. He stated he was sure. He stated that must be important because you have asked me that several times,” Ricketts wrote. “I did not respond.”
Olsen then asked for some time to speak with his attorney, Rob Cossey, who attended the interview. Cossey could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
“After he spoke with Cossey, Olsen subsequently told me that he had been in Fertakis’ platoon, had requested a transfer and bid out of his platoon because Fertakis had given him lower performance appraisals than he believed he deserved,” Ricketts wrote. “Olsen stated he did not want to bring this up earlier and that he wanted to keep it confidential.”
Pete’s attorney, David Partovi, said Fertakis’ report caught his attention.
Olsen was “walking past his personal vehicle being pulled over by a SPD sergeant while his cell phone is ringing, and he is walking down the street with his hood up,” Partovi said of Olsen. “I don’t know what the significance is. I just think it’s hilarious.”
Partovi said his client has acknowledged approaching Olsen’s truck, placing his hand on the truck and looking inside. Investigators found no physical evidence that Pete got inside the vehicle. Partovi said he understands why Olsen would be upset if he saw Pete approach, touch or look inside his truck.
“But you don’t chase the guy. And if you do, you sure as hell don’t pull a gun on him,” Partovi said. “They have all this evidence that he (Olsen) tried to kill my client. But they charge him low and my client high. I’m sick of it, I really am. But he’s a cop.”