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City won’t represent officer in shooting

Tue., Feb. 5, 2008

The city of Spokane will not represent the police officer who was off duty and legally drunk when he chased a man and shot him in the head last year.

The Spokane City Council voted unanimously Monday not to represent Officer Jay Olsen, who has pleaded innocent to the charge of first-degree assault in the shooting of Shonto K. Pete.

Pete has hired an attorney with a Web site that points to several large settlements he’s won in police misconduct cases.

By making the decision, the council opted not to indemnify Olsen, arguing that Olsen was not performing city duties at the time of the shooting.

In the early morning hours of Feb. 26, Olsen chased Pete and shot him as Pete ran down an embankment toward Peaceful Valley. Olsen, who earlier had been at a party at a downtown bar, claimed that Pete tried to steal his truck. But a jury found Pete innocent of that accusation in October.

Pete since has recovered from his wound.

Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick deferred questions Monday to city legal staff. She said Olsen remains on unpaid layoff status.

“We just think it’s abundantly clear that the situation was not anything in the scope of his employment nor in any way on behalf of the city of Spokane,” said City Attorney Jim Craven.

Blake Horwitz, the Chicago attorney representing Pete, said just because the city says Olsen wasn’t acting as a police officer doesn’t end Spokane’s potential liability. A judge ultimately will decide that, he said.

“It’s an issue about whether or not they want to take responsibility for their own officer,” Horwitz said. “He was doing what police officers do, which is to try to arrest people and shoot at them and things of that nature.”

An attempt to reach the attorney who has represented Olsen, Rob Cossey, was unsuccessful Monday afternoon.

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