Writing an internal memo that led to felony domestic harassment charges against his friend and fellow police officer Jay Mehring was the hardest thing he’s ever had to do, Sgt. Troy Teigen told a jury Wednesday.
Teigen, a graveyard patrol sergeant called as a prosecution witness, told the jury that Mehring’s estranged wife, Lisa Mehring, told him in March 2007 that her detective-husband had threatened to “burn their house down” and destroy her. The Mehrings were involved in a contentious divorce at the time.
Superior Court Judge Michael Price, over the objection of defense attorney Chris Bugbee, allowed the jury to hear the hearsay testimony under an “excited utterance” exception that allows witnesses who heard spontaneous outbursts to repeat those conversations.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindsey asked Teigen about two telephone calls he had March 24, 2007, with Lisa Mehring.
In one phone call, Teigen said he attempted to verbally help Lisa Mehring open a gun safe in the couple’s home after she said she had the combination but couldn’t open it.
When he called back with instructions, she was “hysterical” from a phone call she’d just had with her husband, Teigen said.
“She had a hard time talking,” said Teigen, who has known the couple since the early 1990s.
“I asked her what happened,” Teigen said. “She told me that Jay and (Lisa) had just gotten into a big fight.”
The argument was over financial matters, and Lisa Mehring told him “Jay was going to destroy her,” said Teigen, who urged her to get a restraining order.
“He said he didn’t care about a restraining order; he’d do whatever he wanted to,” Teigen said in recalling other details of his conversation with Lisa Mehring.
“She also said he had threatened to burn her down, burn the house down with her and the kids in it,” Teigen testified.
“It was pretty clear to me he was going to harm her,” he added. “I asked her if she thought he would do it and she said she didn’t know.”
Teigen said that when he went to work that night, he wrote an internal memo detailing his conversation with Lisa Mehring. Officers are required under department policy and state law to report any threats of domestic violence or any abuse they hear about.
Teigen, answering a question from the prosecutor, said the internal memo wasn’t an official police report, although it ultimately launched a criminal investigation, culminating with Jay Mehring’s arrest March 30, 2007.
“How hard was it for you to write that memo?” Lindsey asked.
“Probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do,” Teigen said, glancing across the courtroom at Mehring, who was seated with his attorney.
Another report alleging domestic threats was filed by police Sgt. Dave Overhoff, who could take the witness stand today.
Under cross-examination, Teigen acknowledged that during an Aug. 3, 2007, interview in the prosecutor’s office, Teigen didn’t use the terminology “burn down their house,” but did say “destroy,” in describing his conversation with Lisa Mehring.
“Isn’t that what she really said on the phone call?” Bugbee asked Teigen.
“She said both,” he responded.
Bugbee also asked Teigen about Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick’s “you lie, you die” rule, under which she will fire any police officer she catches lying.
“That’s a concern when you testify here in this court, isn’t it?” Bugbee asked.
“Not for me,” Teigen responded.
The defense attorney also asked the officer about the wisdom of telling a distraught woman, in the middle of a divorce, how to get into a gun safe.
Bugbee asked the witness if he wondered or was concerned about “why she wanted a gun.”
“No, I never had that concern,” Teigen responded.
Teigen also said he had not told his wife about personal phone calls he had with Lisa Mehring between November 2006 and March 2007 until the defense attorney recently indicated he wanted to talk with Teigen’s spouse.
The prosecutor asked Teigen if the case was generating fodder for the “rumor mill” within the Spokane Police Department. “To a high degree,” Teigen responded.
“Did you, Sgt. Overhoff and Bobbie Overhoff conspire to have charges filed against Jay Mehring?” the prosecutor asked.
“No,” Teigen said.
“Did you have a romantic relationship with Lisa Mehring?” Lindsey asked as a follow-up, getting another “no.”
“To the best of your knowledge, did Sgt. Overhoff have a romantic relationship with Lisa Mehring?”
Teigen again answered “no.”
Teigen, responding to another question, said he hasn’t talked with his longtime friend since his arrest 20 months ago.
“I still consider him a friend,” the witness said as Mehring wrote on a legal pad.
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