Local news

FRIDAY, OCT. 10, 2008

Detective’s supervisor testifies he wasn’t questioned

Spokane Police Department senior commanders, while investigating one of their detectives for suspected domestic violence threats, failed to question his immediate supervisor.

Washington State Patrol Detective Sgt. Ken DeMello, a supervisor with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Spokane Regional Drug Task Force, said no one from the Spokane Police Department questioned him about Detective Jay Mehring’s demeanor and job performance during a contentious divorce in 2007.

DeMello has been Mehring’s supervisor since 2001. The regional drug task force includes federal DEA agents working alongside WSP detectives and officers from the Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

“He’s been an outstanding performer inside the task force,” DeMello said of Mehring.

DeMello was called as a prosecution witness during the fourth day of Mehring’s jury trial on charges of felony harassment. Mehring was arrested in the office of Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick on March 30, 2007, and placed on unpaid status within the department after a brief investigation ordered by the chief and her senior commanders, witnesses have testified.

The investigation began after private attorney Shannon Deonier, representing Lisa Mehring, contacted the police department’s internal affairs unit and Police Sgt. Troy Teigen and Dave Overhoff filed internal reports, claiming that their longtime friend and fellow officer had threatened to “burn down” his family’s home.

DeMello, under questioning by defense attorney Chris Bugbee, said he and other members of the drug task force had been told by Mehring of divorce proceedings initiated in November 2006 by his wife.

DeMello testified that he was called by Lt. Darrell Toombs, former commander of the police department’s Special Investigations Unit, and told Mehring would be assigned to “desk duty” and had surrendered his service weapon because of issues associated with his divorce. Only later did he learn that Mehring had been arrested.

Bugbee asked DeMello if he had been contacted by anyone else from the police department, asking about Mehring’s demeanor.

“Nothing in an official capacity,” he responded.

“Did you have any concerns he was homicidal, suicidal?” Bugbee then asked.

“No,” the supervisor responded. DeMello said he was “not concerned” that Mehring had posed a threat to anyone else.

A few days earlier, DeMello said, he was contacted privately by Teigen who expressed concerns about Mehring’s actions. DeMello said he later told Mehring “to mind his P’s and Q’s” to avoid unfounded, career-damaging accusations arising during the divorce.

“Did you ever think he shouldn’t be doing his job?” Bugbee asked DeMello of Mehring’s work performance during the divorce.

“No,” the witness quickly responded. “If I thought something was getting to the point where I should have stepped in, I would have.”

Overhoff testified earlier Thursday, telling the jury he would not have written the internal memo triggering the investigation if he hadn’t been ordered to do so by his commander, Major Bruce Roberts. Overhoff wrote the report after encountering Mehring at a gym and allegedly hearing him threaten to “burn down” his estranged wife’s home.

Another police detective, Lonny Tofsrud, was at the gym, Overhoff testified, admitting he failed to put that officer’s name in the report.

The trial will continue on Monday and probably go to the jury by midweek. It’s not known if Mehring will take the stand in his own defense.

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