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Accused officer is 14-year vet

Thu., Sept. 11, 2008

The officer accused of assaulting a handcuffed man captured after leading police on a car and foot chase Friday in North Spokane is a 14-year veteran of the department.

Rob Boothe, a senior officer who joined the force in September 1994, has been placed on paid administrative leave, pending the results of an investigation, said Dave Chandler, Spokane’s human resources director.

Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said the department’s Major Crimes detectives continue to examine the incident, which was reported by another officer.

John P. Luna, 22, said he was kicked in the jaw by an officer after another officer brought him to the ground and he had been in handcuffs at least a minute.

“I wasn’t resisting,” Luna said in an interview Wednesday evening at the Spokane County Jail. “I already was in cuffs.”

Luna pointed to a dime-size mark on the left side of his chin and said it was what remained of a bruise that covered the left side of his jaw. Luna said he would not be able to identify the officer who kicked him because it was dark and he was on his stomach at the time.

DeRuwe cautioned that the probe is still under way.

“When the investigation wraps up, certainly all the details will be released,” she said. “It’s still just bits and pieces at this point.”

DeRuwe said she had no way to reach Boothe for comment. Detective Ernie Wuthrich, of the Spokane Police Guild, could not be reached Wednesday afternoon. Boothe does not have a listed home phone number.

In a Saturday news release, police said they attempted to pull Luna over near Garland Avenue and Pittsburg Street about 8:30 p.m. Friday after Cpl. Phil Lasswell saw the car Luna was driving hit another car. The release also said that Luna’s vehicle was listed as stolen and that he hit other vehicles as he fled. A Spokane County Sheriff’s Office helicopter joined the pursuit. After Luna’s car crashed into a ditch, police say he ran on foot.

Officers caught up with him near Hoffman Avenue and Driscoll Boulevard, police say, 15 minutes after the pursuit began. Neighbors reported hearing Luna yelling at the scene.

At the jail, Luna denied driving a stolen vehicle and declined to discuss much else about the incident up to the point he was arrested. He said that he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol and that police didn’t give him a breath test or draw his blood.

Luna said that after he was kicked, he heard an officer curse at him and tell him he got what he deserved for running from police. Earlier this year, Luna pleaded guilty to attempting to elude a police vehicle, second-degree possession of stolen property, and second-degree malicious mischief involving a separate incident.

Luna said he complained about being kicked to officers on scene and when he arrived at the jail. He said he was interviewed by detectives the next day and was surprised they were questioning him about being kicked.

“They said they looked at the (incident) report themselves and that it looked kind of funny,” Luna said.

Luna said his bruise was photographed by detectives.

DeRuwe said the allegation is being investigated within the department because Boothe has been accused of misdemeanor assault. Under a proposed agreement between police administrators and the Spokane Police Guild, officers accused of misdemeanors will be investigated by detectives in-house, she said.

“Obviously, we would feel that they would be very impartial,” DeRuwe said.

The news release distributed the morning after the arrest reported that “no officers or citizens were injured during the incident.”

DeRuwe said the statement was referring to bystanders, not necessarily to Luna.

Luna was booked into jail on charges of eluding police, vehicle theft, second-degree assault and hit-and-run. Bond was set at $100,000.

Boothe, who earns $69,426 a year, was one of the first two officers in the state to be designated a master firearms instructor by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, according to a Spokesman-Review article in 2002.

In June, police reported that Boothe suffered a minor concussion when his parked squad car was struck from behind by a motorist who later was charged with driving under the influence.

Jonathan Brunt can be reached at or (509) 459-5442.

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