April 3, 2009 in City

Sheriff’s sergeant resigns, pending firing

Bunch had record of disciplinary actions
Thomas Clouse Staff writer
 

Spokane County sheriff’s Sgt. Patrick “Pete” Bunch resigned Thursday, two hours before Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich would have fired him following a string of questionable on- and off-duty behavior, including a recent confrontation with Spokane police.

“I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the citizens for the actions of one of my deputies,” Knezovich said. “We will continue to work to make sure that we uphold the honor of the badge.”

Bunch, who was commissioned as a deputy in December 1978, spent the day cleaning out his desk. On Feb. 6, he was charged with resisting arrest and obstruction of justice after several police officers responded to a prowler call near Ferris High School and they encountered Bunch.

According to police reports, Bunch refused to comply with the officers’ commands and made several actions that made them fear for their safety. Those charges were later dismissed by City Prosecutor Jim Bledsoe.

“I don’t know how to explain the decision that the city prosecutor made concerning this investigation. I sustained the findings of the alleged violations,” said Knezovich, who explained that labor law prevented him from explaining further.

The arrest near Ferris was just the latest problem for Bunch.

According to records obtained by The Spokesman-Review, Bunch has been disciplined for filing false time sheets, lying to superiors, obstructing a Fish and Game officer and mishandling the investigation of a hit-and-run crash by an off-duty WSP trooper who had been drinking.

Bunch has also been accused – and later cleared – in two separate assault charges where the two men claimed that Bunch slammed them down on the hoods of cars.

Knezovich said the decision to fire Bunch was mostly based on the recent incident. “With any review, you also look at the prior history,” he said. Bunch, however, resigned shortly before a disciplinary hearing that would have ended his career with the Sheriff’s Office.

Mahalia Thompson was the woman who called Spokane police on Feb. 6 after she watched a hooded man, who turned out to be Bunch, walk into her yard and approach the window of her teenage daughter’s room. The encounter came a day after a man left sexually explicit phone messages for the girl.

Thompson has no indication that the calls came from Bunch, but it caused her more concern as she observed how he peeked around a neighbor’s fence, walked under her deck and appeared to stare for several seconds at a license plate on a family vehicle. Bunch later told officers he had been looking for his dog.

“I thought he definitely was going to get off. With how things went in the beginning,” she said, referring to Bledsoe’s decision to drop the charges, “it just seemed like it was going to be another officer who got away with something.”

By resigning, Bunch – who had been making more than $77,000 – forgoes any ability to appeal his case as a union grievance or to the Spokane County Civil Service Commission, Knezovich said.

“The vast majority of the people who work here give their heart and soul to the citizens,” Knezovich said. “This is not an indication of that level of commitment.”

Thompson said she’s sorry that Bunch had to lose his job.

“But you can’t go around doing things like that,” she said.

“It seems like he has done a lot in the past and he’s never had to own up to it. I think it’s definitely about time.”

Reporter Thomas Clouse can be reached at (509) 459-5495, or by e-mail at tomc@spokesman.com.


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