January 2, 2009 in City

Interfering with arrest put life in ‘holding pattern’

Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer
 
Dan Pelle photo

Scott Hughes was arrested for felony assault on an officer after mistaking a Wal-Mart shoplifter for an assault victim. His wife, Sadie, and daughter Shelby witnessed the arrest.
(Full-size photo)

On the Web: Find other stories in this series at spokesman.com.

It started with a $10.24 makeup case from Wal-Mart.

A plain-clothed security officer followed a teen girl through the Spokane Valley store’s parking lot after he said he watched her pocket it without paying. But what began as a simple shoplifting apprehension turned into a wild fiasco involving security, the girl and two would-be shoppers that, six months later, has yet to be resolved.

Scott Hughes, a 33-year-old father of three, said he thought he was intervening in an assault June 6 when he stepped between a man and woman – who later identified themselves as Wal-Mart security – after repeatedly asking them why they were grabbing a screaming teen girl. Spokane Valley police arrested him after one of the security officers said he shoved him, which caused the guard to lose his grip on the girl, who drove away.

Police blamed him for the girl’s escape and the skull fracture suffered by the security guard she knocked to the ground with her car, and Hughes spent the night in jail on a third-degree assault charge before posting $1,500 of his $15,000 bail.

Hughes and his wife, Sadie Gibson, tracked the girl down weeks later, leading to her arrest. Michelle L. McGlynn-Bell, 18, is scheduled for trial Feb. 2 on a felony charge of first-degree robbery.

Hughes has yet to be charged, but he hasn’t been told he won’t be, either.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Stephen Garvin said he’s awaiting final review on the case from his supervisors. The statute of limitations on assault is three years, but he said he expects to make a decision shortly. For Hughes, the decision can’t come quickly enough.

“I don’t want anyone to have a black eye over it,” he said, sitting in his Liberty Lake home with his wife and their 4-year-old daughter, Shelby, last week. “It was just a misunderstanding.”

He spent his savings preparing to go to trial, hiring a lawyer and paying for a private investigator, who worked for a few weeks and now, like Hughes, is awaiting word from the prosecutor’s office.

“We’re all in just kind of a holding pattern,” Hughes said.

Statements included in the more than 200-page report show police didn’t buy Hughes’ story and had heard his wife yelling that she knew security couldn’t physically detain a suspect because she studied law enforcement training at Spokane Falls Community College.

“I very much got the impression that Gibson, after seeing that this situation had not gone well, made up the kidnapping part after the fact to justify” what happened, one officer wrote in his report.

It was Gibson who spotted the 2002 Daewoo Nubira the girl escaped in being driven in Spokane Valley nearly a month after her husband’s arrest and called police as she followed it to a nearby apartment. It turned out to be McGlynn-Bell’s mother.

Police interviewed her, then arrested her daughter two days later at a Spokane apartment. The couple felt great – after what Hughes admits was a giant mistake, they’d made sure the girl didn’t get away.

But with Hughes still facing a possible criminal charge, they worry about their future.

Gibson wonders how the case could affect her prospects for a law enforcement career. With savings spent on legal defense and Hughes’ hours cut at the spa manufacturing plant he works at in Spokane, they worry about more legal costs.

Their daughter witnessed his arrest and talked about it for weeks afterward, often putting her hands behind her back when describing what police made her dad do, Hughes said. She’s now fearful of police, Hughes said, which doesn’t bode with her family’s history: Hughes’ father and uncles were firefighters, his sister was a police officer and his cousin is an FBI agent.

Hughes said the incident was the closest he’s gotten to 15 minutes of fame. After his arrest made the news, he received calls from people he hadn’t heard from in years who couldn’t believe the mess he’d gotten himself in.

But, Hughes said, “that’s 15 minutes I could do without.”

“I’d much rather be known for catching a record muskie than being the guy who got thrown in the clink,” he said

Meghann M. Cuniff can be reached at (509) 459-5534 or at meghannc@spokesman.com.


There are three comments on this story. Click here to view comments >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email