July 10, 2009 in City

Spokane Police kill knife-wielding man

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

Investigators, from both the Spokane Police and the Spokane Sheriff’s department, examine the scene as others cover the body of a man shot by police Friday, July 10, 2009 in North Spokane. JESSE TINSLEY jesset@spokesman.com
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Map of this story's location

A large knife, a skateboard and a pit bull all figured into a bizarre string of crimes that ended when a man was shot and killed by police officers in northeast Spokane Friday morning.

Jason Poss, 23, was shot to death after police said he refused orders to stop and drop the knife he was carrying. He threatened a police officer in a patrol car with the knife, police said, and two officers who were on foot shot him.

An officer suffered minor injuries in his vehicle at the scene. Tara Tanner, 34, of 1328 E. Glass, was treated and released from Holy Family for injuries suffered in an assault after the suspect kicked in her door.

A witness questioned whether police employed excessive force against the suspect, saying Poss was knocked to the ground by one shot, but police continued to fire.

The shooting is being investigated by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department, which is standard procedure when city police are involved in a shooting.

Sheriff Sgt. David Reagan said the string of events began shortly before 8:30 a.m., when a woman on the 1200 block of East Gordon reported a man with a skateboard had tried to kick in her door. He couldn’t get it open, and left. Minutes later, police received another call reporting a woman had been assaulted and a dog stabbed at a home near East Glass and North Perry.

Michael Baesman was asleep in the basement of the house on East Glass when he heard Tanner yelling, “Michael, Michael, please come help me. There’s someone in the house.”

Baesman said when he got upstairs, a man he had never seen before pulled out a large knife, possibly a butcher or kitchen knife.

The man never said anything, even after Baesman asked what he was doing.

Baesman said he, Tanner and two others who were in the home ran out the back door and into the fenced backyard. When they tried to climb the fence, it broke and Tanner fell, cutting her leg and hurting her shoulder; while she was on the ground, the assailant beat her several times with his skateboard, Baesman said.

A black female pit bull then approached the assailant, who stabbed her in the back and back leg, according to owner Vince Smith, who is Tanner’s son and one of the occupants of the house. The dog, named Molly, ran away bleeding, and wasn’t found until about 2:30 p.m., some eight blocks from the house. Detectives took her to a veterinarian for treatment, and Reagan said the dog’s medical records will become evidence in the investigation.

After the dog was stabbed, the assailant briefly chased Smith down East Courtland, but Smith said he ducked between houses and the assailant didn’t follow him. The assailant began walking calmly down Courtland, Smith said.

During the entire time, the assailant never spoke, and Smith speculated that he was on drugs: “His eyes were big, he never blinked.”

Police responding to 9-1-1 calls from the two incidents saw a man walking east on Courtland with a skateboard and a knife in his hands. They used a series of “stop and confront” maneuvers, Reagan said, ordering him to halt. Instead, he walked or ran away each time.

About a half block from North Napa, Poss approached an officer in a patrol car and began making stabbing motions, Reagan said. Two officers who were out of their vehicles fired.

Jason Leonard, who lives on the 1800 block of East Courtland where the shooting occurred, said he was in his bedroom Friday morning when he heard short blasts of police sirens coming up the street. He heard one shot, and looked out his window.

A man was on the ground, and a knife was on the ground near him. He saw five or six officers and heard five shots, but wasn’t sure how many officers fired.

“They had him incapacitated,” Leonard said. “They pretty much annihilated him.”

Jennifer Sheldon, Leonard’s girlfriend, said she was in the carport of the home when she heard the sirens. As she peeked around the corner of the house, she saw the man from the back and heard an officer say “drop the knife.” A shot was fired and she felt something hit her leg; she ducked back around the house and heard five more shots.

Neither Leonard nor Sheldon heard the man say anything.

Al Piper, who lives with his wife about two blocks from where police confronted the suspect, said they heard a noise that sounded like firecrackers about 8:30 a.m. “The dogs went wild,” Piper said.

Candy Reichman, who lives across street and a few doors down from where the man was shot, said she was sitting in her living room and talking on the phone when she heard loud noises that she assumed were gunshots.

“I opened my front door and saw the body and hoped it was a Taser” that caused him to be on the ground, Reichman said. The south Hillyard neighborhood once had a problem with drugs and gangs but improved in recent years and “there’s never been a shooting,” she said.

Because the shooting involves city police officers, department protocol turns the investigation over to the sheriff’s department. Names of the officers involved will be withheld for 72 hours as part of that protocol.

Detectives spent most of the day talking to witnesses, but Reagan said it’s possible that they may have missed some. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at 456-2233


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