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Police shoot, kill man in northeast Spokane

Sat., July 11, 2009

A large knife, a skateboard and a pit bull figured into a string of crimes that ended when a man was shot and killed by police officers in northeast Spokane on 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. Court records show Poss has faced several misdemeanor charges in the past three years, but nothing that would predict the violence that led to Friday’s shooting.

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

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

Sheriff’s 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 Avenue 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 a call reporting a woman had been assaulted and a dog stabbed at a home near East Glass and North Perry Street.

Michael Baesman said he 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, the stranger pulled out a large knife, possibly a butcher 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 injuring her shoulder. While she was on the ground, the assailant beat her several times with his skateboard, Baesman said.

A black female pit bull approached the assailant, who stabbed the dog in the back and hind leg, according to owner Vince Smith, who is Tanner’s son and an occupant of the house. The dog, 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.

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

The assailant never spoke, and Smith speculated that he was on drugs: “His eyes were big. He never blinked.”

Police responding to 911 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 half a block from North Napa Street, Poss approached an officer in a patrol car and began to make stabbing motions, Reagan said. Two officers who were out of their vehicles fired.

A witness said Poss was knocked to the ground by one shot but police continued to fire. Jason Leonard, who lives on the 1800 block of East Courtland, where the shooting occurred, said he was in his bedroom 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, Leonard said. He saw five or six officers and heard five more shots as Poss was down, but he 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 Poss from the back and heard an officer say, “Drop the knife.” A shot was fired and she felt something – she believes a bullet fragment – hit her leg; she ducked back around the house and heard five more shots.

Neither Leonard nor Sheldon heard Poss say anything.

Candy Reichman, who lives across the 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 has had problems with drugs and gangs but improved in recent years, she said.

A check of Spokane County and municipal court filings indicates Poss had been cited for misdemeanors six times in the past three years. Those were mostly for traffic or minor in possession of alcohol citations, Reagan said; there appeared to be no felonies on his record.

Names of the officers involved in Friday’s incident were being withheld for 72 hours as part of protocol.

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