Local news

Spokane Valley standoff ends peacefully

MONDAY, JUNE 8, 2009, 2:20 P.M.

Nobody home at house where police suspected armed man

An hours-long standoff outside a Spokane Valley home ended with a SWAT team breaking down the door and finding no one there except dogs.

Spokane dw-ahValley Police and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team waited for judicial permission to forcibly enter the house at 11423 E. Broadway Ave., where they suspected an armed individual was hiding. Streets around the intersection of Bowdish and Broadway avenues were shut down most of the day, and North Pines Middle School and Broadway Elementary School were locked down for several hours.

The confrontation began around 9 a.m., when police contacted residents to follow up on a report of stolen property seen in the garage of the gray dwelling. After a scuffle involving two people, police arrested a 16-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl.

“The deputies got in a fight and were wrestling on the ground,” said Detective Dave Thornburg.

While waiting for a search warrant, deputies said they saw a possible third suspect looking out of a window in the home, along with lights being turned on and off, Thornburg said in press release. Earlier in the confrontation, through a window officers saw the 16-year-old boy hide what they thought was a weapon.

Neighbors and the home’s owners said seven people lived at the residence.

A co-owner of the house, Vanessa Westerman, said the arrested teens are her children. “If they punched a cop, good for them,” she said. “They (the police) have no right to be in my house.”

Police were looking for property stolen during a recent burglary at A to Z Rental, Thornburg said. Several stolen items from the burglary were found in the house, including two weed trimmers, a rototiller and a chain saw. Most had been dismantled. Thornburg said the stolen items may have been used for parts for two mini-cycles found inside the home, which use the same type of motor.

An item police saw the teen hide turned out to be a drug pipe, not a gun, Thornburg said. There was no sign of a third suspect.

“Could people have escaped out the back or side? Yes, they could have,” Thornburg said. “There was a small window there where someone could have escaped.”

Westerman had refused to allow police to enter the home without a warrant because she was worried for the safety of her dogs, two pit bulls and a mixed breed, she said. “If my dogs get hurt, I will sue them,” Westerman said.

One of the pit bulls bolted out the door as the SWAT team entered; the dogs were unharmed.

Westerman insisted that she lives in the house alone with her children. “No one was ever there,” she said. “They just used that to get a warrant to get into the house.”

But her former common-law husband, Tom Judge, who co-owns the house, told police that three men live there as well.

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