March 4, 2009 in City

Witness saw ‘look of terror’

Man testifies about encounter with Pete
Staff writer
 
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The young man pounding on his door at 3:30 a.m., blood streaming from a head wound, appeared “absolutely petrified,” a former Peaceful Valley resident told a Spokane jury Tuesday.

Michael Dale testified for the state in the trial of suspended Spokane police Officer Jay Olsen, who is charged with first-degree assault and reckless endangerment in the shooting of Shonto Pete and the discharge of four more bullets near a cluster of houses in the neighborhood on Feb. 26, 2007.

Dale, who now lives in the Seattle area, said his companion Carol Blackburn woke him up after she heard loud banging on their door at 1421 W. Clarke Ave. Pete was standing on the porch, with a “sheer look of terror” on his face, Dale said.

His first instinct was to grab Pete and yank him inside.

“I was afraid of the homicidal person out in the dark. … He might start shooting at all of us,” Dale said.

The couple gave Pete a clean washrag and told him to sit down on their couch. Pete said he’d been asking for a ride home and “somebody had pulled a gun and decided to shoot him.”

They called the police, and Pete called his wife. About 15 minutes later, the police arrived.

Dale said the police treated Pete as a suspect and kept paramedics away as they secured the area.

“They interrogated him. I thought it wasn’t right at the time – he was a victim,” he said.

Dale estimated that an ambulance wasn’t allowed to approach the house until about half an hour later.

Also Tuesday, Olsen’s attorney Rob Cossey asked senior patrol Officer Derek Bishop about what Pete told him when he arrived at Dale’s house.

Bishop said Pete told him he’d been walking along West Riverside Avenue above Peaceful Valley when someone in a truck shot him.

That story is at odds with what Pete later told police – that Olsen shot him as he was running down a steep bluff below Riverside into Peaceful Valley.

Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz asked Bishop whether all gunshot victims give accurate testimony of their experiences.

“People’s memory is not always accurate based on the shock of the situation,” Bishop replied.

Cossey asked Bishop whether Pete was being vague.

“To me, it seemed he was being very vague,” Bishop said. “In my experience, there’s not too many shootings for no reason.”

Spokane police Detective Marvin “Marty” Hill said he was called out on the shooting early that morning.

Olsen had been brought back to the Major Crimes unit at the Public Safety Building, where he was leaning back in a secretary’s chair, apparently sleeping, Hill said.

“I smelled a strong odor of intoxicant as I entered the room,” Hill said. Court documents say Pete and Olsen both had been drinking heavily.

Hill showed the jurors photos of Olsen taken that night. The off-duty officer was wearing a red hooded jacket, a T-shirt and jeans.

Another officer, Sgt. Joel Fertakis, told the jury Monday that, as he was responding to the shooting, a man in a red hooded jacket he later recognized as Olsen passed him on Main Avenue without identifying himself.

Also Tuesday, detectives showed the jury an array of evidence, including the 40-caliber bullet removed from Pete’s scalp, a pocketknife retrieved from Pete at Dale’s house and an open container with an alcoholic beverage found in Olsen’s truck.

Police initially searched the truck because Olsen had told them Pete had stolen it, a charge that didn’t hold up in court.

Spokane County Sheriff’s Detective Douglas Marske was questioned extensively by both sides about his interview at Sacred Heart Medical Center with Pete a few hours after the shooting while Pete was still drunk and on medication from an operation to remove the bullet.

“He seemed tired, and he smelled like he was intoxicated. During the conversation, periods of time would pass; we’d have to rouse him. But we felt it was important to talk to him right away that morning,” Marske said.

Marske said he was concerned when Pete, during his second interview, said, “I took off out the door – he was still shooting at me.”

“I said to him, I knew he took the truck, ” Marske said.

But on March 13, when Pete walked the shooting scene with Marske and other detectives, everything he told them was consistent with the physical evidence, Marske said. He led them to the tree on the bluff where they’d first found blood and to the area where bullet casings were found, Marske said.

Steinmetz followed up on Marske’s suspicions that Pete had taken Olsen’s truck.

“What physical evidence shows Mr. Pete was ever inside Mr. Olsen’s pickup?” Steinmetz asked.

“None,” Marske replied.

“Do people under the effects of alcohol and medication give consistent statements?” Steinmetz asked.

“Not always,” Marske said.

Olsen likely had a blood-alcohol level at the time of the shooting of 0.07 to 0.13, according to Brian Capron, of the Washington State Patrol toxicology lab. Olsen’s blood was drawn at the hospital at 9:26 a.m. Feb. 26, when it had fallen to 0.02.

The lab uses a mathematical technique to back-calculate an approximate level at the time of the incident. The blood alcohol limit for driving a vehicle is 0.08.

Olsen wasn’t interviewed until Feb. 28, two days after the shooting, said Spokane Police Detective Kip Hollenbeck. “So he wasn’t intoxicated? He had time to reflect for a couple of days before providing answers?” Steinmetz asked.

“Yes, that’s correct,” Hollenbeck said.

In his interview with the detectives, Olsen said Pete stole his truck, jumped over the railing on West Riverside Avenue and headed into Peaceful Valley.

When Pete turned toward him from about 20 feet away, Olsen told the detectives, he saw it as a threat.

“The way he moved, there was no doubt in my mind he had a gun. I feared for my life,” Olsen said in the interview.

The state will call more witnesses today and will likely rest its case Monday. Olsen will take the stand in his defense next week, according to Cossey.

Contact Karen Dorn Steele at (509) 459-5462 or karend@spokesman.com.


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