March 10, 2009 in City

Olsen hit with damages suit

Staff writer
 
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Background and the latest updates

In the midst of his assault trial, suspended Spokane police Officer Jay Olsen has been hit with a federal lawsuit seeking unspecified monetary damages for shooting Shonto Pete in the head on Feb. 26, 2007.

The civil rights claim re-filed Friday by Pete’s attorney also seeks damages against the city of Spokane for Olsen’s actions.

It claims the city engaged in malicious prosecution by pursuing theft charges against Pete after Olsen accused Pete of stealing his truck and precipitating the incident. A Spokane County Superior Court jury acquitted Pete of the charges in October 2007.

It also claims the city negligently supervised Olsen and is liable for his actions even though Olsen was off duty and, according to documents filed in the case, drunk at the time of the shooting. The Spokane City Council voted unanimously last year not to pay for Olsen’s defense.

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist had no immediate comment on the litigation.

The lawsuit is a redo for Chicago attorney Blake Horwitz, who filed a similar complaint in late 2007 but failed to file a required claim against the city. The lawsuit was withdrawn and the $750,000 claim was filed Dec. 22.

The city had 60 days to pay or reject the claim. That deadline passed last month.

Robert Cossey, Olsen’s lawyer, confirmed Monday that Olsen had been served with the new suit but said he had not reviewed it.

The state is expected to rest its case today in Olsen’s trial for first-degree assault and reckless endangerment for the encounter in Peaceful Valley. The defense will then launch its case and Olsen is expected to take the stand, Cossey said.

In testimony Monday, DNA expert Glenn Davis of the Washington State Patrol said blood stains found by police investigators at the Peaceful Valley shooting scene matched each other – and also match Shonto Pete’s DNA.

“The probability is one in 120 trillion of having that happen,” Davis said under questioning from deputy prosecutor Larry Steinmetz.

Steinmetz also reviewed cell phone logs of calls Olsen made after the early morning shooting with sheriff’s Det. Michael Ricketts, lead investigator for the case.

Olsen placed four calls to his friend Renee Main, who was stopped in Peaceful Valley while driving his truck. He also placed two calls to Melvin Champagne, a Spokane lawyer, and another to Spokane Police Det. Ernie Wuthrich, his Police Guild representative.

“According to records, did the defendant ever try to call 911, police dispatch or any other police officer?” Steinmetz asked.

“No – only Ernie Wuthrich,” Ricketts replied.

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


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