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Officer Olsen’s fate rests with jurors

Closing arguments pack courtroom

The fate of suspended Spokane police Officer Jay Olsen, charged with shooting Shonto Pete in the head and sending a volley of bullets into Peaceful Valley two years ago, is in the jury’s hands.

A standing-room-only crowd, including supporters of Olsen and Pete, packed Spokane County Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque’s courtroom Thursday afternoon to hear closing arguments.

“This is an important case – not only for Mr. Olsen, but for Mr. Pete and the community,” said deputy prosecutor Larry Steinmetz.

He described “a moment in time involving a Spokane police officer, sworn to uphold the law, who became intoxicated and lodged a bullet into a man’s head.”

There is no evidence that Pete stole Olsen’s truck Feb. 26, 2007, as Olsen and his friend Renee Main claimed in their testimony, Steinmetz said.

“A pickup truck can be replaced; a human life cannot,” Steinmetz added.

Steinmetz urged the eight-man, four-woman jury to find Olsen guilty of first-degree assault and reckless endangerment for his actions that night.

Rob Cossey, Olsen’s attorney, said Olsen is “not on trial as a police officer” and he had a right to defend himself that night on the bluff above Peaceful Valley.

“That 10 seconds on the hill is the most important part of this trial … you have to put yourself in his shoes, what his perception was that night,” Cossey said.

Cossey said a fleeing Pete turned on Olsen twice, causing Olsen to fire five shots from his pistol. Pete was unarmed except for a small pocketknife.

In his rebuttal, Steinmetz said Pete never turned on Olsen.

“He was shot in the head, running for his life. Why would he do that?” Steinmetz asked.

The jury will start its deliberations at 9 a.m. this morning.

KHQ video:

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

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