Two people who helped a bleeding Shonto Pete after shots rang out in Peaceful Valley and called 911 at Pete’s request are challenging a police dispatcher’s testimony last week in the trial of suspended police Officer Jay Olsen.
Spokane Police Department dispatch supervisor Marvin D. Tucker testified for the defense that Pete admitted to him during the 911 call on Feb. 26, 2007, that he’d stolen Olsen’s truck and then was shot.
“Pete never said that. I was three feet away from him,” said Michael R. Dale in a telephone interview Tuesday from his new home on the Olympic Peninsula.
His companion Carol A. Blackburn, who was in the house at 1421 West Clarke Ave. when she heard shots and woke up Dale, agreed that Pete made no such statement.
“I’m certain that there were no remarks made about stealing a truck. I think he’s lying – someone is,” said Blackburn, referring to Tucker’s testimony.
Others also questioned Tucker’s testimony, which triggered criticism during the trial because no such conversation exists in tapes of the 911 call.
Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, responding Tuesday to e-mailed questions about the Olsen trial, said she has opened a “formal inquiry” into Tucker’s testimony.
Dale, 52, testified for the state in Olsen’s trial, but he wasn’t recalled by Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz to rebut Tucker’s testimony in the trial’s final days.
Steinmetz said Tuesday he decided against recalling Dale because he lives on an island and is in poor health. Dale said he’s disabled, with arthritis in his spine.
“It would have been very, very difficult for him to get back over here. I didn’t want to put his health in jeopardy,” Steinmetz added.
Dale said he would have been glad to return to Spokane. In his opinion, he said, “justice has failed to be done simply because Tucker lied.”
During his testimony, Tucker said the tape of the 911 call had been erased, despite requests by police detectives on March 5, 2007, for all 911 and police dispatch recordings related to the incident.
Steinmetz, in an effort to impeach Tucker’s testimony, had him read to the jury the entire dispatch transcript from the event.
“Nowhere – and this is your recording of the event – does it say that the victim you identified took the vehicle,” Steinmetz said.
“No, it does not,” Tucker replied. But he said it was “common knowledge” in the Police Department that he’d spoken to Pete and he assumed the 911 tape would be produced in legal proceedings.
The tape didn’t surface surface in Pete’s October 2007 trial on theft charges, either. A Spokane jury acquitted Pete of the charge he’d stolen Olsen’s truck.
Dale said he hadn’t heard about Tucker’s testimony until Monday, when he was sent an e-mail link to a newspaper story on the trial.
“I think it’s the boys in blue standing up for the boys in blue,” he said.
Dale said he yanked a terrified Pete inside the house from the porch shortly before 4 a.m., fearing the “lunatic” shooter firing a volley of bullets into the neighborhood would harm all of them.
“Shonto’s first words were, ‘Can you call the police? I’ve been shot,’ ” Dale said. He and Blackburn sat Pete on their couch and helped him slow the heavy bleeding from his head wound. Dale said he called 911.
A male’s voice answered, asking to talk to Pete, Dale said.
“Shonto gave his name, his age, 27, and his address. Then he was asked for a short description of what happened,” Dale said.
“Shonto said he’d asked the guy for a lift, the guy pulled a gun, and he ran and got shot. He then said he ran into Peaceful Valley,” Dale said.
Kirkpatrick responded Tuesday for the first time to widespread public criticism of Friday’s verdict acquitting Olsen of first-degree assault and reckless endangerment charges.
“It is the citizens who decided this verdict not the police department. Jay Olsen was tried by a jury of his peers and that would be you, the citizens … If the community is unhappy then they need to direct their disappointment at their neighbor,” she wrote in an e-mailed response.
“In the Jay Olsen case, we did our part and brought him to you – the public – to determine justice. We can hold our head high, can you?” Kirkpatrick added.