The names of two Spokane police officers and a canine partner involved in the shooting death of a car theft suspect were released through the Spokane Sheriff’s Department this morning.
Senior Patrol Officer Dan Lesser and his K-9, Var, and Sgt. Brent Austin confronted the suspect in an alley on the North Side after a traffic stop near Division Street and Longfellow Avenue about 10:20 p.m. on Tuesday.
Johnnie L. Longest III, of Deer Park, died at Deaconess Medical Center a short time after the incident.
Police said Longest was riding in a stolen Honda Civic and spotted driving recklessly. When an officer tried to stop him, the driver attempted to elude police. After disappearing into an alley, the Honda reappeared and then got high centered on a concrete divider along Division.
The suspect fled and was tracked by Var to an alley at Lacrosse Avenue. The dog went after Longest, and Austin tried to restrain Longest, but Longest pulled a .22-caliber handgun and shot Var twice, said Sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Reagan in a press release.
The weapon fire by Longest prompted Lesser to return fire which struck Longest.
Var was treated at a pet emergency clinic for a grazing head wound and a bullet in a leg, which a veterinarian decided not to remove, Reagan said.
Longest’s criminal history included an arrest on Oct. 3 in which police stopped a 1992 Honda driven by Kristina Edwards when it was blocking the roadway on North Nevada Street. Police officers found traces of methamphetamine, scales and drug paraphernalia in a backpack, which Longest admitted owning.
Out of jail on that charge, he was arrested without incident Jan. 14 after a foot chase by police, who spotted a stolen 1991 Honda near 2400 E. Sanson Ave. He later was charged with the Jan. 11 theft of a 1993 Honda that was found abandoned by sheriff’s deputies at 14414 E. Longfellow Ave.
Court records show he was charged with two counts of theft of a motor vehicle and a third count of second-degree theft for attempting to use a bank card he found in one of the stolen vehicles.
But those three felonies were dismissed when prosecutors filed a single amended charge of taking a motor vehicle without permission.
As part of a plea deal, Longest pleaded guilty to that charge and the October drug possession charge and got 43 days in jail. With credit for time served, he was released from jail Feb. 26, records show.
The Honda involved in Tuesday’s incident was taken from a North Spokane residence, and its owner was unaware of the theft at the time of the incident, Reagan said.
After getting out of jail, he quickly returned to smoking meth, his family members said in an interview with a reporter Wednesday.