A trial should conclude today that mixes a criminal charge and internal Spokane Police Department politics.
On one hand, a jury is being asked to convict Officer Rob Boothe, who is charged with fourth-degree assault after two officers reported seeing him kick a handcuffed suspect in the face who apparently wasn’t struggling to get away.
But defense attorney Rob Cossey is essentially asking the jury to make the two officers outcasts, saying several other officers were at the scene that night and didn’t see the alleged kick.
Special City Prosecutor Dana Kelly called three witnesses to present his case: the man who was kicked and officers Shaidon Storch and Erin Blessing. The three testified in a courtroom mostly filled with officers there to support Boothe, including Karl F. Thompson Jr., who faces two felony counts in federal court for his fatal encounter in 2006 with Otto Zehm.
Boothe, a 15-year veteran and master firearms instructor, has been on paid administrative leave since the car chase and foot pursuit on Sept. 5, 2008. If convicted of the misdemeanor offense, he faces up to a year in jail.
Storch and Blessing both testified they were standing next to Boothe, who had just caught suspect John Luna, 23. After he was handcuffed, Luna continued to talk back to the officers but was not attempting to get away or struggle. Boothe then leaned over, said something to Luna and kicked him near the mouth, both officers testified.
“I saw Officer Boothe kick the suspect in the face,” Storch said.
Blessing said she saw officers handcuff Luna and they all stood up to catch their breath in the backyard at 3204 W. Hoffman Ave.
“I was standing close to Luna’s head. Officer Boothe said ‘shut your hole’ or ‘your pie hole’ and then he kicked Mr. Luna in the face with his boot,” Blessing said.
She later testified that Boothe used enough force that she said a silent prayer for Luna and feared he may lose his teeth. Both officers said they saw Luna bleeding from the mouth area, but he apparently did not lose any teeth.
Luna testified he could not identify who kicked him but acknowledged that he had stolen a car and fled from police.
“I called him an Aryan and he kicked me in the face,” Luna said. “I don’t know who he was.”
Later, at the Spokane County Jail, Luna spoke with police detectives about the kick. He called it more of an interrogation than an interview.
“They tried to say I was lying,” Luna told the court.
Kelly said the city prosecutor’s office had a conflict so they hired him to prosecute the case.
During his questioning of Storch, who has worked for the department three and a half years, Kelly asked the officer what his relationship with other officers has been like since he reported the case to his superiors.
“Not very good. After this incident, a lot of people’s attitudes changed toward me,” he said.
In the afternoon, Cossey called several officers who said they were at the scene but did not see Boothe kick Luna. Most of those officers, however, acknowledged that they may have been looking elsewhere or were not there at the time of the alleged kick.
But Officer Craig Hamilton said, “I was there the whole time and I never saw a thing.”
When Kelly asked how other officers saw the kick and heard Luna complain and he did not, Hamilton replied: “It’s all a difference in perception in what you see and hear. If you ask three different witnesses, you will get three different stories.”