April 8, 2010 in City

Firefighter on paid leave following WSP confrontation

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

Todd Chism
(Full-size photo)

A Spokane firefighter exonerated on child pornography charges two years ago is on paid leave again after an apparently violent confrontation with state troopers during a drunken driving arrest.

Lt. Todd Chism was jolted with a stun gun several times after troopers found him trying to drive his truck out of a ditch along Highway 291 about 2:45 a.m. Tuesday, said Bob Calkins, a Washington State Patrol spokesman.

Troopers performed field sobriety tests, but Chism “began to more actively resist,” which led troopers to use the Taser, Calkins said.

But the high-voltage jolts had “surprisingly minimal effect,” Calkins said.

“The next step is we have to go hands on, which becomes a wrestling match,” Calkins said.

Trooper Gregory Riddell broke his thumb and may need surgery. Trooper Greg Birkeland may have a broken hand, Calkins said, and Chism suffered a cut over his eye.

Chism was booked into the Stevens County Jail on a drunken driving charge Tuesday morning. He posted $500 bond about noon that day, according to the jail.

The city of Spokane announced Thursday afternoon that Chism has been placed on paid administrative leave until a charging decision is made in Stevens County. Calkins said the investigation is ongoing.

Chism did not return phone calls seeking comment.

It’s the second time Chism has been placed on paid leave since January 2008, when detectives with the State Patrol arrested him on suspicion of possessing child pornography and searched his Nine Mile Falls home. All charges stemming from the child pornography investigation were later dismissed.

Chism was arrested Jan. 29, 2008 after the WSP detectives learned a credit card in his name had been used to purchase child pornography online.

But Chism contended he was the victim of credit card fraud, and a judge ruled the next day the evidence was “too slim” to hold him in jail. Charges were dismissed in April after WSP confirmed that no child pornography was found on Chism’s computers.

Chism returned to work and sued WSP in U.S. District Court for improperly arresting him and searching his home, but a judge dismissed the civil suit in January.

“To have one’s home searched for evidence of child pornography and to be accused of such a repulsive crime is undoubtedly traumatic and humiliating,” wrote U.S. District Judge Lonny R. Suko. However, detectives “reasonably believed they had probable cause to seek and obtain the warrants at issue.”

Chism has appealed Suko’s decision.

Calkins said neither trooper recognized Chism when they approached him.

“The troopers were called to a collision,” Calkins said. “They did not single a vehicle out on the freeway to pull over in any type of retaliation.”

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