Local news

Spokane officer hurt in crash goes home

A Spokane police officer injured while driving to a robbery and stabbing was released from a hospital today and is recovering at home.

Officer Rhian Wilkinson fractured a bone in his neck when his patrol car was broadsided by a teen driving a GMC Envoy about 2:30 a.m. Saturday near Browne and Riverside streets.

“He’s been in a lot of pain over the weekend,” said Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. “We expect him to take some time to recover.”

Wilkinson was en route to a help catch two men suspected of stabbing a man. One of the suspects had been allowed to stay out of jail on bond in June after pleading guilty in drug and burglary cases.

Christopher W. Hardwick, 30, was to be sentenced in those cases today, but his arrest on Saturday postponed the hearing.

Instead, he appeared in Superior Court on new charges of possession of a stolen vehicle, first-degree robbery, first-degree assault, attempting to elude police and second-degree possession of stolen property.

His bond was set at $100,000, as was that of his accused accomplice, Kevin W. Nichols, 26.

The driver accused of hitting Wilkinson, Taylor R. Shockman, 19, sustained minor injures and was arrested for vehicular assault, then released to her parents. She’s not expected to appear in court until her arraignment.

Police say the melee began when Hardwick and Nichols stabbed a man near the Cenex gas station at Mission Avenue and Ruby Street just before 2:30 a.m.

The men crashed a stolen Honda Civic at Washington and Spokane Falls Boulevard, according to police. Nichols tried to flee but was arrested; Hardwick was caught trying to swim across the Spokane River. The Civic, along with a wallet, had been reported stolen early Friday.

Hardwick told police he was not involved in the stabbing and that he’d “found” the wallet and car downtown, according to court documents filed Monday. He also denied driving the stolen Honda.

Hardwick pleaded guilty in drug and burglary cases in June and was to be sentenced Monday, but was allowed to leave jail on $1,000 bond, according to court records.

In 2006, Hardwick was sentenced to six months in federal prison and three years federal probation for a counterfeit money scheme.

Nichols pleaded guilty to felon in possession of a firearm in that same case and was released from prison in July 2009, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He’s on federal probation, his public defender said Monday.

It’s not the first time a law enforcement official has been injured while pursuing Hardwick.

In 2003, Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy James Slater suffered fatal head injuries when his patrol car left Grove Road, southwest of Spokane, on a sharp curve while trying to back up another deputy who was following a stolen car with Hardwick inside, according to previously published reports.



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