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Sheriff’s lieutenant suspected of DUI

Undated Spokane County Sheriff's Office photo of Lt. Stephen P. Jones. (Courtesy of Spokane County Sheriff's Office)
Undated Spokane County Sheriff's Office photo of Lt. Stephen P. Jones. (Courtesy of Spokane County Sheriff's Office)

A Spokane County sheriff’s lieutenant with 25 years on the job was arrested in a suspected drunken driving crash early Friday.

Liberty Lake police responded to a 911 call about 1:30 a.m. that a sport utility vehicle had rolled near Third and Molter Road and a power pole was blocking the roadway, said Sgt. Dave Reagan, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

Lt. Stephen P. Jones, who was driving a Lincoln Navigator, appeared intoxicated at the scene, so the Washington State Patrol was called in, officials said. He was taken to a hospital to be treated for a gash to his head, and consented to give blood for the drunken driving investigation.

Test results are expected in 30 days, said WSP Trooper Troy Briggs. At that time, a decision will be made on whether to file charges.

The collision knocked out power to eight Avista customers for more than six hours, and the 45-foot pole had to be replaced, Avista officials said.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich was in Atlanta, Ga., at a law enforcement convention when he heard the news.

“I was shocked and disappointed,” Knezovich said. “He’s a pretty rock-solid employee.”

Sheriff’s policy spells out what Jones could face should he be convicted of drunken driving.

“It’s an automatic 40-hour suspension and mandatory alcohol treatment,” Knezovich said. “A second DUI is a termination.”

Jones has held a variety of positions with the sheriff’s office. At one point, he was the equivalent of an assistant chief for the Spokane Valley Police Department, Reagan said.

Jones is currently in an administrative position doing special projects, and he supervises the sheriff’s reserve program, explorers program and school resource deputies, Reagan said. Because Jones is not working in patrol, no immediate change in his work status is planned.

His annual salary is about $108,000, Reagan said. If convicted, it would be his first offense, officials said.

“The first DUI should be a wake-up call for everybody,” Knezovich said. “Law enforcement faces a lot of stressors. When they mix that with alcohol, there can be problems.

“In an incident like this, we should do everything we can to get them resources they need right away.”

Spokane Police and Washington State Patrol handle similar situations on a case-by-case basis, officials said. The lieutenant’s arrest comes on the heels of Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick’s decision to fire Sgt. Brad Thoma for a hit-and-run while driving drunk.

Gary Redmond was the last deputy fired from the sheriff’s office for drunken driving. Former Sheriff Mark Sterk fired him in 2001 after he received his third DUI. That same year, two other deputies were arrested for drunken driving.

Redmond is now chief of the Reardan Police Department.