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County to pay $50,000 to settle suit in death of Trent Yohe

Spokane County commissioners approved a $50,000 settlement Tuesday in the May 2007 death of a Spokane Valley man who fought with sheriff’s deputies.

Trent Yohe, 37, lost consciousness after being restrained hand-and-foot, and died 12 days later of what a county medical examiner said was a shortage of oxygen to the brain.

Dr. John Howard attributed the oxygen loss to a combination of drugs, heart disease, “excited delirium” and the way in which Yohe was restrained. Police define excited delirium as a medical emergency fed by a mix of extreme mental and physical excitement, often fueled by drugs or alcohol.

A Spokane police investigation said Yohe also was shocked several times with a Taser. Deputies, working for the city of Spokane Valley on contract, responded to a report of drug activity in a travel trailer.

Attorney Breean Beggs, who with the Center for Justice filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Yohe’s preteen daughter, said he was pleased that county officials “agreed to talk resolution in the case before all the money was spent on lawyers.”

Beggs also was pleased that the state Department of Social and Health Services agreed to waive repayment of more than $100,000 in medical bills it paid.

The result is that Yohe’s daughter will have a college fund, Beggs said.

He noted that the sheriff’s office already had changed its training and policies “to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said his office and the Spokane Police Department are “among the few departments in the nation” with procedures to deal with excited delirium.

Knezovich said he thinks the size of the settlement is “a representation of the fact that Spokane County deputies did nothing wrong in this matter.”

He said deputies were dealing with a “chaotic situation” in which a companion of Yohe fled through a roof vent, there was a fire in the trailer and Yohe was “automatically combative.”

Also, Knezovich said Yohe had just come down from a seven- to 10-day methamphetamine binge, and that he thinks that was “a high contributing factor.”