October 1, 2010 in City

Sheriff: Deputies haven’t changed their stories

Knezovich contends search warrant was misinterpreted
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Two deputies involved in a shooting last month near Wandermere have not changed their stories about what happened that night, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said.

A search warrant stating that interviews with Deputies David Westlake and Thad Schultz indicate it’s possible Sean P. Houlihan didn’t initiate the gunfire Sept. 18 was misinterpreted, Knezovich said in an interview this week.

Schultz and Sgt. Martin Tucker “are adamant and have always been adamant that they were shot at,” and Westlake has always said he doesn’t believe shots were fired at him, Knezovich said.

The warrant, which was used to examine Houlihan’s Dodge pickup, said initial investigation “had not confirmed the statements of (Houlihan’s alleged assault victim) and both Deputies regarding shots fired at the Deputies.”

Interviews with Tucker and both deputies three days after the shooting “indicated the possibility that Houlihan had not fired his weapon at officers when he arrived at the residence,” according to the warrant, filed Sept. 23 in Spokane County Superior Court.

“If I was writing it I maybe would have worded it differently,” Knezovich said. “There has been no change in what they said.”

“People are jumping to these wild conclusions that people are lying and we haven’t even gotten the forensic evidence back yet,” he added.

Tucker, Westlake and Schultz each have returned to work, Knezovich said.

According to the warrant, Tucker and Schultz said they believed they were being shot at while they were inside Houlihan’s home at 909 E. Brentwood Dr., and they believed Westlake “may have been shot or was in serious danger of being shot outside the front door of the residence.”

The deputies and sergeant had responded to Houlihan’s home for reports of shots fired.

Lester J. Doyle said he and Houlihan argued in the basement before Houlihan pointed a 12 gauge pump shot gun and a semi-automatic pistol at him and fired two shots. The shots missed Doyle, and Houlihan left a few minutes later in his truck with two handguns.

“Doyle informed Deputies that if Houlihan returned home, he would not be receptive of law enforcement being there, and was armed,” according to the warrant. “Doyle then recognized the sound of Houlihan’s vehicle approaching and advised deputies.”

Doyle told police he twice heard deputies order Houlihan to put his hands in the air. Doyle said he heard three shots but didn’t believe they came from the deputies “as he was looking at them when he heard the shots.”

The Washington State Patrol is leading the shooting investigation with a team of detectives from the Spokane Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office.

Evidence photos at the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office show investigators recovered a 9 mm handgun from the center console of Houlihan’s truck.

A .40 caliber handgun was found in the street near where he was wounded; investigators believe he was armed with that gun when he got out of his truck. A .40 caliber shell casing was recovered in the truck, according to a search warrant.

Houlihan’s lawyer, Robert Schiffner, said his client’s son had tossed the casing in the back of the truck when the two were out shooting a few days before the incident. He said the casing shows signs of wear and emphasized that his client has said he fired no shots at the deputies.

“It’s very curious that while he laid on the ground, Mr. Houlihan repeatedly said ‘Who are you and why did you shoot me?’ and the officers remained silent,” Schiffner, said.

Houlihan left Spokane County Jail on $75,000 bond last week. He faces three counts of first-degree assault when he’s arraigned Oct. 5.

Schiffner said forensic testing of weapons and other recovered evidence will provide a clear picture of what happened.

“It doesn’t do anybody any good to have this rush to judgment,” he said.


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