October 1, 2010 in City

Trooper says shooting was unintentional

Pregnant woman was wounded during drug raid
By The Spokesman-Review
 

A Washington State Patrol sergeant who shot an unarmed pregnant woman during a drug raid last week has told investigators it was “an accidental discharge,” sheriff’s officials announced Thursday.

Sgt. Lee Slemp said he accidentally fired his weapon as the woman, whose name has not been released, attempted to flee out a window at 1405 N. Lincoln St. on Sept. 24, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said.

Slemp, a 25-year WSP veteran, described the shooting to investigators in his first in-depth interview on Wednesday.

The news comes two days after Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste told The Spokesman-Review that he had no reason to believe the shooting was accidental.

The raid at the woman’s home last Friday stemmed from an investigation by the Quad City Drug Task Force, which includes officers from several cities and counties in southeast Washington. Members of the Spokane County gang task force also were present.

Knezovich said Slemp had his gun drawn because he was helping round up suspects, and none was in handcuffs.

No arrests have been made in what authorities say is an ongoing investigation regarding crack cocaine distribution in the Moscow-Pullman area.

Search warrants in the case have been filed under seal in Spokane County Superior Court, according to the Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the shooting as part of a critical-incident protocol.

Knezovich said detectives have not concluded if the shooting was accidental and still are reviewing witness statements and will interview Slemp again.

“It’s kind of a checks and balances and a double checks and balances,” he said.

Slemp said the woman, who was 39 weeks pregnant, was sitting on the edge of a bed “when she dove for the window, he grabbed her, and his gun went off,” Knezovich said.

“It’s a proven fact that when you squeeze one hand, it just squeezes the other one,” Knezovich said.

Detectives found crack cocaine and marijuana but no weapons in the apartment, where they served a search warrant about 8:15 a.m. Friday. Neighbors said the shooting occurred about 8:45 a.m.

Witnesses said she was shot once in the shoulder area. Her family told a TV station that she gave birth over the weekend and is in good condition.

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