October 26, 2010 in City

Family questions fatal-encounter with sheriff’s deputy

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Colin Mulvany photo

Neva Harris , mother of Quentin Dodd, who was shot and killed by a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy Sunday night, tries to make sense of the loss of her son Monday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Before Quentin Donald Dodd’s fatal confrontation with a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy on Sunday, his landlord said she’d had enough.

“He was very aggressive and threatening, so I said, ‘You need to go,’ ” said Melinda Seymour. “By that time, the police had already been called.”

Dodd, 50, was holding an arrowhead-type knife when a deputy found him standing in the middle of Progress Road, about a block from the faith-based halfway house at 507 N. Sommer Road, where he’d lived for about 2  1/2 months.

The deputy requested assistance, according to police, then at some point opened fire.

Dodd was pronounced dead at the Valley Hospital and Medical Center.

Initial reports from Sunday night indicated the deputy was 20 feet away from Dodd at the time of the shooting, but Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department, said she couldn’t confirm that.

The Police Department is investigating the shooting under a critical-incident protocol designed to avoid having law enforcement agencies investigating themselves.

“It’s too early to say what happened, but I’m confident in all of our law enforcement,” DeRuwe said. “Obviously the officer was presented with some sort of threat.”

Dodd’s family is dubious.

In their home on Crown Avenue in Spokane’s Hillyard neighborhood Monday, several members of Dodd’s family, which includes seven brothers and four sisters, looked at old photographs of him in a National Guard uniform and wondered how a man already familiar with life’s difficulties could end up on the receiving end of police gunfire – the fourth such person in two months.

“I want justice,” said his sister, Reedie Dodd. “Me, I feel like it’s cold-blooded murder. … We’re all in a state of shock right now.”

The deputy has not yet been interviewed, but the back-up deputy gave a statement the night of the shooting.

DeRuwe said she expects to release more information, including the officer’s name, by Thursday, to “put this in context a little more.”

“I’m sure the family’s upset – they’re grieving,” she said. “It’s a loss of life.”

Dodd had felony convictions for methamphetamine delivery, harassment, meth possession and unlawful possession of a firearm.

He went to rehab for methamphetamine addiction before moving into the Sommer Road home, his sister said.

He had worked cannery, meat packing and other industrial jobs but was disabled and was receiving government assistance, his family said. Dodd had struggled with drugs since his divorce in the 1990s, was diabetic and had kidney problems that required medication, family said.

His mother, Neva Harris, said she last saw him a week or two ago when he stopped by to pick up his mail. He didn’t stay long.

“He was not a happy person,” said Laneva Dodd, Dodd’s oldest sister.

Seymour said she asked Dodd to leave Sunday after he threatened housemates while waving a sharp object, which deputies identified as an obsidian knife. The knives are handcrafted from volcanic rock and typically mounted onto wild game antlers.

Investigators found the weapon near Dodd’s body after he was shot on Progress Road just north of Valley Way. Dodd’s home is about a block away.

His nephew, Michael Dodd, questioned why police used lethal force instead of a Taser or baton.

“Why didn’t they take other steps before that?” said Michael Dodd, a student at Eastern Washington University. “It’s so apparent that they should have taken other steps.”

Police firearms expert Thomas Aveni, executive director of New Hampshire-based Police Policy Studies Council, said the justification of police shootings involving suspects with knives depends “on the proximity of the person with the knife, and whether there are any other bystanders that might be threatened with the knife.”

“If you’re going to use pepper spray, it means you have to be way too close to a knife,” said Aveni, who taught a three-day deadly force management course for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office about a year and a half ago. “In less than a second, a guy can have a knife in your chest at that distance.”

Seymour said police have responded to the home, called Restoration Ministries, several times and “have been so good to us.”

She and her husband don’t live at the home but visit regularly with each resident.

Dodd had “lots of hurt” he was struggling to work through, she said.

“He just didn’t communicate very well,” she said. “It’s just hard to get to the nitty-gritty of stuff when you’re not talking.”

She described him as compassionate and caring with a “very sweet spirit.”

“But he was definitely a very lost soul,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that all hell broke loose within himself.”

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