September 22, 2010 in City

No conclusion in probe of deputy-involved shooting

Investigators awaiting study on who fired first
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Schultz
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Investigators have not determined if a man shot by Spokane County sheriff’s deputies initiated the gunfire that sent him to the hospital last week, according to court documents released Tuesday.

Although witnesses at the scene of the Thursday night shooting said Spokane County sheriff’s Deputies Thad Schultz and David Westlake were fired on first by assault suspect Sean P. Houlihan, investigators are awaiting forensic analysis of firearms found in Houlihan’s pickup before concluding whether Houlihan also fired shots, according to a probable cause affidavit signed on Saturday by Washington State Patrol Trooper R.T. Spangler.

“It’s my understanding that no bullets were recovered from the side of the house where the deputies were standing, but bullets were removed from Mr. Houlihan’s pickup, which was behind him,” said Robert Schiffner, a Moses Lake defense lawyer representing Houlihan. “We do really have to take a bit of a wait-and-see stance here. Let’s get the objective information from the crime lab.”

Houlihan appeared Tuesday in Superior Court via video feed from the Spokane County Jail, where he was booked on three counts of first-degree assault after being released from a hospital last week. He appeared next to Schiffner in a wheelchair and said little during the short hearing.

Judge Michael Price set Houlihan’s bail at $75,000, noting his lack of criminal history but the dangerous nature of the allegations.

“The entire situation seems completely out of the ordinary for Mr. Houlihan,” Price said. “That’s the unknown here, is why this would have happened to someone who had virtually no history.”

Houlihan, 37, is a self-employed floor and carpet installer who lives with his girlfriend at 909 E. Brentwood Drive in north Spokane County, where the deputies responded to reports of a shooting Thursday about 11 p.m.

Schultz and Westlake parked their marked patrol cars west of the address and walked to the home with Sgt. Martin Tucker.

Houlihan’s girlfriend, Becky Froelich, and friend Lester J. Doyle told them Houlihan had driven from the home with two handguns.

Doyle said he and Houlihan argued in the basement before Houlihan pointed a 12-gauge pump shotgun and a semi-automatic pistol at him and fired two shots. The shots missed Doyle, and Houlihan left a few minutes later.

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

Doyle said 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.”

Schultz and Westlake then fired several times, striking Houlihan, Doyle said.

The deputies and Sgt. Tucker said in a tactical debriefing with investigators that Houlihan “had fired multiple shots from the Dodge pickup toward the deputies,” according to the affidavit. “Both Deputies then returned multiple shots toward Houlihan.”

Investigators immediately determined that both deputies fired multiple shots, but “the investigation to date has not confirmed the statements of Doyle and both Deputies regarding shots fired at the Deputies,” according to the affidavit. “Investigation of the scene, as well as forensic analysis of weapons located in Houlihan’s Dodge pickup will be completed for comparison to the statements.”

Schiffner said he hopes the crime lab can determine which bullets were fired from which guns but said he believed Houlihan was carrying a Glock 9 mm – the same type of gun issued to deputies.

The Washington State Patrol is investigating the shooting, along with detectives from the Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. Trooper Troy Briggs, a WSP spokesman, did not return an after-hours message seeking comment.

Schiffner said he expected Houlihan to leave jail on bond shortly.

“I know he’s just really happy that the only person who got hurt was himself,” Schiffner said. “He’s grateful that no one in the house and neither deputy was injured. And he is looking forward to his day in court.”

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