January 17, 2011 in City

Spokane man killed by police

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A man reportedly armed with a knife was shot to death by police in northwest Spokane early Sunday.

Spokane police officers were dispatched to the home at 5726 N. Elgin St. shortly before 4 a.m. to check on a report of domestic violence, according to the Washington State Patrol. No other injuries were reported.

The shooting was being investigated by the Spokane Investigative Regional Response Team, which is composed of officers from the Washington State Patrol, the Spokane Police Department and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators declined to identify the dead man or the two police officers who confronted him, but the man’s relatives identified him as 26-year-old Kenneth Dennis.

Close neighbors didn’t see the shooting and several slept through it, but at least one was awakened by gunshots and a woman screaming.

Neighbors said the incident involved a young couple with two children younger than 5 who moved in less than two months ago.

They said they hadn’t had a chance to meet the newcomers, who were quiet and caused no trouble in the neighborhood of small, neatly kept homes.

The fatal shooting occurred inside the home during the initial contact with the man, according to the WSP, but it’s unclear what prompted the officers to open fire. WSP Trooper Troy Briggs said the preliminary investigation has determined that the man was armed with a knife.

The WSP is handling the investigation under interagency agreements calling for outside investigations in police-related shootings and other use-of-force incidents.

Sunday’s confrontation is the seventh in which law enforcement officers have shot Spokane County residents since Aug. 25, when a sheriff’s deputy killed a Spokane Valley pastor. Five of the shootings have been fatal.

Neighbors said there had been a gathering at the home Saturday night.

They said several people, perhaps five, socialized on the front steps around 8:30 p.m.

“The laughter told me they’d had some beers, but it wasn’t disruptive,” said neighbor Sean McCarthy.

“It was just a bunch of people standing there gabbing,” said another neighbor, who declined to give her name.

Later, she called police when she was awakened by gunshots and a woman’s screams.

“All I could see was a woman running across the front lawn and two men standing there,” she said.

The neighbor said she was surprised how fast police arrived.

“They came very quickly,” she said. “There must have been 10 police cars here within the first two minutes.”

She said two men she saw silhouetted by a porch light could have been police officers who were already at the scene.

“I had no clue what was going on until the red tape went up,” the woman said.

Sherry Harms, who lives next door to the home where the shooting occurred, said the couple who lived there had done “zero” to attract attention.

“It’s just been completely quiet over there,” Harms said. “I don’t even know what they look like.”

Another next-door neighbor, Heidi Harris, agreed the couple were “very quiet” and caused no problems.

“They seemed like a nice couple,” she said. “They weren’t partiers.”

Harris said she and her husband “said ‘Hi’ to them,” but they seldom saw the family.

“They’ve been unusually sort of absent,” McCarthy said. “It was weird.”

Harris said she and her husband, Randy, have lived next door to the house where the shooting occurred for three or four years, and the house has had three renters in that time.

“We’ve never had any problems with anybody,” either in the rental house or elsewhere on the street, Harris said.

Most residents in the neighborhood own their homes and, except for the new family, “we all know each other,” she said.

Deputy city editor David Wasson contributed to this report.


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