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In brief: Refugees found in car died of drowning

Sat., July 9, 2011

Three Bhutanese refugees found dead in the Spokane River drowned in their submerged vehicle, officials said Friday.

Krishna Dhital, 21, and Dilli Ram Bhattarai, 28, both of Tukwila, Wash.; and Bhattarai’s cousin, 17-year-old Krishna Dhakal, of Spokane, had been missing for nearly a month when police found their bodies in an Acura pulled from the river on Wednesday.

Police found a beer can in the car and say alcohol and speed may have been factors in the crash. But the men were in the river long enough that determining whether they were intoxicated when they died would be difficult.

The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office is not pursuing toxicology reports.

The condition of the bodies also prevented doctors from formally identifying the men until Friday, though police and family members were sure of their identities.

Dhital, Bhattarai and Dhakal were last seen June 11. Police believe the Acura left an embankment near an apartment complex before crashing into rocks and hitting the water.

Teen was home while team searched river

A teenage boy feared to have drowned in the Spokane River on Thursday evening was safe at home while rescuers scoured the river for him.

The 17-year-old boy prompted a multi-agency rescue operation after he fell off a tube east of the Harvard Road bridge about 7:45 p.m. He was floating the river with three teens, who reported him missing 20 minutes later.

Authorities later discovered he had climbed out of the river and was safe at home, said Chief Mike Thompson with the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

The Spokane Valley and Spokane fire departments’ water rescue teams responded to the scene. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office dive team and helicopter unit also were deployed. Rescuers scoured the river for nearly 2  1/2 hours, Thompson said.

The response cost the Spokane Valley Fire Department $2,800.

Thompson said authorities are urging people to stay out of the river, which is still running high, fast and cold.

Police seize weapons, arrest gang member

Spokane police arrested a member of a Spokane family that has claimed they have been targeted for retaliation by police.

Jayce L. Pirtle Jr., 23, was arrested and booked into Spokane County Jail on Friday for three counts of first-degree unlawful possession of firearms, according to a Spokane Police Department news release.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents and the Department of Corrections assisted Spokane Police Department detectives with executing a search warrant at 1808 E. Pacific Ave., where they seized two rifles and one loaded handgun, the news release said.

Pirtle’s family has claimed to be unfairly targeted by Spokane police and the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office because of their relation to Blake Pirtle, who is serving a life sentence for murdering two Burger King employees in 1992. His death sentence was overturned after a judge ruled Spokane police had violated his civil rights during his arrest.

Authorities have denied giving the family unfair attention.

Police say Jayce Pirtle is a confirmed gang member with a lengthy rap sheet; his most recent convictions are for second-degree kidnapping and second-degree assault.

Cheney police chief named to Oregon job

BEND, Ore. – The city of Bend has picked its new police chief, a 32-year police veteran and longtime resident of Washington.

Jeff Sale, 54, is the city’s pick for the position, pending a final background check, the Bend Bulletin reported.

Sale is the police chief of Cheney, where he oversees a 30-person department.

Bend’s police department employs about 100 people. Bend’s current police chief, Sandi Baxter, is retiring in early August.

Sale took the top job in Cheney in 2004. Before that, he was a member of the Washington State Patrol, where he began his career in 1979.

Bend City Manager Eric King said Sale was a good fit in part because he’s experienced with bringing grant money to a city operating on a tight budget.

Officer escorts family to safety during fire

A Coeur d’Alene police officer saved a family of four from a structure fire early Friday.

The police department received a report of a structure fire about 4:33 a.m., according to a Coeur d’Alene Police Department news release. Officer Gus Wessel was the first to arrive at the fire on West Vista Drive, where he found the home’s attached garage in flames.

Wessel entered the home and woke a woman and three children and escorted them, along with the family pet, to safety, the news release said. He also moved the family’s car away from the fire to prevent damage to it.

Wessel has been with the Coeur d’Alene Police Department full time for three years and has been assigned to the patrol division. Prior to his full-time employment, Wessel worked as a bike patrol officer assigned to the downtown summer program.

Lawsuit says church complicit in abuse

A woman has sued the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane for child sex abuse stemming from her stay at a Walla Walla boarding school in the 1960s.

Now 57 years old, the woman lives in Alaska and filed her lawsuit Thursday in Spokane County Superior Court.

She claims she was groomed and then molested by an Episcopalian priest associated with St. Paul’s School for Girls in Walla Walla.

“She will never be the same because of the emotional damage she suffered,” her attorney, James S. Rogers, said in a statement. “When a church places a pedophile in a position of trust and authority over children, it must be held accountable for these preventable and horrific acts.”

The lawsuit alleges that Episcopalian officials knew of the abuse and failed to protect the woman – who was in the eighth and ninth grade – or take appropriate actions against the priest.

The suit does not ask for a specific dollar amount.


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