A Spokane jury on Wednesday convicted a 67-year-old man of assault against one of the deputies who shot him three times in 2009.
The jury convicted Donald J. Lafavor of one count of second-degree assault in connection with an incident on Nov. 28, 2009.
The verdict baffled Lafavor’s defense attorney, especially since Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Patrick Johnson recently questioned the merit of pursuing the trial after a recent acquittal and a hung jury in two similar cases.
“I’m shocked and outraged,” defense attorney James Kirkham said. “That’s the worst read I’ve ever had on a jury.”
Johnson said he was satisfied with the verdict but declined further comment. It was the third time Johnson prosecuted cases where he charged suspects with assault after they were shot by local law enforcement.
A jury in February exonerated David J. Glidden, 28, who was charged with third-degree assault after deputies shot him during an encounter on Oct. 30, 2009, that left Glidden in a wheelchair.
Last month, Johnson announced he would not seek a second trial against 56-year-old Michael E. Young. A jury deadlocked on March 3 on whether Young assaulted the three deputies who shot him on Dec. 27, 2009.
In announcing that decision, Johnson said, “If those jurors are representative of our community and it’s happened twice, I’m not sure we will have a different outcome with a new trial for Young.”
In each of the three cases, deputies claimed that the men pointed guns – or what looked like guns – at them before the deputies fired.
“Staring down the barrel of that gun … Deputy (Ryan) Walter thought he was going to die,” Johnson said during his closing statement in the Lafavor case. Lafavor “stuck his gun outside and pointed right at Deputy Walter’s head.”
Kirkham, however, said Lafavor was at home that night, at 8910 E. Broadway Ave., when he heard loud banging on his door. The deputies later testified that they did not identify themselves.
Lafavor checked the door’s peephole twice before retrieving his gun to defend himself, Kirkham said. He hadn’t opened the door all the way when Walter and Deputy Rustin Olson opened fire. Three bullets hit and passed through Lafavor, who was rushed to a local hospital.
“Whether or not Deputy Walter had a gun pointed at him is not the crux of this case,” Kirkham said. Lafavor “didn’t even know Deputy Walter was there.”
But the jury sided with Johnson. Lafavor, who according to Kirkham hasn’t fully recovered from his wounds, faces a minimum of three years in prison because of a weapon enhancement. Without that enhancement, Lafavor faced three to nine months in prison for the second-degree assault conviction.