A Washington State Patrol sergeant who shot an unarmed pregnant woman during a drug raid in Spokane last fall will not face criminal charges, officials confirmed Tuesday.
Sgt. Lee Slemp has been on paid administrative leave since the Sept. 24 incident. He will return to work today in an administrative position while WSP conducts an internal investigation into the shooting, said Bob Calkins, spokesman for WSP.
Slemp told investigators he shot Keamia D. Powell, 24, by accident as he was trying to stop her from escaping out a window at 1405 N. Lincoln St. Slemp and other members of the Quad Cities Drug Task Force were searching the apartment as part of a crack cocaine investigation.
For law enforcement to face criminal charges in Washington, prosecutors must believe the officers acted with malice, not just negligence. Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll, who reviews officer-involved shootings, did not return phone calls seeking comment on Tuesday.
Slemp has said he had his gun drawn while corralling suspects and accidentally fired it when Powell tried to climb out the window, investigators say.
Powell, who was nine months pregnant, delivered her baby at a hospital after the shooting and has since recovered.
She’s been charged with four felony drug charges and was in rehab when she pleaded not guilty in November.
Calkins said WSP had heard previously that no charges would be filed and arranged for Slemp to work at a desk job while deciding if he violated department policies. Slemp will not be armed, Calkins said.
But, Calkins said, “This is not a demotion. This is simply a job where he’s not out on the street interacting with the public until we complete the internal investigation.”
Slemp, a 25-year veteran, earns $80,112 annually.
He and other task force members, who are based in the Pullman area, joined members of the Spokane police gang unit in the search.
The task force began investigating Powell and her mother, Aletha Robinson, 41, last June after a confidential informant bought cocaine from them on several occasions, according to court documents used to support felony drug charges against them.
Powell is scheduled for trial on April 18. Her mother also is charged.
Powell’s son was taken by state welfare workers just after he was born because hospital staff members were concerned about his health, according to court testimony. Investigators said Powell had tried to swallow drugs during the raid.
Powell could not be reached for comment.