Spokane County juries have been reluctant to convict people who tussle with police, end up being shot by officers and then charged with assault. One prosecutor is having second thoughts about proceeding with those cases.
Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Patrick Johnson said he is not seeking a second trial against Michael E. Young, 56, after a jury deadlocked March 3 in deciding whether Young committed second-degree assault against the officers who shot him.
“I ran it by management and it looks like our odds of getting another hung jury are rather high,” Johnson said. “Given the public sentiment … we have to look at our resources and move on.”
That decision follows a similar case in February, when a jury exonerated David J. Glidden, 28, who was charged with third-degree assault against the officers who shot him, leaving Glidden paralyzed below the waist.
That shooting occurred Oct. 30, 2009, when Deputies Aaron Childress and Griffin Criswell responded to 4727 E. Third Ave. to investigate reports of a suicidal subject. Glidden said he didn’t know officers had arrived when he went outside with an Airsoft pellet pistol, a toy that resembles a firearm. The deputies, who work under contract as officers for Spokane Valley, said they opened fire when Glidden pointed the gun at one of the deputies.
In the Young case, officers arrived on Dec. 27, 2009, on another report of a man who was threatening suicide. Deputies Walter Loucks, Darell Stidham and Scott Bonney shot Young outside his home, at 11709 E. Fairview Ave., after they said he pointed his gun at them.
However, a witness said Young never pointed his gun, but did refuse orders to drop the gun and walked toward the deputies.
The deputies were cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting.
“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,” Johnson said.
However, Johnson has proceeded with preparations for a June 6 trial in a third case where a man is charged with second-degree assault against the deputies who shot him several times.
Donald J. Lafavor, 66, was shot five times after Deputies Ryan Walter and Rustin Olson responded to a possible domestic violence call on Nov. 28, 2009, at 8910 E. Broadway Ave.
Both deputies, who were cleared of wrongdoing in the shooting, claimed that Lafavor pointed his gun at them before Walter fired eight times and Olson three.
But Lafavor’s attorney, James Kirkham, said his client had no idea who was pounding on the door that night because the deputies never identified themselves.
“It’s always unfortunate whenever law enforcement has to be involved in a shooting,” Kirkham said, “but it has become the rule rather than the exception to charge these cases as second-degree assaults.”
Given the difficulties with the Glidden and Young cases, Johnson said he understands that it may be difficult getting a conviction against Lafavor.
“I was convinced Glidden was a solid case. Every last one of (the jurors) thought the police were justified in use of force. But they were not sure they were ready to convict a guy who just got shot by police,” he said. “There’s always a chance (the Lafavor trial) will be a difficult case, but I’m going to do my best in any event.”