Former Spokane police detective Jeff Harvey testified in his own defense Tuesday that a state wildlife officer lied to justify a charge of obstruction, possibly to help the arresting officer’s friend secure more hunting access.
“I asked him, ‘Why are you putting so much credibility in a third-party complaint?’ ” Harvey said of his first contact with wildlife officer Dave Spurbeck, who was investigating a report of shots being fired after hunting hours. “That’s when he really got animated. He calls me a liar. He said, ‘We’ll get to the bottom of this.’ ”
The verbal confrontation turned physical and prosecutors contend Harvey hindered Spurbeck’s investigation, which involved Harvey’s two sons and their friend. Two of the boys later acknowledged firing the shots that sparked the complaint.
The six-person Spokane County District Court jury started deliberating Tuesday afternoon and is scheduled to resume today. Jurors were not told that Harvey had been fired from the police department in July. He was dimissed in part because of the obstruction charge and because of what police administrators describe as a “troubled” work history.
Harvey was charged with obstruction of justice after the Jan. 22 encounter with Spurbeck, an officer with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife who responded that day to a report of boys shooting after hours north of Spokane. When he made the traffic stop, Spurbeck said Harvey was argumentative, refused to allow Spurbeck to interview his sons and that he was forced to use physical restraint to move Harvey away from his truck after Harvey repeatedly refused commands.
Harvey, 46, told the jury he was a 25-year police veteran who has received the department’s medal of valor, then testified essentially that Spurbeck was lying. Harvey said Spurbeck escalated the situation and immediately accused his sons and their friend of shooting after hours.
“As he gets out, he immediately yells back at me, ‘Three boys were shooting after hours,’ ” Harvey said of Spurbeck. “I was taken aback by it. I told him that was physically impossible.”
Harvey said he explained that one of his sons got cold so Harvey walked him back to the pickup as the other son and his friend retrieved decoys from the private land where they were hunting along Deadman Creek. The other two boys testified that they took shots at waterfowl as they waited to be picked up.
Other hunters in the area, who happened to be friends of Spurbeck, called the wildlife officer on his cellphone and reported that the boys had fired after hours. Spurbeck responded and made a traffic stop a few miles from the area near Peone Road.
Harvey said he knew the hunters who made the call and that they had previously inquired about getting access to the private land where Harvey hunted that day.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Rob Cossey suggested the jury question why Spurbeck would respond to a low-priority call, driving 12 miles on bad roads when the wildlife officer was almost home.
“What do you do as jurors when you have two different versions from two police officers? I am bothered, and you should be bothered, by the fact that there was a reason why hunters don’t want other hunters to have access,” Cossey said. “This isn’t a concerned citizen calling. It’s two calls from a friend.”
Spurbeck earlier testified that the caller was a man he’d checked several times as part of his official duties. Later, Spurbeck became friends with the man and his father and they started hunting together. Cossey said Spurbeck didn’t reveal that information until he interviewed him just days before the trial.
Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Brian O’Brien simply asked the jury to choose sides.
“The testimony of the officer and the testimony of Mr. Harvey … is dramatically different,” O’Brien said. “You people determine what happened. I ask you for a verdict of guilty as charged.”