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Officer under federal investigation in Zehm case identified

SPD’s Sandra McIntyre received “target letter” from Justice Department

With the excessive force trial of a Spokane police officer less than a month away, the identity of a second officer under active federal investigation in connection with the fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm has been confirmed.

Senior Spokane Police Officer Sandra McIntyre already has testified before a federal grand jury that indicted fellow officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. She now faces a potential obstruction of justice charge based on her testimony, according to her attorney and others familiar with the ongoing probe.

“She is telling them what she knows,” McIntyre’s attorney, Rob Cossey, said. “But they think she has more information.”

Cossey said he doesn’t expect federal prosecutors to decide whether to file charges against his client until after the conclusion of Thompson’s trial in U.S. District Court, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 11. He confirmed that McIntyre has received a “target letter” from the U.S. Justice Department indicating that potential obstruction charges are being pursued against her in connection with the fatal 2006 encounter.

The first indication that federal investigators were investigating multiple Spokane police officers in connection with the Zehm fatality came in court records filed in 2009 by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin. Later court documents indicated that a federal grand jury had begun hearing evidence of alleged police obstruction in April 2010.

“They are not focusing on Sandy. They are focusing on the trial,” Cossey said of federal prosecutors. “My concern is whatever happens in the trial that she becomes more of a focus.”

Currently, only Thompson faces felony charges of using excessive force and lying to investigators following the March 18, 2006, confrontation with Zehm, who was struck with a police baton multiple times and jolted with a Taser. The 36-year-old mentally ill janitor, who was mistakenly identified as a possible thief, stopped breathing while he was hog-tied with a mask on his face. He died two days later.

Asked if he believed the target letter and companion investigation into McIntyre was a tactic by federal investigators to compel her testimony, Cossey agreed. “They want certain people to testify a certain way. She’s going to tell the truth, regardless.”Cossey represents four officers connected to the Zehm investigation.

“The only one I’m concerned about is Sandy … in how the feds are looking at her,” he said.

Durkin, the federal prosecutor, said he could not comment about any aspect of the Zehm investigation.

Frank Harrill, supervisory senior resident agent for the Spokane office of the FBI, said he was unable “to comment about any aspect of this matter.” In addition, Thompson’s defense attorney, Carl Oreskovich, also declined comment.