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Inquiry clears town’s chief

Investigation says gunman fired first in Reardan incident

Reardan’s police chief has been cleared of wrongdoing in a Dec. 19 cemetery shootout that left a man dead.

The Lincoln County Prosecutor’s Office said Friday it was closing the case after an investigation found that gunman John R. Merrick, 54, opened fire on Chief Gary Redmond, who then returned fire and sought cover.

According to the investigative report, compiled by the Spokane Investigative Regional Response Team, Redmond encountered Merrick in the Reardan Memorial Cemetery while on a routine morning patrol.

He greeted Merrick, but Merrick “only stared at Redmond,” the chief told investigators. Merrick then reached into his vehicle, pulled out a handgun and fired.

Redmond returned fire. A total of seven rounds were shot, three from Redmond and four from Merrick, according to the report.

During the gunfight, Redmond called for backup, and Lincoln County Sheriff Wade Magers and Lincoln County Chief Criminal Deputy Brian Telford responded. Magers and Telford approached Merrick’s car, where they found him dead behind the vehicle’s open driver’s side door. He died of a single gunshot wound to the right chest, the investigation found.

Merrick may have been depressed and despondent over the death of his mother, the investigation found. Merrick’s mother had died about a year before and her remains are at the cemetery.

Redmond was put on paid administrative leave after the shooting, but county Prosecutor Jeff Barkdull said Friday that he was back to work in the one-cop wheat town shortly after the shooting.

This was at least the second shooting Redmond has been involved in during a lengthy law enforcement career in the area.

In 1996, while a Spokane County deputy sheriff, Redmond and Deputy Harlan Howard shot and killed a Spokane Valley woman, Lillian Lane, after Lane shot Deputy John Pardee with a shotgun. Pardee survived the shooting.

In a news release from the Lincoln County Prosecutor’s Office, Redmond credited his 12 years with the Spokane County SWAT team and years of training for his response to Merrick shooting at him.

The prosecutor’s office described the response as “rapid and accurate.”

Redmond was fired from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office in 2001 after he was arrested in Idaho for driving under the influence.

The investigation into the December shooting was conducted by detectives from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Police Department and the Washington State Patrol.

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