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Board approves Zehm memorial

Mission Park’s shelter will display plaque

Otto Zehm will be honored on the picnic shelter in Mission Park.

The Spokane Park Board voted unanimously on Thursday to accept the recommendation of Mayor David Condon to honor Zehm at the park, which is in the Logan Neighborhood near Avista’s headquarters on Mission Avenue.

A plaque that says, “In memory of Otto Zehm” will be attached to the shelter, said Park Director Leroy Eadie.

Zehm was beaten, shocked and hogtied by Spokane police in a north Spokane Zip Trip in 2006 after he was wrongly identified as a theft suspect. He died two days later.

Condon was required to make the recommendation to the board as part of a settlement agreed to in May between the city and Zehm’s family. Besides financial compensation and an apology, Zehm’s family had expressed interest in creating a place to honor Zehm in a city park.

“This is an example of how valuable the parks are to the people of Spokane,” said Park Board member Dr. Samuel Selinger.

City officials considered memorializing Zehm in Riverfront Park, but Zehm’s mother, Ann Zehm, suggested it be placed in Mission Park.

Zehm family attorney Jeffry Finer said Zehm grew up nearby.

“Mrs. Zehm wanted the plaque at the park where she knew Otto had spent his most enjoyable time,” Finer said.

In a June 18 letter, Condon told the Park Board that the memorial supports Ann Zehm’s desire “to have her son remembered in a positive and compassionate way.”

The shelter was built around 2000 using money approved by voters in 1999 in a park bond.

In May, after years of denying any wrongdoing, the city of Spokane settled the lawsuit brought by Zehm’s family. Along with the memorial, the city agreed to pay $1.67 million to the Zehm family and its attorneys and formally apologize for Zehm’s death. The settlement also requires the police department to provide crisis-intervention training for all Spokane police officers who aren’t scheduled to retire within a year and provides $50,000 for a consultant to help the city implement changes to its use-of-force policy.

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