Last week, Spokane Mayor David Condon hand-delivered to Ann Zehm what she has wanted for more than six years: an apology.
Zehm, 84, is the mother of Otto Zehm, who died in 2006 at the age of 36 after he was mistakenly accused of theft and beaten, hog-tied and shocked by police in a Zip Trip convenience store on North Division Street.
City officials agreed to write an apology to Ann Zehm last month as part of a mediated settlement of a lawsuit against the city. When Zehm attorneys approved the language for the apology, city officials requested to present it to her in person. City Attorney Nancy Isserlis urged Condon to present her with a version written by hand. He complied.
“She was very touched by the visit and the letter,” said Breean Beggs, one of Zehm’s attorneys. “Credit to the mayor and the city for taking the time to resolve something on a human scale.”
Condon met with Zehm on June 4 in a conference room at her downtown apartment building. Also in the room were Isserlis, Beggs, Ann Zehm’s nephew Dale Zehm, and Dale’s wife, Sandy Zehm.
The mayor gave her the letter, which she opened after the visit. They talked for 15 to 30 minutes.
At the same meeting, Isserlis delivered a check for the city’s portion of the monetary part of the settlement, about $720,000. The city’s insurance company is covering the rest of the $1.67 million deal.
Ann Zehm’s attorneys said an apology and a commitment to help prevent similar incidents is what she most wanted.
“Early on, that’s all she wanted,” said Jeffry Finer, another of Zehm’s attorneys.
Isserlis said Zehm told the mayor about her son and about how she missed him. She said Zehm told Condon that she accepted the city’s apology.
“I’ve never really witnessed something so genuine and moving as watching Mrs. Zehm talk to the mayor,” Isserlis said. “Sometimes in the practice of law, you don’t get to bring closure to stuff like this.”
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