Spokane County sheriff’s deputies Matt Spink and Mike Northway have backed each other up on patrol in north Spokane County for six years, so it’s not too surprising the men were together when fugitive Charles Wallace opened fire on them Tuesday, wounding both.
The deputies, who are good friends outside of work, remain hospitalized but in stable condition. Spink, 45, suffered a single gunshot wound to his leg, police officials said. Northway, 42, took four bullets, including one that shattered a femur and another that blew away three inches of an artery in his arm.
Northway was injured in such a way that a bystander who came to his aid “possibly saved his life,” Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Wednesday.
Knezovich added, “the citizens of Spokane, we owe you a great deal of thanks.”
Spink is recovering “nicely,” Knezovich said. Northway was on the operating table for more than seven hours Tuesday, and is expected to undergo several more surgeries.
As sheriff, “this is sort of your worst nightmare,” Knezovich said, but at least both men are alive.
Knezovich described the deputies as stable and reliable – the type of employees “you can count on.”
Northway started work at the Sheriff’s Office in corrections in 1996 and started on patrol in 1999, police officials said. Spink joined the agency in 1999.
The deputies knew the criminals in their patrol territory, said Deputy Craig Chamberlin, who has worked with both men. “They have great memories for the criminals’ names, birthdates and their associates.”
Chamberlin described both as jokesters, but with different styles. “Mike’s the more sly, sneaky prankster. Matt is the more overt one.”
Both men are married and have children.
Knezovich had copies of letters that citizens had written in the past, praising the deputies.
One woman wrote to thank both deputies for helping her daughter, describing them as “kind, calm and helpful.”
A firefighter who encountered Spink at the scene of a crash where one person was dead and others injured wrote that Spink’s “professional manner and willingness to help in any way possible were very reassuring in such a horrific scene.”
On Tuesday, when reports that two officers had been shot began to circulate, every law enforcement officer’s spouse “was wondering who,” Knezovich said.
“We worked very quickly to contact family members and let them know what was happening,” he added.
The sheriff said law enforcement officers couldn’t do their jobs without the support of their families.
“Without them, we would not be the same person. They give us the support we need.”