Task force directed deputies to stop SUV
Felon helped hide Wallace, police contend
A Spokane man shot in the leg during a home-invasion robbery last month was with a fugitive just before he opened fire on two sheriff’s deputies Tuesday.
That information, contained in court documents filed late Thursday, gives the clearest picture yet of what led up to Charles Robert Wallace’s decision to shoot two deputies. The documents also show that agents monitoring Wallace believed he could turn violent if confronted by law enforcement.
Robert Lee “Bo” Ruth, 42, is in jail, accused of helping Wallace, a suspected heroin trafficker, hide from law enforcement after Wallace walked away from court-ordered drug treatment in Spokane Valley.
Wallace, 41, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after leading police on a high-speed chase north on U.S. Highway 395 through Deer Park. Video from a sheriff’s helicopter released Thursday shows Wallace driving north in southbound lanes past dozens of motorists.
About an hour before Wallace is believed to have shot the deputies, members of the Spokane Regional Task Force followed him and Ruth, who were in separate vehicles, from a location in the 8800 block of North Alcan Street to North Newport Highway.
They contacted Deputies Matt Spink and Mike Northway and asked them to stop the Chevy Tahoe to identify the three occupants. They were looking for Wallace, who was disguised in a hat with long, mullet-style wig attached, but did not know for sure if he was inside.
Spink and Northway were told “that Wallace was believed to be armed and had made statements that he was not going back to jail,” according to the court documents filed late Thursday.
Seconds after the Tahoe stopped on Elm Road just off the highway, Wallace exited and opened fire on Spink and Northway. Spink was struck once in the leg; Northway was hit four times and may have bled to death had a citizen not helped control heavy bleeding from an artery in his left arm, police officials say.
The driver of the Tahoe and a passenger, identified through dispatch calls and family interviews as Josh Fowler and Brittany McCullough, sped away, and Wallace ran away, stole an 87-year-old woman’s Honda Accord and fled the area.
An officer called Ruth, who was last seen driving north on the Newport Highway, and told him Wallace had just shot two deputies. Ruth lied to the officer and said he hadn’t talked to Wallace since June 14, then changed his story and said he’d seen Wallace but didn’t know where he was. Ruth, a felon with a history of heroin use, then hung up on the officer and refused to answer his phone.
The details were contained in court documents filed to support a felony charge of rendering criminal assistance against Ruth.
“His continual acts of deception obstructed the apprehension of Charles R. Wallace after Wallace had shot the two deputies in an attempt to inflict deadly force,” according to the three-page affidavit prepared by a Spokane County sheriff’s detective.
Wallace left the rehab center on June 3, but authorities didn’t learn of his escape until June 5, when a federal agent contacted the facility. U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno issued a warrant for his arrest on June 8.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich on Wednesday blasted the May 25 decision by Imbrogno to allow Wallace, who has at least 15 felony convictions that include third-degree assault and eluding police, to leave jail and attend drug rehab on May 31. Wallace was arrested April 24 on a federal heroin distribution charge. He was facing a maximum of 20 years, but a new grand jury indictment returned Tuesday carried a possible life sentence. The charges allege Wallace was armed with a gun and had heroin with him when he was arrested.
Imbrogno has declined to discuss her decision.
Ruth was identified as an associate of Wallace and several co-defendants during the investigation into the alleged heroin distribution ring. Investigators interviewed him at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center on May 31, two days after he was shot in the hip during an invasion robbery at the home he rents on East Princeton Avenue, which is owned by a Spokane police officer.
Ruth said he didn’t know who was responsible for the robbery and shooting at his home. Ruth said he knew Wallace and had obtained heroin from him in the past year, though he said he’s “been out of the ‘game’ for some time and is currently in the methadone program,” according to the affidavit.
Police believe that was a lie – investigators looked at phone records and saw Wallace had contacted Ruth 17 times between June 6 and June 14.
Police contacted Ruth again on June 14 and told them Wallace had escaped from court-ordered rehab and was wanted. They told Ruth to call an officer or 911 if he saw Wallace.
The next day, task force members talked to a confidential source who claimed to have picked up Wallace in Spokane Valley after Wallace left the rehab center. The source said he or she dropped Wallace off north of Deer Park and learned over the next few days that Ruth was allowing Wallace to store motorcycles and other items at a family property on Alcan Road.
Ruth was loading two motorcycles onto a utility trailer near his Suburban about 3:35 p.m. Tuesday when investigators saw Wallace, clad in the cap with the “mullet-style hairdo,” helping him. Wallace got into the Tahoe, believed to have been occupied by Fowler and McCullough, and Ruth followed in his Suburban as the SUV traveled toward Division Street.
The vehicles stopped for about 20 to 30 minutes at Roundy’s Kawasaki, an ATV, sport boat and motorcycle shop at 11008 N. Newport Highway, before Ruth drove away northbound on the Newport Highway and the Tahoe went southbound. An after-hours phone call to the shop went unanswered late Thursday.
Spink and Northway were asked to conduct an “investigative stop” on the Tahoe to identify the occupants. It’s unclear how police identifed Wallace as the shooter, but he was named as a suspect within minutes.
Ruth was booked into the Spokane County Jail on Wednesday afternoon. He’s expected to appear in Spokane County Superior Court today on the first-degree rendering criminal assistance charge, which carries a maximum of five years in prison.