May 9, 2012 in City

Police seek community’s help, but fear racial profiling

By The Spokesman-Review

(Full-size photo)

Police believe a tip from a community member will help them find the man who killed a woman along the Spokane River last week, but they’re urging people to use common sense and avoid racial profiling.

“Based on the description we do have from the victim herself … clearly this was a black male,” said Spokane police Major Craig Meidl. “We do have to look at the specific demographics given to us by the victim, but that does not by any means indicate everyone within those demographics is a criminal.”

Meidl briefed reporters on the status of the murder investigation Wednesday, nearly one week after Sharlotte McGill, 55, was fatally stabbed while walking her dog along the Spokane River in the 1800 block of East South Riverton. Police believe the attack was random.

Nothing about McGill, who worked at Costco and live in a nearby apartment with her 24-year-old daughter, indicates anyone would target her, Meidl said.

“However, we won’t have anything definitive until we finish the investigation and actually contact the suspect,” Meidl said.

Before losing consciousness, McGill described her attacker as a black man in his 30s with “a bad eye.”

“We don’t have any further details about what that bad eye is,” Meidl said.

Since then dispatchers have been inundated with reports of possible suspect sightings throughout the area. Police are concerned about racial profiling and vigilantism, Meidl said.

“It will very likely be a community member that will help the police department solve this case, but like I said, the vast majority of African American males in this city are law abiding,” Meidl said. “I would certainly hope no one would look to take any measure into their own hands.”

He urged residents to look at the “full picture” when considering whether to report a possible suspect citing. “What is this individual doing that you may be looking at? What is his age?” Meidl said. “You can actually help us by not calling those in if they clearly don’t fit the description. That way we can put those resources elsewhere.”

Meidl said he expects to receive DNA results from the state crime lab within two weeks. McGill’s clothes were submitted for testing, as were the clothes of a man fitting the suspect description who was detained near the scene. Police have not named the man as a suspect but are awaiting DNA results before ruling him out, Meidl said.

Meidl declined to specify what other items have been submitted, citing the ongoing investigation.

Police have canvassed the area near the homicide looking for vehicles that may have been prowled and are missing a car battery that was found at the homicide scene and may be connected to McGill’s killer.

Evidence from two cars identified Monday still is being processed.

The weapon used to kill McGill has not yet been located. Meidl said police won’t be releasing specially what type of weapon they believe it was because of the ongoing investigation.

Detectives have canvassed recycling centers where car batteries are sold and are compiling a list of people with violent criminal records who fit the killer’s description. Meidl said the list has at least two dozen names so far. Police will contact those men to see if they have any information and hopefully quickly narrow the list, Meidl said.

“Every day we get closer if even only because we’re ruling out people who weren’t involved,” he said.

Meanwhile, he urged citizens to be aware of their surroundings.

“This is not the only bad person in Spokane,” Meidl said. “There are other people out there who would do these types of things as well.”

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