The Spokesman-Review

Prosecutor clears Spokane officer in shooting

Jesse Hugh Johnson scratches his head as he lies with a bandaged thigh in a hospital bed on Monday at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. Johnson was shot in the leg by a Spokane police officer while armed with what turned out to be a BB gun. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Jesse Hugh Johnson scratches his head as he lies with a bandaged thigh in a hospital bed on Monday at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. Johnson was shot in the leg by a Spokane police officer while armed with what turned out to be a BB gun. (Tyler Tjomsland)

The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office has cleared a Spokane Police officer after he shot a man in June who was pointing a BB gun at another man whom the shooter thought had stolen his two bicycles.

Officer Ron Van Tassel responded just after 4 a.m. on June 17 to 1918 E. Mission Ave. to the report of an armed man firing a weapon.

When Van Tassel arrived, he found Jesse H. Johnson, 24, pointing what appeared to be a long rifle at another man.

“As Officer Van Tassel approached Johnson, he saw Johnson raise the rifle to shoulder level. Officer Van Tassel fired one round … striking Johnson,” Spokane County Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin said in a news release.

Van Tassel called medics and Johnson recovered from the bullet wound to his leg. He was charged with multiple counts of drug-related charges, Chamberlin said.

Johnson told The Spokesman-Review earlier this year that he never heard Van Tassel and would have dropped the BB gun had he known police were in the area.

“I go to pull the trigger, they go and shoot me,” Johnson said in June from his hospital bed at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Johnson said he had tracked down a man he believed had stolen two bicycles and had shot the man’s house several times with the BB gun to lure him outside. He was just about to shoot the man with the BB gun when Van Tassel’s bullet struck him in the upper right leg.

“If they had said ‘Put it down,’ I would have put it down in a heartbeat,” he said. “I’m not some crazy person running around shooting people. When I see a cop, it’s time to obey the law.”

Johnson dismissed any suggestion that drugs might have had something to do with the dispute and claimed the methamphetamine found in his possession at the time of the shooting wasn’t his.

The sheriff’s office investigated the case as part of the protocol developed between the departments.

Johnson said in his earlier interview that he spoke with Detective Mike Ricketts, but stopped talking when he and another detective asked him about the drugs and his criminal background, which includes two felony convictions for riot in 2007, fourth-degree assault in 2010 and obstructing an officer in 2011.

“I was like, ‘What is this?’” Johnson said at the time. “They’re trying to make me look worse so (the officer) can get off.”



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