Law enforcement officials are refusing to say whether a man killed by deputies Wednesday was armed when he was gunned down in his girlfriend’s backyard in Spokane Valley, though the man’s best friend claims that he was not.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich also would not identify the deputies until they give full interviews today to Spokane Police Department detectives. He said the two-day delay has nothing to do with his elimination in 2010 of a policy that called for a 72-hour wait before deputies were questioned.
The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office on Thursday performed an autopsy on the deceased man, who was identified by his friend as Ed Gover. But details of that examination and official identification hadn’t been released by late Thursday.
Gover’s lifelong friend Mark Beaugrand, of Post Falls, said Gover was born with the name Christopher Meeker but changed his name after he was adopted. Beaugrand said he spoke with Gover’s girlfriend, the woman who called Spokane Valley police Wednesday morning to report an assault Tuesday night. Deputies responded to her home at 1309 N. Skipworth Court.
“I asked her what happened and she said, ‘They killed him,’ ” Beaugrand said. “She said he didn’t have a weapon that she knew of.”
Gover, who was on disability for chronic seizures, moved to the Spokane area from Utah about a year ago and had been dating the woman for several months.
“I understand the police force does what it has to do, but to take somebody out like that – it’s wrong,” Beaugrand said.
Spokane police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe held a news conference Thursday afternoon but would not say whether investigators found a weapon at the scene. Deputies had mentioned a gun during radio dispatches during the Wednesday chase that ended with the shooting.
Investigators need to interview the deputies involved before they can say whether the man was armed, DeRuwe said. That interview will take place today, when she also expects to release the names of the deputies.
“We need an opportunity to talk to them before we release any intimate details of the conflict,” DeRuwe said. Following that, “I’ll have a better idea of the interaction between the suspect and the deputies.”
The incident began at 10:20 a.m. Wednesday when the woman – who is not being identified because she’s reportedly a victim of domestic violence – called police to say that on Tuesday night Gover had held her captive at knifepoint and stabbed her, causing superficial wounds.
Gover had also taken the woman’s Mercedes convertible before deputies – who are contracted to provide Spokane Valley police service – arrived.
Gover returned shortly after noon as two deputies had just completed their questioning, which had given them probable cause to arrest Gover on the charge of second-degree assault, DeRuwe said. Gover turned the car around and fled.
“At this point, responding deputies were aware the suspect was homicidal, suicidal and likely armed,” DeRuwe said. “Fearing he was attempting to return to the victim’s home, responding deputies returned to protect the victim.”
At about the same time, Gover abandoned the car on Pierce Road and fled on foot toward the woman’s house.
“As the suspect climbed over the backyard fence of the victim’s home, two deputies confronted him,” DeRuwe said. “A confrontation occurred … and one deputy fired five rounds from his handgun, striking the suspect in the torso. The second deputy fired a round from his shotgun, striking the suspect in the torso.”
Reached by phone, Knezovich refused to say whether investigators found a weapon at the scene.
“I’m not going to make any statements about what evidence was found at the scene until those interviews are done. The integrity of those two interviews is very important,” he said. Both deputies provided what’s known as a tactical interview, which typically entails where they were standing, the suspect’s location and any evidence that needs to be collected. The same kind of interview was performed on August 25, 2010, after Deputy Brian Hirzel shot and killed 74-year-old pastor Wayne Scott Creach at his Spokane Valley nursery.
In that case, investigators immediately disclosed that a gun was found next to Creach.
As for the two-day delay in their interviews, Knezovich said it has nothing to do with policy. He confirmed that he eliminated the policy calling for delay in interviewing deputies after investigators took nine days to interview Hirzel.
Today “is just when the deputies and investigators are getting together to do interviews. It has nothing to do with anything administratively,” he said. “If the deputies wanted to give their statements (Wednesday), they would have been well within their rights to do so.”
The deputies will be read Miranda warnings and can have an attorney present for their interviews, which are the same rights afforded to any citizen, Knezovich said. They will be offered counseling afterward.
“Any time you take a human life, it’s a traumatic situation,” he said. “It’s led to many families falling apart from the fallout. It’s the same for the suspect’s family. They are going through a traumatic situation themselves.”
Beaugrand, Gover’s friend, said the actions described by investigators go against everything he knew of the man. Gover helped a friend of his girlfriend through a domestic dispute about a month ago, he said.
“This is way out of character,” Beaugrand said of the allegations.