April 3, 2013 in City

Gunfire bares federal gang probe in Spokane Valley

Warehouse focus of investigation
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

A Spokane Regional Explosive Disposal Unit robot is prepped before being sent to search a building near Appleway Boulevard and Dishman Road in Spokane Valley on Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)

Gunshots Tuesday morning at a Spokane Valley warehouse uncovered an ongoing gang-related federal investigation.

Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Craig Chamberlin said a man arrived at a sheriff’s precinct in the Valley and reported another man had fired a shot at him just before 7 a.m. near the warehouse at 316 S. Dishman Road.

“While deputies were investigating this incident, they were notified by the North Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force that they had an active investigation involving the same address the shooting took place,” Chamberlin said in a statement.

Deputies surrounded the building and took one man, 36-year-old Shawn Mertes, into custody on charges of aiming or discharging a weapon, Chamberlin said.

It was unclear if Mertes or the alleged intended victim in the shooting, who was not identified, had anything to do with the ongoing federal investigation. No one was injured.

The building was searched by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team, the Explosive Disposal Unit and hostage negotiators.

Frank Harrill, the FBI’s senior agent in Eastern Washington, confirmed that the agency’s Safe Streets task force participated in the enforcement action Tuesday morning.

The FBI’s Safe Streets task forces work to “identify, disrupt, and dismantle existing and emerging violent criminal enterprises and gangs,” according to the agency’s website.

Harrill confirmed the investigation was gang-related but did not have additional details.

The building is owned by Jerry Colvin and is leased by Ian Harris, Colvin said. Colvin previously operated Jerry’s Valley Radiator Service there but retired in 2008, he said.

Colvin said he has no idea why his building was searched or what kind of business or other activities were going on there. He has been trying to sell the property for a few years, he said. Colvin added that he’s never heard of Mertes.

Businesses located on Dishman between Appleway Boulevard and East Eighth Avenue were not able to operate for about five hours on Tuesday while investigators were on scene. A nearby daycare, Guardian Angels, was locked down most of the morning.

There are 12 comments on this story. Click here to view comments >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email