June 6, 2013 in City

Clark: Body camera could have cleared up deputy-involved shooting

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Another deputy-involved shooting took place in Spokane Valley with deadly results.

And another controversy has erupted over what may or may not have happened.

Someone change the channel, please.

We’ve seen this movie before.

There is a déjà vu aspect surrounding the violent demise of Roy Jacobs Jr. in an apartment last Saturday.

The intoxicated man was shot and killed by sheriff’s Deputy Jerad Kiehn after Jacobs threatened the deputy with a long knife, investigators say.

But reminiscent of two other deputy-involved Valley shootings, Jacobs’ death has followed a frustratingly familiar pattern, with civilians and authorities clashing over whether deadly force was warranted.

To me, the differences and discord are more ammunition for making body cameras standard police officer equipment.

Unobtrusive and effective, body cameras are being used by more and more police departments.

Spokane Mayor David Condon and the City Council have endorsed body cameras, as has Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

The Coeur d’Alene Police Department is already using the devices, and it’s time we joined the party.

Besides getting the police unions to accept anything that makes such good sense, the biggest challenge to getting body cameras appears to be the cost.

Outfitting the Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, say, would reportedly cost $600,000.

Then again, that might be a bargain compared to the price of losing a wrongful death lawsuit.

Not that there are any worries here.

Knezovich is already beating the drum on Kiehn’s behalf.

“We have a vast amount of inconsistent stories that came out from the family and witness members,” the sheriff said in a Wednesday news story.

I’ve been an Ozzie fan since he first took office back in 2006. The sheriff has always struck me as an honest guy who appears to be guided more by principle than politics.

So I have no reason to doubt the sheriff’s faith in the official version of events.

Which is that Jacobs came at Kiehn with a sizable knife and then ignored the deputy’s commands to drop the weapon.

Yet some family members claim that Kiehn was 18 feet away from Jacobs when he fired.

Having body cameras at any crime scene would capture the unvarnished truth.

If only there was one at the Plant Farm on that fatal August night in Spokane Valley three years ago.

We all know the official story: Pastor Wayne Scott Creach, the Plant Farm’s 74-year-old owner, grabbed his handgun and went outside to investigate a noise.

Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Hirzel had parked his unmarked county car on the Plant Farm property. When it was all over, the officer said he had feared for his life and shot the armed and approaching man after he ignored his order to drop the weapon.

Then there was Edward Gover, a real baddie, who met his end in the Valley last fall.

Two sheriff’s deputies, Aaron Childress and Eric Werner, gunned Gover down after he refused their commands and made a threatening move while claiming to have a knife.

That’s the story, anyway.

The knife, alas, turned out to be a key fob for the Mercedes that Gover had stolen.

Gover, however, was beyond caring when that was discovered.

The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office decided that both of these Valley shootings – Creach and Gover – were justifiable.

Still, it’s only natural to wonder …

Would a body camera or two have changed anything?

I don’t know. But I’d sure love to find out.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.


There are 56 comments on this story. Click here to view comments >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email