The Spokane Police Department is denying that it sold a submachine gun to former Assistant Chief Scott Stephens, despite its own internal affairs investigation saying Stephens’ possession of the SWAT-style weapon contributed to some officers feeling he was “capable of carrying out the threat” to “go home and get a rifle” and resort to violence.
“Scott did not buy an MP-5 from the Spokane Police Department,” police Chief Frank Straub said Wednesday, explaining that Assistant Chief Craig Meidl was mistaken when he claimed otherwise in internal affairs documents from last December’s investigation into reports that Stephens had made threatening comments after learning of his demotion.
“It was Craig’s erroneous belief at the time,” Straub said of the weapon. “Scott, unbeknownst to Craig, had purchased an MP-5 on his own” from outside of the department.
The Spokesman-Review first reported about departmental concerns over Stephens’ access to a submachine gun in a Wednesday story based on internal affairs reports obtained under public records laws.
According to Straub, Stephens owned a .22-caliber, semi-automatic version of the popular military style assault weapon. The department’s SWAT team uses a 9-mm model. The department sells used handguns to its officers, but under Straub it doesn’t allow the sale of rifles, shotguns or MP-5s.
Stephens, who had served as acting chief for several months but lost the top job to Straub and later was demoted from assistant chief to captain, was allowed to keep his duty firearm, a Glock 23, .40-caliber handgun, when he left the department earlier this year. Retiring police officers have the option to keep their duty firearms.
Meidl held a central role in the events that led to the end of Stephens’ 27-year career at the police department. It was Meidl, for example, who persuaded Officer Jennifer DeRuwe to tell the chief that Stephens came to her “nearly in tears” and made comments she interpreted as threats. DeRuwe called the chief from Meidl’s office.
Straub placed Stephens on paid leave in December after learning of his reported threat to go “postal.” Stephens drew more than $50,000 in pay while on leave during a four-month investigation and settled out of court for $190,000. Though he continues to deny any wrongdoing, he agreed to leave the department and drop his legal claims against the city.
Meidl was so concerned about the potential for violence that he and his wife, fellow Spokane police Officer Tracie Meidl, had discussed with their children what to do in an emergency such as armed attacks on their home.
“She explained to them in watered down terms about what had occurred (no names) and that this was the purpose behind the extra safety precautions,” Craig Meidl wrote in his report to the internal affairs investigators about his wife’s talk with their children. “She also told me the following morning that she did not have a good night’s sleep as she was worried about (Stephens) coming to our house and hurting our family.”