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Pilot sues officer, Colville over arrest

Fri., March 29, 2013, midnight

Excessive force caused shoulder injury, suit says

A pilot claims a Colville police officer used excessive force while arresting him in 2011 after he crash-landed his small plane on the municipal airport runway.

A lawsuit filed by the pilot, George Thomas, in federal court names the city of Colville, the Colville Police Department and Officer Rex Newport, who is already on paid administrative leave from the department while sexual misconduct allegations against him are investigated.

The lawsuit says Thomas was roughed up by Newport following the April 23, 2011, crash and was arrested on an obstruction charge, which was later thrown out. Thomas blames a shoulder injury on Newport’s use of force.

Thomas had crashed on the Colville Municipal Airport runway after his Cessna 182 reportedly lost power shortly after taking off from the airport. He avoided crashing the plane into a populated area, documents said, by directing it into the runway.

Newport responded to the airport because of the crash and became hostile while Thomas stayed on the phone with the Federal Aviation Administration after the crash. Newport asked him to hang up and provide his pilot’s license – which he later did, attorney Richard Lewis said.

Thomas turned away to avoid the officer’s hostile behavior, and Newport then pushed him against the patrol car and pressed a Taser against his lower back, according to the lawsuit. An FAA investigator who was on the phone call with Thomas grew so concerned after hearing the confrontation that he drove to the Colville airport to check on Thomas, Lewis said.

Thomas filed a $450,000 claim against the city. It was rejected, prompting the lawsuit.

Colville city and police officials declined to comment about the lawsuit.

Newport is on paid administrative leave for an unrelated incident involving sexual misconduct allegations, the police department confirmed this week.

No criminal charges have been filed, according to Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen. The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office is conducting the investigation.

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