January 7, 2014 in City

Rash of crimes in Spokane mars new year

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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KXLY4 reporter Jeff Humphrey holds a microphone for his photographer after his TV station’s wireless mic malfunctioned at the start of a Spokane police news conference updating investigations of recent shootings and robberies.
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For the second year in a row, Spokane detectives were kept on their toes by a string of post-New Year’s crime, which this year left one man shot dead, his alleged killer hospitalized and area pharmacies uneasy by a rash of pill robberies.

“Responding to these calls initially, that day or that night, ties up a lot of resources for the Police Department,” Capt. Joe Walker said. “But I can assure everybody that we’re giving it a hundred percent.”

The spate of crimes began with calls of a bank robbery Friday morning.

On Friday night, police say, Arnold Allen Lommasson, 48, was shot in the head and killed at an apartment building on the 2200 block of North Astor Street.

Detectives followed leads to Pasco, where suspect Brandon Mellon, 26, apparently shot himself in the leg while fleeing police. Walker said the bullet hit Mellon’s femoral artery.

“The injury was so severe that, at the time, they didn’t know if he was going to survive or not,” he said.

A woman was in the car with Mellon when he was taken into custody, Walker said. He would not say whether charges against her were pending, nor did he disclose a suspected motive in the killing.

The shooting was not random, he said, and the address was known to police as a “problem area.”

Mellon, a 10-time convicted felon according to Spokane police, was considered armed and dangerous following the shooting, Walker said. He’s being treated at a Portland hospital under guard by local authorities. He will be extradited to Spokane and is expected to face a first-degree murder charge, Walker said.

• Friday morning, armed robbers took an undisclosed amount of cash from a bank branch near the Garland District in a heist that police think may be linked to a similar theft in December.

So far, investigators have released just one photo of the three men they say entered the Washington Trust Bank at 3810 N. Maple St. a little after 9 a.m., disguised with ski masks and armed with handguns.

The same detectives are assigned to both the robbery last week and the one that occurred at a U.S. Bank branch, also in the Garland District, on Dec. 20, Walker said.

Police are asking for tips from the public in the case. The robbers are described as black men in their 20s with medium builds.

• A Spokane woman was shot at least once in a fast-food restaurant parking lot later on Friday, then driven to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

The woman is recovering and is expected to survive, police said.

Walker said the shooting did not appear to be random and that the victim is “well-known” to police. Surveillance video from the restaurant, a Wendy’s just north of downtown on North Division Street, is being examined by detectives, who are also asking the public for information on the incident.

Walker said detectives have a “good idea” of who dropped the woman off at the hospital, but no arrests have been made.

“Detectives are having a hard time dealing with the victim,” he said.

• Pharmacies in both Spokane and Spokane Valley have been hit by pill thieves in recent days. Police think at least two of the four robberies that have occurred since Saturday afternoon were committed by the same woman.

Surveillance footage shows the robber, a white woman in her 20s with brown hair and sunglasses, at two supermarkets over the weekend. She demanded prescription painkillers then fled the stores, a Fred Meyer in East Central and a Safeway in Hillyard, on foot, according to police.

Walker said the frequency of the robberies indicates a desperation common among drug addicts. He said police are trying to stop the thefts before they become violent.

“The video that we have right now is very good,” Walker said. He said a resolution will likely come “relatively soon.”

Pharmacies in a Spokane Valley Albertsons and in the Providence Medical Building at Fifth Avenue and Browne Street were robbed on Saturday afternoon and Monday afternoon, respectively.

Police are investigating whether the same woman seen in the surveillance tapes was behind the Albertsons theft. A man reportedly robbed the Providence clinic.

Police records indicate violent crime is up slightly in the first few days of 2014 over last year. Already Spokane has seen 25 incidents classified as violent crime, compared with 19 during the same period in 2013. Property crime is down slightly, from 193 last year to 147 this year.

Walker said the weekend’s crimes should not worry law-abiding residents.

“People that are working 9 to 5, going to school and work, aren’t putting themselves in these bad situations,” he said.

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