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Bruce Palmer displays his blood-soaked shirt from a Monday evening confrontation with a group of teens outside the Steam Plant Grill in downtown Spokane. He sustained a broken nose. (Dan Pelle)
Bruce Palmer displays his blood-soaked shirt from a Monday evening confrontation with a group of teens outside the Steam Plant Grill in downtown Spokane. He sustained a broken nose. (Dan Pelle)

Family wants action to address violent incidents downtown

Sporting bruises around his eyes, Bruce Palmer gripped the hand of his wife, Billie, at his home Thursday, three days after the couple said they were attacked in downtown Spokane.

“I have an amazingly tenacious – tough – wife, who did not abandon me, or cut and run,” said Palmer, a 56-year-old pharmaceutical salesman. “That’s why it turned out the way it did and not differently.”

In an account that differs slightly from that released by police, the Palmers say they were set upon by several young people in a group of more than a dozen teenagers who blocked their van outside the Steam Plant restaurant around 8 p.m. Monday.

Billie Palmer said the teenagers sparked the confrontation by swearing at the couple after striking their minivan with an object.

When the couple got out of the van to check for damage and injuries, the group “immediately began pressing into us, without any fear or any trepidation, just daring us to defend ourselves,” Billie Palmer said.

One of the teens began shoving Bruce Palmer, his wife said, and then started punching the older man. Bruce Palmer wrapped up the teen and pinned him to the ground, while other members of the group started striking him, she said. Billie Palmer entered the fray to stop one of the group from punching her husband in the back of the head, but she was tossed aside, she said. One of the teens threatened her husband’s life, she said.

Police say the attack was caused by an argument that escalated quickly. Spokane police Capt. Judi Carl said Tuesday that responding officers received no evidence to suggest the incident was a “group altercation” and that most of the fighting was between Bruce Palmer and the teen who was arrested.

Investigators are continuing to interview witnesses and will collect any surveillance video of the crime scene, Spokane police spokeswoman Monique Cotton said. Downtown patrols have been increased as a result of the incident, she said, adding that she understood the Palmers’ passion.

“We don’t want that to happen to anybody,” Cotton said.

An unnamed 17-year-old male was arrested on a fourth-degree assault charge, but so far, police haven’t forwarded a charging recommendation to prosecutors.

The Palmer family believes their experience is just the latest in a long line of high-profile violent incidents involving young people that demand a community response.

The married couple took no questions from assembled media Thursday.

Their son, Riley Palmer, asked for the City Council to pass an ordinance that would limit the number of unaccompanied minors who could congregate on downtown streets after dark.

But Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder said such a proposal likely wouldn’t pass constitutional muster.

He added, however, that he understands the desire to create an ordinance that might limit such incidents.

“It’s really frustrating to go through something like that and feel like nothing good came out of it,” Snyder said.

Bruce and Billie Palmer thanked the police for their quick response. Bruce Palmer said he hoped the incident would prove a catalyst to change the culture downtown.

“What happened to us is not right,” he said. “I’m convinced that there are things that can be done to begin to change the situation.”

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