March 9, 2014 in City

No charges filed yet in January assault by Steam Plant

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Prosecutors have not yet filed charges in the January assault of a man leaving a downtown restaurant with his wife who said they were attacked by a group of teenagers.

The victim, 56-year-old Bruce Palmer, said detectives told him prosecutors would be pursuing felony charges against two juveniles in the case, whom they said would be tried as adults.

The 17-year-old who came to blows with Palmer told investigators in February he was drunk the night of the attack and doesn’t remember anything about the confrontation that left Palmer with a broken nose and two black eyes.

Palmer said Thursday his wounds have healed.

“My nose is still a little tender,” he said. “But if you looked at me, you’d never know.”

Police responded to an intersection near the Steam Plant restaurant Jan. 27, where they found Palmer placing the 6-foot-2, 245-pound teen in what one responding officer described as “a headlock.” Palmer’s wife, Billie, said after the attack she feared for her husband’s life.

“I really thought they were killing him,” she told assembled media at a news conference at the couple’s rural Spokane County home in January.

The teen in the headlock, who is not being named by The Spokesman-Review because he hasn’t been charged in the case, told investigators he was “only trying to help” after police broke up the fight. Palmer declined medical attention at the scene, and officers cited the 17-year-old for fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor.

Palmer learned his nose had been broken a day after the attack. A detective assigned to the case eventually recommended charges of second-degree assault against the teen, a felony, as well as riot charges for Charles Bennett, 21, and another teen involved in the altercation, according to police reports obtained by The Spokesman-Review.

The prosecutor assigned to the assault case did not return a call requesting comment.

Several witnesses rebutted claims from one of the teenagers in the group that the couple’s minivan had struck him as it pulled out of the restaurant parking lot. Investigators noticed marks on the dust-covered vehicle that indicated it had been slapped.

Palmer said as he held the young man charged with assault, another teen leaned over and threatened to pull his head back “till your neck snaps,” according to police reports. Witnesses varied in their accounts of who threw the first punches in the fight.

The teen was released to his father following the incident. He is not in custody, according to court records. He pleaded guilty to third-degree assault with sexual motivation of a 10-year-old girl when he was 14, according to court records, and had been ordered to attend 40 weeks of counseling, an order he violated in March 2013.

Bennett, the 21-year-old, allegedly attempted to flee from police a week before the downtown attack after violating a domestic violence no-contact order, according to court documents. He was later arrested but is not in custody, according to jail records. Bennett has two felony convictions for illegally possessing a firearm and first-degree theft.

Detectives spoke with the teen accused of assault a couple weeks after the January incident. He said he’d been drinking with friends prior to the incident and that he’d blacked out. A Spokane Transit Authority security guard said the 17-year-old had been part of a group of teens kicked out of the downtown STA Plaza that night after one became so drunk he was unable to walk and began vomiting.

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