March 18, 2014 in City

In brief: Spokane settles claim of police beatings


A man who claimed he was unnecessarily beaten by Spokane police in a March 2009 traffic stop and again in another encounter a year later will be paid $125,000 by the city, which admits no wrongdoing.

Spokane City Council members approved the settlement Monday night with Leroy Berra, 47.

Berra was spotted driving the wrong way on a one-way street in March 2009 and pulled over by officers, who broke out the driver’s side window and removed him from the vehicle, documents show. Berra claimed he was unable to comply with officers’ demands because the electric window was inoperable.

In May 2010, Berra was forcibly knocked to the ground and shocked with a Taser after officers say he refused to follow orders and punched at them while taking a fighting stance after they had been dispatched to a report of a combative man pounding on an apartment door.

The officers named in Berra’s lawsuit were Corey Lyons, Christopher Bode, Adam Valdez, Darrell Quarles, Ronald Van Tassel, Scott Haney, Jeremy McVay and Maurio Juarez.

Snowmobile fees slated to rise to $50

OLYMPIA – Snowmobile registration fees will go up $10 a year for the next two years to help pay for the state’s Snowmobile Program under a law Gov. Jay Inslee signed Monday.

Snowmobilers currently pay a $30 registration fee each year. That’ll go up to $40 for the 2014-15 registrations, which are due Oct. 1, and to $50 for the 2015-16 season. The money goes into an account that pays for grooming trails, removing snow from parking areas, certifying volunteer instructors and providing sanitation and enforcement on state lands.

The state Snowmobile Association testified at legislative hearings in favor of increasing the fee, which has been $30 since 2002. The state has more than 28,600 registered snowmobiles, legislators were told.

Orr’s son enters plea in criminal case

The son of Spokane County sheriff candidate Douglas Orr pleaded not guilty Monday to criminal charges stemming from threats he allegedly made to workers at a fast-food restaurant he’d been fired from in August.

Oliver Orr, 24, faces a felony harassment charge and misdemeanor assault charge after witnesses said on Aug. 24 he called the Wendy’s where he’d been employed and told several employees to kill themselves, or he’d do it for them.

Douglas Orr, a detective with the Spokane Police Department and opponent of Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich in the upcoming election, said Oliver had not lived with his parents since he was 18 but the family “love(s) him very much.”

“They’re going to do the right thing,” Orr said of investigators and prosecutors. “If my son did something wrong, he should be accountable for that.”

A trial in the case has been tentatively scheduled for this summer.

Firework explodes in man’s lap

A man handling a “mortar-style firework” in Spokane’s West Central neighborhood was critically injured Sunday night in an explosion, a news release from the Spokane Police Department said.

The man is expected to survive. Spokane Fire Department crews cleared the scene around 9:30 p.m. Sunday in the 1500 block of West Gardner Avenue and the man was taken to the hospital, a news release from the fire department said. Police said the man told them the firework exploded while he was holding it in his lap.

The man’s condition was not immediately available Monday.

The residence was not structurally damaged, the fire department release said.

Lipinski pleads guilty in 2004 death

A Spokane man whose 2006 murder conviction was vacated following state Supreme Court rulings last year has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the case after a February mistrial.

John Lipinski, 30, has spent eight years in prison and is expected to be released soon, his attorney, John Stine, said Monday.

He entered the plea to the lesser charge Thursday, about three weeks after a jury deadlocked in his retrial for the murder of Melissa Salvidar. Salvidar died of a fractured skull after Lipinski drove her to the hospital in August 2004. A child delivered by cesarean section died several weeks later, according to court documents.

A Spokane jury convicted Lipinski of murder in Salvidar’s death and manslaughter for the death of the child in 2006.

Several potential jurors were questioned in private prior to their selection, based on the high-profile nature of the case and fears from the court that jurors with knowledge of the case would “taint” others, prompting the state’s high court to order a new trial last year.

Coalition sues Idaho over ‘ag gag’ law

BOISE – A coalition of animal activists, civil rights groups and media organizations sued Idaho on Monday over a new law that makes it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities.

The groups filed the lawsuit in Boise’s U.S. District Court, asking a federal judge to strike down what they call an “ag gag” law. The coalition contends that the law curtails freedom of speech and makes gathering proof of animal abuse harsher than the penalty for animal cruelty itself.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter signed the law last month after the state’s $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos showing cows being abused at a dairy unfairly hurt business.

The Los Angeles-based animal rights group Mercy For Animals released the videos, which showed workers at Bettencourt Dairy beating, stomping and otherwise abusing cows in 2012.

Fire chief apologizes for homeless attack

SEATTLE – The city of Seattle’s fire chief apologized to the public Monday after the weekend arrest of two off-duty Seattle firefighters suspected of attacking homeless men at a memorial for fallen firefighters.

Fire Chief Gregory Dean said firefighters are supposed to protect the public, “not put them in harm’s way.”

“On behalf of the men and women of the Seattle Fire Department, I apologize for the violence that occurred in Pioneer Square this weekend,” Dean said. “The action these two firefighters are accused of is not representative of the conduct we expect of Seattle firefighters.”

The two off-duty firefighters, Scott Bullene and Robert Howell, and Mia Jarvinen, who is Bullene’s girlfriend, are suspected of attacking two men in Pioneer Square.

According to the police report, the firefighters and Jarvinen initially claimed to have been victims of an unprovoked attack. They claimed a black man in a hooded sweatshirt attacked them for no reason.

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