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Sunday, June 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Handling of Spokane transgender attack detailed in report

The Spokane police officer in charge of the initial response to the assault of a transgender woman in Boots Bakery and Lounge said witnesses didn’t report any sexual slurs or hate speech the night of the incident.

The victim, Jacina Scamahorn, and some witnesses of the attack on Jan. 30 have criticized emergency responders for not taking her assault seriously and for being rude.

A 248-page internal affairs report examining police handling of the case says responding officers thought Scamahorn had a bloody nose and was intoxicated because she was unable to speak. The officers assumed they were dealing with a misdemeanor assault because no one told them that her alleged attackers used slurs during the attack, according to the report, which was released Thursday and written by Sgt. David Staben.

Scamahorn, who suffered several facial fractures in the attack, previously denied being intoxicated, and several witnesses said she had not been drinking.

Police did not learn the assault might constitute malicious harassment, the state’s hate crime charge, until after the city’s Human Rights Commission raised concerns about the incident.

A police report was not written immediately, because Officer Scott Haney was on overtime and thought the report could wait until he came back to work Monday. “A misdemeanor assault would not be followed up on,” Staben wrote. “This is not an uncommon practice in this situation.”

Building owner Dan Spalding told Staben that he arrived at Boots while police and paramedics were standing around Scamahorn. He said the “flavor” of the exchange was “dismissive at best, if not mocking.”

Several of the complaints against police came from bartender Johnny Dandurand, who said he told one officer that the bar, Zola, next door had surveillance video, but the officer “didn’t seem to care.”

“They treated it like someone stumbled in here drunk and fell on their face,” Dandurand said. “They weren’t taking it seriously at all.”

Staben stated it is “obvious” that any offensive behavior witnessed by Dandurand had to be the fault of paramedics. Spaulding’s observations came after paramedics arrived and “he has to be observing interaction with medics,” Staben wrote.

Spokane Fire Department Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer said he is continuing his investigation into the actions of his personnel.

“I don’t think it’s that black and white,” Schaeffer said. “It’s naive to think it’s that simple.”

This week Adam R. Flippen and Marc A. Fessler both pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree assault and malicious harassment. Fessler originally was only charged with malicious harassment.

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