A trial is scheduled for one of several bounty hunters accused of damaging a Spokane motel room while violently apprehending two people in September 2016.
Four bounty hunters participated in the encounter at the Econo Lodge motel near Finch Arboretum. One smashed a room window, and another tossed in a canister of pepper spray before kicking open the door. At the time, a motel employee said the irritant saturated the room, and because the building had a central ventilation shaft, guests in neighboring rooms had to be moved.
Prosecutors said one of the people staying in the room, Shanda Hanson, was a fugitive from Kootenai County. However, they said that the bounty hunters had no authority to detain Justin Jordan, the man she was with. The bounty hunters were accused of illegally detaining Jordan to get information on another fugitive, Gary Todd, who was not staying at the motel.
Bounty hunters Shaun Beveridge, 34, Reed Alefteras, 24, and Robert Elder, 31, were each charged with unlawful imprisonment and second-degree assault for their roles in the motel encounter. Police also requested charges against the fourth bondsman, Christopher Petrie, 37, but prosecutors declined.
In deals with prosecutors this month, Elder and Alefteras each pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of criminal mischief. Beveridge’s trial was recently delayed until April 16, suggesting attorneys are negotiating a plea deal for him, too.
Deputy prosecutor Sharon Hedlund declined to comment Tuesday. Beveridge’s attorney, Doug Phelps, did not respond to messages seeking comment. Reached by phone Tuesday, Elder also declined to comment.
The motel encounter happened in the early hours of Sept. 14, 2016. At the time, Beveridge told The Spokesman-Review he and his partners had received a tip the previous night that Hanson was staying at the Econo Lodge. He claimed they found her and Jordan in a parking lot across the street, and Jordan tried to run them over in a stolen SUV before the pair ran out and barricaded themselves in their room.
The bounty hunters called Spokane police at about 2 a.m. Officers arrived and told Hanson to come out, but left the scene after she refused.
“We said, ‘Sorry, you’re on your own,’ ” Officer Teresa Fuller, then a police spokeswoman, said at the time. “We don’t assist bondsmen because they have their own rules, and a lot of times their rules are a lot more lax than ours.”
Fuller also said at the time that officers had no authority to arrest Hanson on the out-of-state warrant, though Beveridge questioned why officers didn’t arrest her for other alleged crimes.
Spokane police Detective Lonnie Tofsrud interviewed Petrie and reviewed footage from Elder’s body-worn camera. In court documents, Tofsrud wrote that Alefteras broke the window of the motel room, and Elder tossed in the pepper spray canister before kicking open the door.
Tofsrud wrote that the bounty hunters, heavily armed and dressed in tactical gear, were shouting orders at Jordan and Hanson, as well as “threats to kill the occupants of the room.” He wrote that the bondsmen handcuffed both individuals, adding that Jordan was “clearly affected” by the pepper spray.
“Jordan was not wanted on any type of detainer that allowed the defendants the legal authority to search him out and initiate an arrest,” Tofsrud wrote. “The defendants were attempting to make an agreement with Jordan where they would release him if he gave information regarding Todd.”
In pursuing charges against the bounty hunters, Tofsrud also consulted an expert in the field, Mike Rocha, who runs a Seattle-based firm called the Bail Enforcement Agency.
According to court documents, Rocha reviewed the same body cam footage and said the bounty hunters had inappropriately continued to search the motel room and the stolen SUV that Jordan had been driving. Regarding the pepper spray, “Rocha indicated that he had never used a chemical agent in that manner over the last 30 years of his employment.”
Legally, bounty hunters, many of whom prefer to call themselves “bail enforcement agents” or “recovery agents,” can only detain a fugitive who is subject to their contracts. Beveridge was working under contract for Quick Release Bail Bonds in Post Falls, and court documents state that all four bounty hunters involved in the motel encounter had the authority to arrest Hanson.
Regulation of the bail enforcement industry varies from state to state. Idaho does not require bounty hunters to be trained or licensed, but Washington does. State records indicate Beveridge, Alefteras and Petrie were licensed in Washington, but Elder was not.
Alefteras’ license has been suspended, and he is serving time in the Spokane County Jail. In January, a jury found him guilty of first-degree robbery and fourth-degree assault in connection with a July 2016 incident near Gonzaga University. According to court documents, he and two other men jumped a fence and assaulted three people who were walking in the area, stealing one man’s credit card and sending him to the hospital with a broken nose and lacerated eye.
Alefteras also has a 2011 misdemeanor battery conviction in Bonner County.
Jordan, 35, pleaded guilty last May to charges including theft, money-laundering, second-degree burglary and taking a motor vehicle without permission. He is serving time in Airway Heights Corrections Center.
Hanson, 33, was found guilty of drug possession last June and remains under supervision in Kootenai County.
Correction: This story was changed on March 29, 2018. Shaun Beveridge was licensed as a bounty hunter in Washington. A previous version of this story stated otherwise, due to a misspelling of his first name in court records.