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General manager suspected of videotaping semi-pro basketball players found dead in Spokane hotel room

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 13, 2018, 9:17 p.m.

Kip Leonetti, a Bellingham Slam assistant basketball coach who was under investigation for videotaping players while they showered, has been found dead in a Spokane hotel room. (Bellingham Slam)
Kip Leonetti, a Bellingham Slam assistant basketball coach who was under investigation for videotaping players while they showered, has been found dead in a Spokane hotel room. (Bellingham Slam)

The longtime general manager of the Bellingham Slam semipro basketball team, found dead Monday in a Spokane hotel room, was being investigated by Bellingham police after two men said they believed they were video recorded while showering after a sporting event last month at Seattle Pacific University.

Kip Leonetti was identified as the suspect in the video recording incident, according to the Bellingham police.

Leonetti is listed as an associate coach for the Slam on the team’s website and worked as an employee for 12 years at Western Washington University’s Wade King Student Recreation Center. His duties at WWU were mostly clerical, Western Communications and Marketing Director Paul Cocke said, and Leonetti, who was a former student at the school, was not involved with programs at the recreation center.

Forensic analysts are examining “roughly 198” cell phone images, videos and individual DVDs they obtained in a search of Leonetti’s home and cell phone, Bellingham police Chief David Doll said in a news conference Thursday. Doll said police also are working to determine locations where photos or videos may have been taken to help identify potential victims and “provide care and outreach support to those folks.”

“It’s our highest priority to identify any further images that may exist – unlawfully recorded images – to determine whether or not those images have been distributed or transferred in any way,” Doll said. “Most importantly, we want to identify any victims that may be on those images.”

On Sept. 4, Bellingham police said they received a complaint from the two men regarding the incident that reportedly occurred the weekend of Aug. 25-26 in Seattle.

“I think it’s important to point out the courage of these two gentlemen,” Doll said. “When they felt something was odd, they reported it, and that’s what got this investigation going.”

After preliminary investigation with assistance from the WWU police, Leonetti was contacted on Sept. 6, interviewed and released, as police continued to investigate.

WWU placed Leonetti, who Bellingham police Lt. Danette Beckley said does not have a criminal history, on administrative leave as a result of the investigation, according to a release.

Police obtained a search warrant for Leonetti’s phone and other electronic devices, Beckley said, and investigators confirmed seeing the reported unlawfully recorded images.

Because it is an active investigation and they are analyzing evidence “at this minute,” Doll said police could not comment on how many potential victims there are or where other potential photos or videos may have been taken.

Beckley said in addition to WWU police, Bellingham police are working with Seattle Pacific police on the investigation.

On Wednesday, Bellingham police were advised through the Spokane Police Department that Leonetti had been found dead on Monday in a Spokane hotel room, Lt. Claudia Murphy said, and Spokane police are investigating his death as an apparent suicide.

Cocke said Leonetti’s co-workers at Western had “no indication of anything out of the ordinary going on.”

“Folks at Wade King told me the general mood there is one of shock and disbelief and mourning the death of a person they worked with,” Cocke said.

Anyone with information pertaining to the investigation is asked to contact Bellingham police at (360) 778-8823.

WWU students seeking counseling are asked to contact the WWU Counseling Center at (360) 650-3164. WWU employees seeking help are asked to call the Washington State Employee Assistance Program at (877) 313-4455or (866) 704-6364 after hours.

“Western is a safe campus, and we are a caring community,” WWU police Chief Darin Rasmussen said at the news conference, “and we will be reaching out to all faculty, staff, students and visitors who may have been affected by this unfortunate incident.”

The Bellingham Slam began play in the American Basketball Association in 2005, playing its home games at WCC’s Whatcom Pavilion. Players on the Slam roster ranged in age from high school players to graduated college players.

During its two seasons in the ABA, the Slam hosted games against teams that included former NBA stars Dennis Rodman and Tim Hardaway in 2006 and advanced to the quarterfinals both seasons. Leonetti served as vice president of operations for the team in its inaugural season and later assumed the role of general manager.

The team announced it was switching to the International Basketball League in 2007, where it went on to win league titles in 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014. The Slam decided to suspend operations in 2015 after the IBL changed its format

After nearly two years in hiatus, the team returned in 2016 to play in the Seattle Pro-Am league, which is now known as the Crawsover Pro-Am League, playing its entire league schedule the past three years in Seattle. The league’s semifinals and championship game were scheduled to be played Aug. 25-26 at Seattle Pacific University.

The Slam went 5-4 in 2018, losing 120-111 to the Vancouver S.B. Battle in the quarterfinals Aug. 19 in Seattle.

On Wednesday, the contact page for the Bellingham Slam on the team’s website appeared to be taken down.


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