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We were traveling out of the area yesterday and on a busy street with a lot of retirement communities that open onto the busy street. I saw the elderly woman dart out in traffic behind the wheel of her mid-size car. She flew across three lanes of traffic, including ours, narrowly missing several cars. I laid on the horn and she switched lanes quickly and crashed into the back of an SUV idling at a red light. Luckily for all, she was going slowly. When she crossed my lane, I was close enough to see her eyes. She looked dazed, clueless to the three or four accidents she had almost caused. When we left the scene, she was moving her car to a side street, slowly, following the man in the SUV. Had the woman had a stroke? Or high on prescription drugs? Or a woman whose license should have been pulled years ago? These were the questions that haunted us after this near miss.
(S-R archives photo)
A Spokane police officer who hit and killed an intoxicated pedestrian in his patrol car in January was typing a message into his onboard computer just before the crash.
Officer Gordon Ennis (left) told investigators he sent the message to another officer just before he struck John A. Van Curler (right) at West Montgomery Avenue while southbound on North Monroe Street on Jan. 30.
That detail was released publicly for the first time in a report this month from Spokane police Ombudsman Tim Burns, who concluded that inattentive driving was a factor in the tragedy but agreed with prosecutors that no charges against Ennis were warranted.
Prosecutors were aware of the text message when evaluating the case.
Burns called the crash “just one of those regrettable situations.”
“This officer’s going to have to live with that the rest of his life as well, and that’s a hard thing to live with, I suspect,” Burns said.
Past coverage: Feb. 12: Vehicular homicide standards high
For a vehicular homicide charge to be filed against a Spokane police officer who hit and killed a pedestrian last month, investigators must show that he was intoxicated, driving recklessly or driving with a flagrant disregard for the safety of others, according to Washington law.
Authorities said this week that Officer Gordon Ennis, an eight-year veteran, was driving between 34 mph and 39 mph in a 30 mph zone without his emergency lights and siren on when he struck John A. Van Curler, 52, at Monroe Street and Montgomery Avenue on Jan. 30.
Toxicology results from a blood-alcohol sample submitted by Ennis are pending.
High speed can be a factor in vehicular homicide charging decisions, but Ennis was driving just slightly over the speed limit.
“Is 34 to 39 driving down Monroe a willful or wanton disregard for life? No. That’s the average speed on Monroe,” said Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Dave Thornburg, who is investigating the incident with a team from the Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Police Department and Washington State Patrol. “It’s not that I’m a fellow officer and I want to protect him. If we had probable cause that night, we would have made an arrest.”
On June 10, a pizza delivery driver who was slightly speeding ran a stop sign and crashed into another vehicle, killing a 9-year-girl; the driver received a $500 ticket for negligent driving.
The Spokane police officer involved in fatal collision with a pedestrian Sunday is scheduled to return to full patrol duty.
The officer, identified Wednesday as Gordon Ennis, an eight-year veteran, has been interviewed by investigators and is scheduled to return to full patrol duty. He provided a blood sample the night of the crash, which killed John A. Van Curler, 52.
Investigators have not said if Ennis was driving with his lights or siren on, or at what speed, when he hit Van Curler at or near the intersection of North Monroe Street and West Montgomery Avenue about 10:30 p.m.
Ennis was responding to a report of trouble unknown at a home on West Spofford Avenue.
Van Curler (left) was born in Spokane and graduated from Shadle Park High School. He worked for years at Inland Empire Plating and had recently been living with his stepmother and collecting cans to exchange for cash, family said.
His brother, Jdon Van Curler, said the man battled alcoholism.
“Our heart goes out to the officer that was involved, because it obviously was not intentional or malicious,” Van Curler said. “It’s a terrible tragedy.”
The case is being handled by a team of investigators from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Police Department and the Washington State Patrol.
Schools official in Lexington, Kentucky, favor a later start to the average school day, just like the students!
Experimentally, the school officials pushed back the beginning of the school day by only one hour for middle and high school students, and they found less teen-related car accidents, a benefit caused by more rested and alert student drivers in the community.
Through school-wide surveys, the officials were able to prove that the normal teen rested more once the starting school times changed. Only 38 percent of the students in the community received eight or more hours of sleep before the survey, and 50 percent received this much sleep afterwards.
Student car accidents decreased by 16 percent two years after the initial time change for 17- and 19-year-olds in Fayette County, where Lexington is located. Throughout the rest of the state, teen car crashes were reduced by eight percent.