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Retired sergeant will be cited for crash

A retired Spokane County sheriff's sergeant blamed for a crash that destroyed a new patrol car Sunday will receive a $175 ticket, officials said today.

Clifford Berry, 63, will be cited for failing to yield right of way after he turned in front of Deputy Chuck Sciortino's westbound patrol car about 7:15 p.m. on Sunday.

Berry was eastbound on Francis when he attempted to turn onto Freya. He had a green light, but the light called for him to yield to oncoming traffic before turning, said Sgt. Dave Reagan.

Sciortino and Reserve Deputy Kathleen Hurst were responding to a threat complaint at the time of the crash and did not have the car's emergency lights or sirens activated.

Computer information from the wrecked patrol car showed Sciortino was driving at or under the 45 mph speed limit eight seconds before the crash and was traveling at 25 to 28 mph at impact.

Sciortino and Hurst were treated for back and neck pain at a local hospital. Berry, who retired from the Sheriff's Office in 1997, was not injured. His ticket will be mailed to him, Reagan said.

The patrol car, which had been in service for about a month, will be replaced next fall when new police vehicle models are introduced. Ford no longer accepts orders for Crown Victorias.

Driver in patrol car crash is ex-sergeant

The motorist involved in a crash that destroyed a new Spokane County sheriff's patrol car on Sunday is a retired sheriff's sergeant.

Clifford Berry, 63, retired from the Sheriff's Office in 1997, Sgt. Dave Reagan confirmed today.

Berry was eastbound on Francis Avenue in a 2006 Dodge Ram pickup pulling a trailer full of household goods when he turned left onto Freya Street and was struck by the westbound patrol car driven by Deputy Chuck Sciortino. (The crash is pictured above, courtesy KHQ-TV.)

Sciortino and Reserve Deputy Kathleen Hurst were treated for back and neck pain at a local hospital then driven home after the crash, which occurred about 7:15 p.m.

Reagan said Berry appeared to have violated a green light, which allows for left turns after oncoming traffic has cleared, but he hasn't been cited.

Reagan did not say how fast the patrol car was driving or it had its lights or siren activated.

Detectives are awaiting data from the patrol's car computer before making a charging decision, Reagan said.

New sheriff’s patrol car totaled in crash

A sheriff's patrol car in service for about a month was destroyed in a crash Sunday in east Spokane.

Deputy Chuck Sciortino and Reserve Deputy Kathleen Hurst were treated for back and neck pain at a local hospital then driven home after the crash, which occurred about 7:15 p.m. as they were westbound on Francis Avenue approaching Freya Street.

Clifford Berry, 63 was eastbound on Francis in a 2006 Dodge Ram pickup pulling a trailer full of household goods when he turned left and was struck by the patrol car, which was responding to a report of threats.

Sgt. Dave Reagan said Berry appeared to have violated a green light, which allows for left turns after oncoming traffic has cleared, but he wasn't cited.

Reagan did not say how fast the patrol car was driving or if it had its lights or siren activated. The car hit the pickup with its left front, then slid and hit it again with its left rear.

Detectives are awaiting data from the patrol's car computer before making a charging decision, Reagan said.

The 2010 Crown Victoria had been in service about a month. Damage was estimated at $21,000; officials consider it a total loss.

Fake cop probed after crash, drugging

Detectives are looking for other potential victims of a Spokane man accused of drugging a woman and falsely portraying himself as a Coeur d'Alene police officer to another.

Terence M. Washington, 36, who is out of jail on bond, was first contacted by police after he rear ended another motorist at 16th Avenue and Progress Road on Feb. 7 and demanded to be taken to jail because he was drunk, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said today. He provided a Florida driver's license that police say was suspended.

Police contacted the owner of the Mitsubishi Washington was driving, who told them Washington lived with her and that he had been sleeping all day “and felt very drowsy as if she had been drugged,” according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan. The woman said she was missing a bottle containing 13 Ambien tablets and gave police a cup of water from which she said Washington had forced her to drink.

A tow truck driver found an empty bottle of Ambien near the crash scene. Washington's passenger told police she'd met him on the dating website PlentyofFish.com and that he'd identified himself as a Coeur d'Alene police officer “who was in the process of being hired by the U.S. Marshal’s Office,” Reagan said.

Jail staff found 10 Ambien tablets in Washington's jacket. Toxicology tests showed traces of Ambien in the cup of water the Mitsubishi owner provided to police.

The woman said Washington recommended she get an Ambien prescription to help her sleep. She said she allowed Washington to stay one night at her home after meeting him at Oz Fitness and that he'd refused to leave.

Police booked the suspect on a fourth-degree assault charge after finding evidence that he'd beaten the woman, Reagan said. Washington also faces drunken driving and driving while suspended charges for the crash, and police are recommending he also be charged with delivery of a controlled substance for drugging the woman, Reagan said.

Detectives are concerned Washington may have drugged other women after claiming to be a police officer. They urge anyone who's had contact with him to call Detective Kirk Keyser at (509) 477-3786.

Washington posted $5,000 bond Feb. 9.

An arraignment scheduled for Feb. 16 was stricken because prosecutors haven't yet filed charges.

Driver gets 33 mos. for crash w/ police

A Spokane woman who ran a red light and crashed into three police detectives last summer was sentenced to nearly three years in prison.

Tonia S. Vansant, 38, is to spend 33 months behind bars for the July 16 crash that seriously injured Spokane police Detectives Mark Burbridge, Jan Pogachar and Douglas Orr, Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque ruled Wednesday.

Burbridge was driving an unmarked patrol car when Vansant ran a red light at Division Street and Sharp Avenue and t-boned the car.

Vansant had traces of cocaine in her blood system.

A jury convicted her in December.

Woman injured in crash w/ stolen car

A police chase with a stolen car ended with the thief slamming into an elderly woman in an SUV this afternoon. 

The woman was taken to a local hospital after her SUV was knocked on its side by a stolen Acura driven by Shawn M. McCoy (pictured), according to the Spokane Police Department.

McCoy, 26, is a repeat offender and “prolific car thief” who fled police when they tried to stop near North Elm Street and West Montgomery Avenue just afternoon, according to a news release.

Police lost sight of the Acura near Cannon Park.

McCoy slammed into the SUV on Northwest Boulevard near Oak a few minutes later. He fled the scene on foot but was arrested a few blocks away.

Now he's in jail on outstanding warrants as well as new charges of attempting to elude police, possession of a stolen vehicle and hit and run.

Northwest Boulevard will be closed between Ash Street and Cannon Street this afternoon as investigators collect evidence.

Probe continues into pedestrian crash

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.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 3: Officer in fatal crash to return to patrol

Officer in fatal crash to return to patrol

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.

Police chase rekindles robbery charge

A man arrested in a police pursuit that damaged two patrol cars late Monday has been charged with robbery for an alleged incident at the Northtown Mall in November.

Kenneth S. Crowston, 47, (pictured in 2003) is charged with second-degree robbery after a Sears security guard said Crowston hit him when confronted about shoplifting a pair of boots on Nov. 24.

Crowston was arrested the day of the incident but was not charged and was out of jail late Monday when police spotted him in his car dressed in black in a neighborhood plagued by burglaries.

Crowston sped away from Officer Jay Kernkamp after Kernkamp approached him about 11 p.m. in the area of West Central Avenue and North Belt Street, then sideswiped Kernkamp's patrol car and rammed Officer Paul Bode's patrol car head on during a pursuit.

Crowston was pulled from his vehicle and arrested after a struggle.

Neither officer was injured in the incident.

Crowston, who has a lengthy criminal record, was booked into jail on two counts of second-degree assault, attempting to elude a police officer, driving with a suspended license and resisting arrest, where he remains on $100,000 bond.
  

Trial begins in fatal ‘09 motorcycle crash

Gary Keller remembers the crash that killed his wife and left him paralyzed: He said it started with a silver flash.

“I remember a big crash, and I remember flying through the air and hitting the ground, and I was in a lot of pain,” Keller, 61, said Thursday in the opening day of a trial in Spokane County Superior Court for Jon A. Strine on charges of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault.

Prosecutors say Strine, a Spokane stockbroker, was drunk and speeding in his 2002 silver Mercedes when his car slammed into Keller and his wife, Lorri Keller, 48, (pictured) on their Yamaha motorcycle on June 2, 2009, at West Fourth Avenue and South Browne Street in Spokane. Both were wearing full-masked motorcycle helmets.

Carl Oreskovich, considered one of the region’s premier defense attorneys, called the crash “a terrible, tragic, horrific accident” but said Strine made just a simple driving error just before the crash – a last-minute lane change – not a criminal act.

“Although this may have been a bad driving decision, it was an ordinary bad driving decision,” Oreskovich said. “It wasn’t a criminal bad driving decision.”

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

June 25, 2009: Driver sued over deadly wreck

June 4, 2009: School district on crash victim: 'Everybody just loved her'

Hit-and-run suspect released from jail

 

A Spokane Valley driver is accused of hitting a teenage pedestrian then leaving the scene with his 10-year-old son in the truck is out of jail.
 
Steven A. Black, 42, was released from jail on his own recognizance Monday after appearing before Superior Court Judge Michael Price on a hit-and-run charge.
 
Black is a lifelong Spokane County resident who has worked for a parking lot maintenance, street cleaning and snowplow company for 18 years, his lawyer said. His jail release conditions prohibit him from consuming alcohol or driving unless for work.
 
Police say he was driving a 1996 Dodge pickup when he struck Cody Washburn, 18, about 3:15 a.m. Saturday on Fourth Avenue between Adams and Progress roads in Spokane Valley.
 
Investigators used a license plate left at the scene to track Black to his home at 10807 E. Trent Ave. about 25 minutes after the crash, where they said he showed signs of being intoxicated.
 
A blood sample was sent to the state toxicology lab and is expected back in about a month, which could lead to additional charges, police said.
 
Black’s son told police he saw someone walking down the road get hit by his father’s truck, but his father “told him it was a bump,” according to court documents.
 
Washburn told police he was walking in the middle of the road listening to his iPod but that he didn’t remember the crash.

6 months later, court skipper still wanted

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest a man who skipped a scheduled plea in a drive-by shooting, then allegedly crashed a car into a northwest Spokane home early the next morning.

 Abran L. Gibson, 19, was to plead guilty in June to rendering criminal assistance for his role in a shooting in Cheney last February, but he didn't show up.

The next day, Washington State Patrol troopers say he was driving when a 2006 Hyundai Sonata crashed into a northwest Spokane home after fleeing a traffic stop about 2 a.m.

A warrant was issued for Gibson's arrest on charges that were to be dismissed had he taken the plea deal: drive-by shooting, riot and first-degree assault.

Gibson had been out of jail since April after being arrested Feb. 21; police say he was with a 17-year-old boy, Damon Morris, who allegedly shot a man's hand and is scheduled to go to trial in February.

Gibson, 6-feet-tall and 225 pounds, last gave an address in the 700 block of Hatch in Spokane.

Anyone with information on his current is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters don't have to leave their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Left-behind license plate leads to arrest

A Spokane Valley driver is accused of hitting a teenage pedestrian then leaving the scene with his 10-year-old son in the truck.

Steven A. Black, 42, left behind the license plate to his 1996 Dodge pickup after he struck Cody Washburn, 18, about 3:15 a.m. Saturday on Fourth Avenue between Adams and Progress roads, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

Investigators used it to track Black to his home in the 10800 block of East Trent Avenue about 25 minutes after the crash, where they said he showed signs of being intoxicated. A blood sample was sent to the state toxicological lab and is expected back in about a month, police said.

Washburn fractured his back and suffered internal bleeding. He is in satisfactory condition at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Man gets 50+ years for fatal DUI crash

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A construction worker who killed a promising rookie pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels and two other people in a horrific drunken driving crash said Wednesday he had all but ended his own life that night by getting behind the wheel after drinking.

Andrew Gallo, 24, (above and right) acknowledged his deadly mistake to the grieving relatives of his victims and said he expected to spend the rest of his life behind bars before a judge sentenced him to 51 years to life in prison.

“I know whatever I say will not change anything or the way you think or feel about me,” said Gallo, who faced the judge because he was not permitted to look at the courtroom audience.

“You're right. I am a horrible person, a drunk driver who took your beautiful kids away,” he said.

Gallo was convicted in September of three counts of second-degree murder and single counts of drunken driving, hit-and-run driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol and causing great bodily injury.

 Judge Richard F. Toohey gave Gallo 15 years to life on each of the murder counts and six additional years for the other crimes.

Prosecutors said Gallo, who was on parole for a felony DUI conviction, had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit when he blew through a red light at 65 mph on April 9, 2009, and T-boned the car carrying pitcher Nick Adenhart (pictured below) and three friends.

Also killed were 20-year-old Courtney Stewart and 25-year-old Henry Pearson. A fourth passenger, Jon Wilhite had his spine separated from his skull by the impact and survived.

 “Enjoy your life in that cage in which you belong, because you are no longer here on Earth,” Wilhite said in a letter to Gallo that was read aloud in court. “I can assure you are headed to a much darker place.”

Scores of people attended the hearing, including relatives of the victims who clutched giant, smiling photos of their loved ones. They pleaded with Toohey to sentence Gallo to life.

“I am hollow inside. I will never be the same,” said Stewart's mother, Carrie Stewart-Dixon. “I pray to God every day to bring her back.”

Adenhart's family sent a letter saying his parents hoped the sentence would bring some peace to their dead son, but justice could never be achieved.

“There is no balancing of the scales. There is no justice so long as Mr. Gallo is drawing breath,” the letter said.

Prosecutors said Gallo drank beer and shots at three different bars with his stepbrother before driving off in the family minivan. Jurors saw a videotaped interview in which he told police he didn't remember driving that night and apologized to the victims' families.

Defense attorney Jacqueline Goodman had asked that Gallo be given just one sentence of 15 years to life, saying he never intended to hurt anybody.

“I don't think he should be treated like a cold-blooded killer,” she said after the hearing. “I don't think he's irredeemable.”

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said his office has won 49 convictions for drunk driving homicides since 2008. With the holidays approaching, he urged residents to remember this case as they celebrate.

“There's just no good in this, there's just no good in this kind of thing anywhere,” he said. “It's all tragic.”

Cops: Fugitive rams patrol car, escapes

A drug and stolen property suspect already sought by Crime Stoppers rammed a sheriff’s patrol car Tuesday while successfully eluding a deputy, authorities said.

Michael S. Wheeler, 36, sped away from Deputy Jeff Shover in a white Chevrolet pickup after Shover spotted him pulling out of a driveway in the 4900 block of East Deer Park-Milan Road and tried to pull him over, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Shover recognized Wheeler as being wanted on several arrest warrants. Wheeler sped away westbound on Eloika Lake Road from Milan-Elk Road, then rammed Shover’s patrol car at 5:07 p.m.

Shover was not injured, but his patrol car was “rendered inoperable,” according to the sheriff’s office. The car’s PIT bumper was torn off, the push bars were pushed back through the radiator, the oil pan was punctured and there was significant body damage, a news release said.

Wheeler was last seen northbound on Valley Road at high speed. His truck’s damaged tailgate hanging down and items were falling from the bed of the truck.

Wheeler faces a new assault charge for the alleged incident as well as previous charges of first-degree possession of stolen property, possession of a controlled substance and second-degree trafficking in stolen property.

Crime Stoppers has been offering a reward for tips that lead to his capture since October.

Wheeler, 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, last gave 35616 N. Highway 395 in Deer Park as his address. Anyone with information on his current location is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Witnesses sought in snowplow crash

Detectives are looking for witnesses to a fiery fatal crash between a pickup truck and a snowplow on U.S. Highway 195 last week.

William H. Adsit, 49, of Spangle, was killed when his southbound 1994 Ford Ranger pickup collided with a snowplow truck that was stopped on the shoulder of the outside lane at 8:49 p.m. on Dec. 7.

Reports at the time said the compact truck was speeding south on U.S. 195 when it crashed into the snowplow between Hatch and Mullen Hill roads and exploded into flames.

The Washington State Patrol major accident investigation team is looking for witnesses who saw the collision “or any event leading up to or following the crash,” according to a news release issued Monday.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Sergeant Jerry Cooper at (360) 805-1192 or Detective Curt Ladines at (360) 805-1160.

Jury convicts woman in cop-car crash

A jury today convicted a Spokane woman of three counts of vehicular assault for a crash that injured three police detectives last summer.

Tonia S. Vansant, 38, faces 33 to 43 months in prison when she’s sentenced Jan. 6, said Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady.

Vansant has been in jail since July 16, when she ran a red light at Division Street and Sharp Avenue at nearly 40 mph and t-boned an unmarked patrol car driven by Detective Mark Burbridge of the Spokane Police Department’s major crimes unit. 

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 9: Trial begins in crash that hurt detectives

July 17: Spokane police detectives injured in crash

Snow berm helps stop fleeing fugitive

A snow berm helped stop a Montana fugitive fleeing police in Spokane Valley Tuesday night, officials said today. 

Shannon David McCoy, 35, refused to stop his Ford Escort when police spotted him outside the Linger Longer Apartments in the 1800 block of North Hutchinson about 10:30 p.m. He sped through stop signs before driving around police car at Vista and Baldwin and hitting a snow berm, police said.

The impact launched McCoy’s Escort into the air. Police said McCoy jumped from the car after it stopped and climbed a 6-foot fence, then scaled a concrete barrier onto Interstate 90.

Police on the freeway arrested him within seconds, according to a news release. Officers had been watching the Linger Longer since learning about 8:30 p.m. that McCoy had left Hayden, Idaho, for the apartments.

McCoy was wanted on a felony warrant in Montana after he failed to show up for an appointment with his probation officer on Nov. 17, according to the Montana Department of Corrections. McCoy is on probation in the Big Sky state after being convicted of deceptive practices in April 2009.

Trial starts in crash that hurt detectives

Trial begins today for a Spokane woman charged with three counts of vehicular assault for a crash with a police car last summer. 

Prosecutors say Tonia S. Vansant, 37, ran a red light at Division Street and Sharp Avenue on July 16 and t-boned an unmarked patrol car driven by Detective Mark Burbridge of the Spokane Police Department’s major crimes unit.  

Burbridge strained his back, sexual assault Detective Jan Pogachar (left) broke her pelvis and Douglas Orr, (bottom right) a computer forensics specialist for the sexual assault unit, perforated a lung and fractured his ribs, collar bone and sternum.

Court documents say Vansant’s blood test showed traces of cocaine as well as benzoylecgonine, the major metabolite of cocaine; and topiramate, which is used to treat seizures but can be used to treat cocaine addiction.

Investigators recently field a new search warrant for 1994 Isuzu Trooper after Vansant’s public defender suggested her brakes failed.

Police said that was the first they’d heard about possible brake problems in Vansant’s car.

A jury was seated on Monday. Opening statements are scheduled for this morning before Judge Jerome Leveque.

Shooting at girl’s room gets man 79 mos

A man who fired a gun into an apartment room where a toddler was sleeping was sentenced this morning to about 6 1/2 months in prison. 

Joseph L. Bledsaw, 25, was arrested about a month after the shooting in a fiery car crash that saw a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy pull his passenger to safety.

Bledsaw pleaded guilty today to second-degree assault with a deadly weapons enhancement, two more counts of second-degree assault and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm. Spokane County  Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza ordered him to serve 79 months in prison.

Police say Bledsaw was intoxicated on Feb. 27 when he fired shots into an apartment at 15917 E. Sprague Ave., after a couple complained to police about noise. One of the bullets struck a metal bed post and landed on the blankets covering a 3-year-old girl.

Bledsaw has previous convictions for drugs. He also was convicted of first-degree malicious mischief in Spokane County after crashing into several cars while fleeing a state trooper in 2004. (The picture up top is from that arrest.)

Bledsaw has a charge of attempting to elude arrest that has not yet been resolved, Cozza said.

3-crash survivor pleads guilty in fatality

 A man who has survived three one-car crashes on the same road near Plummer, Idaho, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter for an August 2009 crash.

Joseph Michael Matt, Jr., 25, of Worley, was speeding and under the influence of alcohol and methamphetamine when he lost control of his 1997 Jeep Cherokee and left Lovell Valley Road in Benewah County road, killing William “Sonny” A. Davison, 22, of Desmet.

Matt has been in two other crashes on Lovell Valley Road but was not driving in either.

A federal grand jury indicted Matt, a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, for the Aug. 18, 2009, crash in June.

He pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene. He faces a maximum of eight years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years probation when he’s sentenced Feb. 23. He remains in federal custody.

Grand jury indicts driver in fatal crash

A motorist who killed a pedestrian while intoxicated last April on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation, has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Andrea M. George, who was 18 at the time of the crash, is charged with involuntary manslaughter for the April 19 crash on Desmet Road at Ajot Road that killed Patrick A. Gourneau, 22, of Tensed, Idaho.

Gourneau was walking when George struck him while cresting a hill in a 2002 Honda Civic on Desmet Road just before 6 a.m.

George was airlifted to a Spokane hospital but has since recovered. She booked into the Kootenai County Jail Thursday after a grand jury indicted her on the involuntary manslaughter charge, which carries a maximum penalty of eights years in prison or a $250,000 fine and no more than three years probation.

The charge alleges George was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana and was speeding at the time for the crash. Her first appearance in U.S. District Court is scheduled for Monday in Coeur d’Alene.

Spectacular car crash leads to charges

A man who knocked over a stoplight, a three-story light pole and a tree Sunday when he crashed his 1983 Chevrolet El Camino in downtown Spokane was cited for reckless driving, possession of marijuana and for having no insurance, police said.

Anthony J. Casados, 23, said he was at Zip’s on North Division Street when a man approached him with a gun. Casados said he sped away and the gunman and another man chased him in a white SUV.

Read Jon Brunt’s full story here.

Suspect in cop-car crash was on cocaine

A woman accused of crashing into an unmarked police car in July, seriously injuring three detectives, tested positive for cocaine, new court documents show. 

Tonia S. Vansant, 37, is scheduled to go to trial next month for three counts of vehicular assault. Police say she ran a red light at Division Street and Sharp Avenue on July 16 and t-boned an unmarked patrol car driven by Detective Mark Burbridge (right) of the Spokane Police Department’s major crimes unit.

Also injured were sexual assault Detective Jan Pogachar (left) and Douglas Orr, (bottom right) a computer forensics specialist for the sexual assault unit.

 Police thought Vansant might be drunk. A search warrant filed recently says Vansant’s blood test showed traces of cocaine as well as benzoylecgonine, the major metabolite of cocaine; and topiramate, which is used to treat seizures but can be used to treat cocaine addiction.

The warrant was used to search Vansant’s 1994 Isuzu Trooper for evidence of drug use and to take photographs and measurements of the SVU “for collision reconstruction purposes,” police wrote. 

Though the detectives’ injuries were not considered life threatening, all three missed work and are undergoing physical therapy for extensive injuries.

Burbridge strained his back; Pogacher broke her pelvis and returned to work on light-duty status only. 

Orr perforated a lung and fractured his ribs, collar bone and sternum. He underwent surgery to place pins and plates in his body and has not yet returned to work, according to the search warrant, which was signed Oct. 13 by Cpl. Dave Adams. Vansant remains in jail. Last month, Judge Ellen Kalama Clark rejected Vansant’s request for a two-day furlough to move her possessions into storage because of an eviction. Clark cited Vansant’s previous conviction for bail jumping and her history of skipping court.

Past coverage:

July 19: Brother of cop-crash driver in prison for porn

Fatal crash gets drunk driver 2+ years

A Spokane man was sentenced Tuesday to 2 ½ years in prison for killing a Mead woman in a drunken head-on collision last year.

 Lucian G. Brisan, 30, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide for the Aug. 7, 2009, that killed 57-year-old Janice M. Pulliam. 

Pulliam (pictured) was helping a friend move when Brisan’s Plymouth Voyager crossed the centerline of Magnesium Road near Market Street and struck Pulliam’s pickup head-on about 2:30 p.m. Brisan’s blood alcohol content was .19 percent, which is more than twice the legal limit for driving.

Superior Court Judge Harold Clarke sentenced Brisan, who had no prior felony convictions, to 31 months in prison. He was also given credit for about 70 days in jail.

The charge wasn’t levied against Brisan until this August to allow him to recover from serious injuries that otherwise would have had to been paid by tax dollars if he was in jail.

Suspect’s non-violent history kept him free

A felon suspected of a robbery that led to a police officer fracturing his neck in a car crash already was out of jail when his sentencing was postponed in June.

Christopher W. Hardwick, 30, was required to post additional $1,000 bond on each of his three cases to remain out of jail.

The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office agreed to move his sentencing back after he pleaded guilty to two drug charges and a burglary charge because Hardwick had a family member in the hospital and had no history of violent crimes. 

“He’d already pleaded guilty; I wasn’t concerned about him not showing up at that point,” said Deputy Prosecutor John Grasso. “He was already out. We just continued that status.”

Hardwick had failed to show up for court several times but had no convictions for violent crimes.

By posting an additional bond after the guilty plea, Hardwick faced a bail jumping charge if he missed his sentencing Monday. That sentence would be in addition to the prison time he already faced in the burglary and drug cases, Grasso said.

“I’m just absolutely sick about what happened here,” Grasso said. “But given the circumstances and the evidence that I had, there just wasn’t that perception that he was going to go out and commit these types of crimes.” 

Hardwick now is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 18. Grasso said he’ll recommend an alternative drug offender program that would give Hardwick 30 months in prison and 30 months of intensive drug treatment on probation, but Hardwick’s new robbery and assault charges could prompt the judge to reject that offer.

Officer Rhian Wilkinson left a hospital Monday after fracturing his neck when a teen driver allegedly broadsided him as he sped to a report of a robbery, emergency lights activated.

Hardwick and suspect Kevin Nichols were later arrested after a chase. Both men remain in jail.

Read my full story here.

Robbery suspect has history of eluding

A Spokane police officer whose neck was fractured when his patrol car was broadsided by another vehicle was en route to catch a suspect with a lengthy criminal history - including a pursuit seven years ago that led to the death of a sheriff’s deputy. 

This time, the officer, whose name has not been released, was hit at Riverside Avenue and Browne Street at 2:30 a.m. as he drove through a flashing red light with his car’s emergency lights flashing while responding to robbery call involving Christopher W. Hardwick (pictured), the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office reported.

The officer suffered non-life threatening injuries; police this morning did not have an update on his condition.

The driver accused of hitting him, 19-year-old Taylor R. Shockman, sustained minor injures and was arrested for vehicular assault, then released to her parents.

Hardwick, 30, was arrested with Kevin W. Nichols, 26, accused of stabbing a man in the stomach and stealing his wallet near the Cenex gas station at Mission Avenue and Ruby Street just before 2:30 a.m.

Nichols and Hardwick allegedly drove a stolen Honda Civic to Riverfront Park, where one jumped into the Spokane River, and officers followed on foot.

It’s a tragedy that mirrors a a bad collision in 2003 that fatally injured a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy.

In both cases, the law enforcement officials were pursuing Hardwick.

And in both cases, Hardwick seemingly had little to do with the actual injuries.

In 2003, Deputy James Slater suffered fatal head injuries when his patrol car left Grove Road, southwest of Spokane, on a sharp curve while responding to back up another deputy who was following a stolen car with Hardwick inside, according to previously published reports. Slater died at a hospital the next day.

Hardwick and Nichols are due in Spokane County Superior Court this afternoon, on charges of possession of a stolen motor vehicle, first-degree robbery and first-degree assault.

Hardwick faces additional charges of attempting to elude police and second-degree possession of stolen property.

The felon’s lengthy criminal record includes convictions for attempting to elude police, first-degree possession of stolen property, first-degree theft.

He was sentenced to 6 months in federal prison and three years federal probation for a counterfeit money scheme busted in 2005.

Nichols pleaded guilty to felon in possession of a firearm in that same case and was released from prison in July 2009, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Warrant issued for teen after 3 jail releases

A Spokane teen who said he was high on meth when he handed a knife to an assailant-turned-killer two years ago is wanted again, this time for a stolen property case that began when he crashed an Eastern Washington University basketball player’s stolen car. 

Christopher E. Hooper, 19, is charged with five counts of second-degree possession of stolen property, one count of possession of a stolen motor vehicle and one count of possession of a controlled substance.

Hooper was arrested three times last month but continued to leave jail because charges weren’t filed within 72 hours.

Now that prosecutors have issued arrest warrants, Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to Hooper’s capture. (And with that offer comes a new mug shot. Kid’s really growing up.)

Hooper was arrested in early July with prescription drugs and suspected burglary tools, then again July 6 after state troopers said he crashed a Honda Accord that had been stolen from an Eastern Washington University women’s basketball player July 3.

Hooper was allowed to leave jail pending trial but was arrested again July 14 on new stolen property charges, along with 18-year-old Bowe T. Frank. A 17-year-old boy also was arrested that day after a standoff at 2510 W. Boone. (A search warrant shows Washington State Patrol detectives had heard the boy may have been a person of interest in the unsolved homicide of Nathan “Trigger” Gilstrap, but Spokane police say there’s no connection.)

Hooper left jail again after prosecutors didn’t file charges within 72 hours. New warrants were issued July 23.

Hooper already is on probation after in April in connection with the January 2009 murder of Shannon A. Cochran.

Anyone with information on Hooper’s whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters don’t have to leave their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Driver crashes into home day before bday

A woman wanted on a felony warrant in Idaho crashed her car into a northeast Spokane home early today after trying to flee a traffic stop, police said.

Erin R. Cain, who turns 26 on Friday, was booked into jail on eluding and gun charges after officers say they found the convicted felon with a firearm after a pursuit that began when she failed to signal before making a right-hand turn, according to an affidavit filed in Superior Court today.

Cain, alias Erin R. Hardgrove, was driving a white 4-door SUV when she turned onto East Bridgeport Avenue from North Nevada Street, then fled police at speeds of about 60 mph in a 25 mph zone, police said.

Cain tried turning left onto North Pittsburg Street from East Liberty Avenue but collided with a fence and into the north side of a home at 1714 E. Liberty Ave. just after midnight.

She tried running from the crash but was arrested near Liberty and North Madelia Street, police said.

Cain has felony convictions for attempting to elude in 2006, car theft in 2008 and drug possession in 2004. Cain was wanted on a warrant for an alleged probation violation related to the eluding conviction. She told police that’s why she fled, according to the affidavit.

Driver arrested in year-old fatal crash

A driver accused of killing a Mead woman in a drunken, head-on crash has been charged with a felony, nearly one year after the crash. 

Waiting to charge Lucian G. Brisan, 30, saved taxpayers thousands of dollars in medical bills, said Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Dave Thornburg.

“He had a long rehab period,” Thornburg said. “We were just waiting until he was healthy.”

Brisan spent months in a hospital and at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Center. He was in a wheelchair and wore a halo brace for five months, Thornburg said.

“If we had arrested him we’d have to start paying for it,” Thornburg said.

Brisan has been out of rehab for the past few months but required in-home care. He was arrested at his home Monday, where Thornburg said detectives found marijuana.

Brisan appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Tuesday via video feed from the jail, where Judge Michael Price ordered him held on $10,000 bond. 

He’s prohibited from consuming alcohol if he posts bond.

Brisan is charged with vehicular homicide and riving with a suspended license for an Aug. 7 crash that killed Janice M. Pulliam, 57 (right).

Pulliam was helping a friend move when Brisan’s Plymouth Voyager crossed the center line on Magnesium Road near Market Street and struck her pickup head-on about 2:30 p.m., according to court documents. She died the next day.

Investigators say Brisan was driving at least 68 mph in a 35 mph zone.

Initial tests said his blood-alcohol level was .23 about 2 hours and 20 minutes after the crash. The Washington State Toxicology report put it at .19. The legal limit for driving is .08.

Pulliam was a married mother of three who was active in the Mormon church, according to her obituary.