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The shooting of two Spokane County sheriff's deputies last year by a reputed heroin trafficker with a penchant for firearms and a long history of felony convictions is now getting national attention.
Above is a YouTube trailer for a new documentary, produced by the NRA as part of its Life of Duty series, which takes viewers on an in-depth look at the shocking case from the perspectives of those who survived it. Called “Catch & Release,” the documentary takes a critical look at U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno's decision to release accused drug kingpin Charles Wallace into an unsecured drug treatment facility in Spokane Valley while awaiting trial — over the objections of the cops and federal prosecutors familiar with the case.
As those of us in Spokane know all too well, Wallace quickly walked away from the American Behavioral Health Systems facility to a waiting car. A few days later he would open fire on Deputies Matt Spink and Mike Northway, critically wounding both and sparking a rolling gun battle and wild chase that ended north of Deer Park when Wallace crashed at a police blockade and then took his own life.
The Spokesman-Review interviewed the deputies last year for a gripping story about their ordeal. The magistrate, Imbrogno, has a history of controversial pre-trial release decisions but she's also been accused by defense attorneys of being too tough.
The full documentary can be viewed here.
A man accused of helping Charles Wallace, who shot two sheriff’s deputies before shooting himself to death last month, tried to kill himself at the Spokane County Jail on Friday.
Robert Lee “Bo” Ruth, 42, who was jailed last week after his girlfriend told police he’d assaulted her, remains on life support at a local hospital.
Ruth was found hanging unconscious in his jail cell Friday about 8:35 a.m. A corrections deputy cut him down and performed CPR until medics arrived, said Capt. John McGrath.
Three recent letters to the editor address the case of Charles Wallace, who shot two sheriff's deputies last month after being released from jail on federal heroin charges.
Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno ordered Wallace to report to a drug rehab center in Spokane Valley on May 31. He shot shot Deputies Matt Spink and Mike Northway on June 19 after authorities said he escaped from the facility.
Imbrogno has fallen under much scrutiny - scrutiny that longtime defense lawyer Mark Vovos said is undeserved.
Wallace “faced one count that had a sentencing guideline range of 24-30 months when he was released with conditions,” Vovos wrote. Read the full letter here. (Wallace was indicted the day of the shooting on charges that carried a potential life sentence, but that wasn't filed when he was released.)
In a letter published Saturday in response to this letter from lawyer Jeffry Finer, anti-drug war activist Chuck Armsbury suggests Wallace was released from jail not to actually complete a drug rehabilitation program but to work as an informant for drug detectives.
“The deal offered Charles Wallace, most likely, was to troll for more heroin users, to be an informant and possibly avoid going to prison,” Armsbury wrote.” Wacky idea? No: About 97 percent of federal drug cases are handled by guilty pleas and agreements to cooperate. Prosecutors justify routine use of informants as necessary and won’t reveal facts the public should know.” Read the full letter here.
Imbrogno and Wallace's lawyer, Jaime Hawk, have refused to comment on the case.
An audio recording of a 10-minute hearing held 15 days before Imbrogno issued her ruling is the only public information available regarding the federal magistrate's decision. Read my story on the recording here.
Ten years before Charles Wallace shot two Spokane County sheriff's deputies, he had an encounter with a now former Spokane police officer who's the subject of a criminal probe regarding his search and seizure procedures.
Wallace contested the search of his car and home conducted by Officer Alan Edwards on May 13, 2002. His public defender asked a judge to throw out the evidence on the grounds it was obtained illegally.
But Superior Court Judge Neal Rielly, now retired, denied the motion to suppress, and Wallace ended up pleading guilty and going to prison for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver cocaine and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver heroin, as well as second-degree escape for escaping from Geiger Corrections Center.
When still fighting the charges, Wallace signed an affidavit supporting his lawyer's efforts to suppress the evidence obtained by Edwards, who was fired last February for lying to an on-duty officer to obtain contact information for a woman he'd met at a bar.
Edwards was suspended for two weeks last fall after being on paid leave for seven months amidst a criminal probe into his use of an unlicensed bounty hunter to catch fugitives. That probe was recently reopened, and Edwards remains a target.
In the affidavit filed Nov. 27, 2002, Wallace stated he was driving his 1988 Toyota MR2 with a valid driver's license, valid registration and valid proof of insurance in the car when he was stopped about 11:30 p.m. “for no apparent reason.”
Wallace said his power window was not working, so he opened the door and started to get out of the car until Edwards ordered him back inside.
Wallace said he held his license, registration and insurance through the open window when Edwards said to Officer Greg Thieschafer “That's him. Take him out,” according to the affidavit. Thieschafer handcuffed Wallace and placed him in the back of a patrol car while Edwards started searching through the car. Edwards located heroin in the trunk.
Police also found heroin, cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia at Wallace's home in the 1200 block of West Alice Avenue. Wallace's wife at the time, Jessica Wallace, signed an affidavit contesting the legality of that search, too.
Jessica Wallace said she was home with her two-week-old baby and her younger brother when police officers, including Edwards, arrived and told her her husband had been arrested. One of the three officers said they needed to search the home.
Jessica Wallace said she was told police would get a search warrant for the home if she didn't let them in.
“In my mind, I felt I had no choice other then to let them enter and search my home,” according to the affidavit. “I was extremely frightened fearful and did not know what to do. As I result, I let them into the house.” The officers found something, then returned with a search warrant for a locked bedroom, according to the affidavit.
Reilly denied the motion to suppress in December 2002. Charles Wallace pleaded guilty in January 2003.
A Spokane man accused of helping the fugitive who shot two sheriff's deputies is out of jail after posting $100,000 bond this week.
Robert Lee “Bo” Ruth, 42, posted the bond through Bulldog Bail Bonds on July 2 after being in the Spokane County Jail since June 20, according to court records.
Ruth appeared before Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque on Thursday and pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of first-degree rendering criminal assistance.
Members of the drug task force were looking for fugitive heroin trafficking suspect Charles Robert Wallace at Ruth's family's property on North Alcan Street on June 19 when they followed Ruth's SUV and a Chevy Tahoe with a young couple and a man in a disguise they believed could be Wallace.
The SUV stopped at Roundy’s Kawasaki on North Newport Highway for about a half an hour before Ruth drove north and the Tahoe went south.
Task force members directed Deputies Matt Spink and Mike Northway to identify the passengers of the Tahoe and warned that Wallace “was believed to be armed and had made statements that he was not going back to jail,” according to court documents.
Just after the Tahoe stopped on Elm Road just off the highway, Wallace exited and opened fire on Spink and Northway. Spink was struck once in the leg; Northway was hit four times and may have bled to death had a citizen not helped control heavy bleeding from an artery in his left arm, police officials say.
The driver of the Tahoe and a passenger, Joshua Vincent Fowler and Brittany A. McCullough, sped away and Wallace ran away, stole an 87-year-old woman’s Honda Accord then fled the area before shooting himself after a 21-mile chase.
Officer Beau Brannon, who owns a home on Princeton Avenue that was rented by Ruth, called Ruth right after the shooting and told him what happened.
Police say Ruth lied to the officer and said he hadn’t talked to Wallace since June 14, then changed his story and said he’d seen Wallace but didn’t know where he was. He then hung up on the officer and refused to answer his phone.
Ruth and his girlfriend and their infant son moved out of the Princeton home after a home-invasion robbery on May 29 in which Ruth was shot in the leg. David F. Smith, 40, is suspected in that case.
Ruth has seven felony convictions; his last occurred in 2000.
Five weeks before Charles Robert Wallace shot two Spokane County sheriff’s deputies, he sat in a federal courtroom in downtown Spokane, his hand in a cast, as his lawyer told a judge he needed drug addiction treatment instead of jail.
The 41-year-old suspected heroin trafficker’s wrist had been broken in a fall at the Spokane County Jail, and it took five days to get it set in a cast.
“It’s been a pretty painful and pretty difficult couple of weeks,” Wallace’s federal public defender, Jaime Hawk, said during the May 10 hearing as she urged U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno to allow Wallace to leave jail for drug rehab.
“He can’t leave there. He’s not a danger to the community and will be engaging in the needed substance abuse treatment,” Hawk said.
Spokane police arrest Josh Berg at 7th and Maple on June 19. (SRphoto/Colin Mulvany)
Two young people briefly mistaken for accomplices of cop shooter Charles Robert Wallace last week had methamphetamine and Hydrocodone in their car, police say.
Brittnei J. Fawver, 21, and Joshua A. Berg, 24, were arrested June 19 after refusing to stop for police, then crashing their SUV at West Second Avenue and Walnut Street and running from officers.
The two were lucky they weren't shot.
Witnesses said members of the massive police force investigating the shooting converged on the area and held Berg at gunpoint.
They were looking for Brittany McCullough and Joshua Fowler, who were in the Chevrolet Tahoe when Wallace got out and shot Spokane County sheriff's Deputies Matt Spink and Mike Northway. McCullough and Fowler left Wallace behind then ditched the Tahoe, so police all over Spokane were looking for a couple named Brittany and Josh.
“This was not the right day to run from police,” Cpl. Dave Adams said at the time.
Fawver ran right out of her flip fop, which is pictured in front of the smashed SUV.
Police say Fawver identified herself only as Brittnei and named her accomplice as only Josh.
So, when Fawver asked what she was being charged with, an officer told her she might be charged with attempted murder and told her about the shooting.
“Fawver yelled that she wasn't involved in that incident and that she was driving a truck when she ran because she had a warrant,” according to a search warrant filed Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court.
Fawver was arrested for hit and run and a Department of Corrections warrant; Berg was arrested on a DOC warrant. Both suspects have lengthy criminal histories.
McCullough and Fowler were located later that night.
Police on Tuesday searched the smashed-up 2001 Ford Explorer that Fawver and Berg ditched. They located two baggies of methamphetamine, 12 Hydrocodone pills, a methamphetamine pipe and a marijuana pipe, according to the search warrant.
The investigation is ongoing.
The cops call them “ropes,” and they are tying themselves into knots – big, expensive, dangerous knots – throughout the community. Repeat offenders, career criminals, call them what you want. A huge proportion of crime is committed by a tiny number of people whose entire lives orbit the criminal justice system. Federal estimates suggest that 6 percent of criminals commit 70 percent of crimes; half the people released from prisons are back within three years. Last week’s extraordinary shooting and police chase shined a bright light on that wholly ordinary reality. Charles Wallace, pictured, the man who shot two deputies and then himself, had a rap sheet longer than a Russian novel. The judge who last let him out of jail to attend drug treatment has taken a lot of heat. But the truth is, people like Wallace are revolving in and out of jail constantly. It’s not a ton of people. But they’re behind a ton of crime/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: If you were ruler of the universe, what would you do with “ropes” (career criminals)?
Two sheriff’s deputies shot by a fugitive heroin trafficking suspect last week continue to recover as detectives continue to investigate the crime spree that ended in the shooter’s suicide.
Deputy Matt Spink (left), who was shot once in his leg, was released on Friday. Deputy Mike Northway (right), who was shot four times in his arms and legs, remains in the hospital but has been released from the intensive care unit and has walked around a couple times.
“There’s even been some talk about a hospital discharge date,” said Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
Charles Robert Wallace, who shot two sheriff's deputies last Tuesday before leading police on a chase that ended with his suicide, had been to drug rehab long before a judge allowed him to leave jail to give it another chance last month.
He completed “intensive outpatient” treatment in 2000 and a continuing care program through Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in 2001, according to court documents.
He also took courses on victim awareness, stress and anger management, as well as a “Breaking Barriers” course that aims to teach offenders better living skills. He also completed “moral reconation therapy,” which aims to improve the moral thinking of criminals.
The therapy apparently didn't have much of an effect on the man who would go on to commit one of the most high-profile crime sprees in recent Spokane County history.
One month after he was dropped from probation, Wallace was arrested with heroin during a traffic stop in Spokane.
That resulted in Wallace returning to prison in February 2003 and being released in April 2006. He was arrested in Adams County just two weeks after his release and ordered back to prison. He left again in October 2009. His probation period with the Washington Department of Corrections ended on Nov. 10, 2010.
As first reported in this story, a review of Wallace's criminal history in Spokane County shows a pattern of disobeying court orders, using drugs and fighting with law enforcement.
A document prepared by a court officials in 1985 for a car prowling charge says, “Charlie has made no effort to comply with his court-ordered conditions.”
Wallace, then 13, was ordered to spend five days in juvenile detention. He also was convicted of attempted assault in 1984. He wrote in court documents that “I pulled out my knife when I was fighting with my sister.” He stole a bottle of wine from a grocery store and stole a bike from a home in 1985. He also was convicted of indecent liberties for having a sexual relationship with a girl under the age of 14 in 1984.
Wallace first went to prison in July 1998 for after leading a Washington State Patrol trooper on a high-speed chase in Spokane Valley on Nov. 15, 1997.
Wallace ditched the stolen truck he was driving and ran from the trooper but was arrested after a struggle.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, then a deputy, was off duty but witnessed the arrest and helped the trooper by picking up a syringe and pouch filled with drug syringes, spoons and methamphetamine located near Wallace, according to court documents.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Knezovich said, though he said he didn't realize who the man was until a reporter contacted him Wednesday evening.
Knezovich said he was recovering from shoulder surgery at his apartment home with his three young children when a neighbor knocked on his door and told him a trooper needed help.
“Wallace led the trooper on quite a chase through the apartment complex,” Knezovich said. “He was fighting with the trooper really hard.”
Police found a loaded shotgun in the truck that had been reported stolen a year earlier. Knezovich said the gun Wallace used to shoot Deputies Matt Spink and Mike Northway on Tueday also was stolen.
The truck in 1997 belonged to Wallace's mother, Melissa A. Wallace. She told police her son stole her truck and identified him as the driver.Wallace became irate when she did - police say he kicked the right rear window of a police cruiser and had to be controlled with leg restraints.
It wasn't the only time Wallace victimized his mother. He was charged with forgery in 1996 for forging a check from her and cashing it at a Liberty Lake bank for $275. Wallace's mother told a sheriff's deputy Wallace had been living in a travel trailer on her property on Campbell Road in southeast Spokane County for several years, according to court documents.
Wallace was sentenced to five years in prison but served less than three. He began probation in March 2001, but his freedom didn't last long. He was arrested in May 2002 on drug charges after the traffic stop in Spokane. A Spokane police officer said Wallace began to exit his car during a traffic stop but obeyed the officer's commands to remain inside and close the door. Wallace was arrested after the officer found heroin in the car. Police also found heroin, cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia at his home in the 1200 block of West Alice Avenue.
He was ordered to report to Geiger Corrections Center for drug monitoring on June 25, 2002. It wasn't until September that he arrived at Geiger, and when he did, he tested positive for methamphetamine, cocaine and morphine. He escaped from Geiger in December 2002 and was convicted of second-degree escape.
He returned to prison in February 2003 and was released in April 2006. He was arrested in Adams County on a heroin charge just two weeks after his release and ordered back to prison. He was sentenced to just 12 months, but the arrested violated his previous “Drug Offender Alternative Sentence,” so he was ordered to serve the remainder of that prison sentence.
He left again in October 2009. His probation period with the Washington Department of Corrections ended on Nov. 10, 2010.
A summary of Wallace's criminal history can be viewed here. It does not include convictions for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver cocaine, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver heroin, second-degree escape from 2003 and the Adams County drug conviction in 2006.
Look for more coverage soon from The Spokesman-Review regarding the decision to release Wallace.
A heroin bust today at a Spokane home involves associates of cop shooter Charles Robert Wallace.
Julie Ann Lewis-Rice, 38, was arrested during a SWAT team search at a home in the 900 block of East Bismark Avenue this morning.
She was one of eight suspects named in a federal investigation into a heroin distribution ring involving Wallace, who killed himself Tuesday after shooting two sheriff's deputies, but prosecutors moved to dismiss her charges on May 15.
She was booked into jail on heroin delivery charges about 1:30 p.m. today. The raid came after a confidential informant bought heroin from a woman who obtained it from the home June 14.
Spokane police drug detectives seized police scanners, $777 in cash, heroin, loaded syringes and other drug paraphernalia from the home during a search that began at 10:31 a.m.
A co-defendant in the heroin trafficking case involving cop shooter Charles Wallace also left a drug rehab center after being released from jail.
Gary Erwin Douglass, 57, had second thoughts after leaving the center on Wednesday, so he contacted his lawyer and turned himself in at the federal courthouse within a few hours, said Bob Doty, supervisory agent with the U.S Marshals.
Douglass is now in the Spokane County Jail without bond. U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno allowed him to leave jail to go to rehab, just as she did with Wallace.
Douglass has a felony conviction for forgery from the late 1990s - hardly the extensive criminal history of Wallace, who shot himself to death Tuesday after shooting two sheriff's deputies.
A Spokane man shot in the leg during a home-invasion robbery last month was with a fugitive just before he opened fire on two sheriff’s deputies Tuesday.
Robert Lee “Bo” Ruth, 42, is in jail, accused of helping suspected heroin trafficker Charles Robert Wallace hide from law enforcement after Wallace walked away from court-ordered drug treatment in Spokane Valley.
Mary Rock waves her cane Wednesday as she stands in her backyard in front of a door, center, where she says Charles Wallace entered her home in north Spokane. (SRphoto/Tyler Tjomsland)
Mary Rock, 87, moved from Los Angeles to Spokane 10 years ago to escape the high rate of crime there.
But on Tuesday, she found herself in the middle of one of the biggest crime stories of the year, as a man suspected of shooting two Spokane County sheriff’s deputies broke down her back door, ripped her phone off the wall and demanded her car keys.
The petite woman put up a fight, wielding a heavy wooden cane and shouting for Charles Wallace to get out of her north Spokane house.
The county’s top law enforcement officer expressed outrage Wednesday that a suspected heroin dealer facing his fourth stay in prison was released from jail just weeks before shooting two deputies in a gunbattle north of Spokane.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich waved a thick packet detailing the extensive criminal history of 41-year-old Charles Robert Wallace (pictured) at a news conference, criticizing U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno’s order to release Wallace into a voluntary drug rehabilitation center.
“Mr. Wallace put this entire community at extreme risk,” Knezovich said. “I question why this individual was allowed to be on the streets of Spokane instead of being in jail where he should have been.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno is no stranger to controversial rulings.
Imbrogno is the judge who released suspected cop shooter Charles R. Wallace from jail to attend drug treatment while awaiting trial on his latest heroin trafficking charges. Wallace almost immediately left the treatment program without returning to court, setting in motion the chain of events that led to Tuesday’s shootings.
It isn’t the first time Imbrogno’s pre-trial release decisions have drawn scrutiny.
Back in 2009, Imbrogno approved a temporary release for suspected drug dealer Terrence A. “T-Baby” Kinard so he could enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with his family — despite a long history of skipping out on promised court obligations. Among other things, Kinard had failed to appear for scheduled court hearings on 75 separate occasions.
And in 2010, she allowed Scott Nicholas Cassell, an accused marijuana peddler linked to a major distribution ring, to take a five-day family vacation to Disneyland in Southern California before returning to accept a plea bargain in the case.
Lawyers at the time defended Imbrogno as a tough but fair-minded judge: “She’s been on the bench long enough to know there’s reasons and people you have to take a chance on,” Spokane defense lawyer Mark Vovos said of Imbrogno back in 2010. “It depends on your background, your criminal history, your family support and things like that.”
Now, with two Spokane County sheriff’s deputies still hospitalized with gunshot wounds from a suspected heroin trafficker she let out of jail without bail, more questions are surfacing about Imbrogno’s pre-trial release rulings.
Imbrogno has not returned calls seeking comment, nor have prosecutors or the public defender assigned to Wallace’s federal case.
A 1979 cum laude graduate of Gonzaga University School of Law, Imbrogno was a 1970 honors graudate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she studied biology and chemistry. She was first appointed to the federal bench in 1991.
Unlike federal district judges who enjoy lifetime appointments, magistrates are appointed to eight-year terms. They are chosen by the district judges of the courts they serve. In Spokane, Imbrogno’s responsibilities include presiding over all initial court appearances of crime suspects, as well as bail and detention hearings.
A suspected heroin trafficker believed to have shot two sheriff's deputies stole an 87-year-old woman's car before he fatally shot himself during a police pursuit Tuesday.
Police said late Tuesday that the woman chased Charles Robert Wallace, 41, out of her house and hit him with a cane before Wallace, who was armed with a gun, stole her Honda Accord.
Wallace was driving that Honda Accord when he ran over spike strips, crashed into a Spokane police cruiser, then fatally shot himself.
Federal agents had been looking for Wallace since hearing he'd left a Spokane Valley drug rehabilitation center last week.
Two sheriff's deputies had stopped Wallace in an SUV when he shot them and fled west to the 9800 block of North Andrews, where he forced his way into the woman's home and demanded her keys.
He then drove north on Highway 395, where another wild chase ensued.
“This event was extremely dynamic and rapidly unfolding. Information was constantly being given to responding officers who continued to search for the primary suspect. Other individuals may have been involved, creating other locations within the City and the County to receive police attention,” according to a news release by Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.
A fugitive wanted on heroin charges was arrested this week after a U.S. Marshal spotted him at a home in Spokane disguised in a blond wig.
Frisco San Juan Ayala, 32, was wearing the wig when federal agents observed him placing backpacks inside two vehicles between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Monday, according to court documents filed today.
About 9:45 a.m., Ayala got into a gray Dodge truck but crashed into another vehicle at the intersection of East Empire Avenue and North Napa Street, then fled on foot, leaving behind a black pistol, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
He was arrested near Napa and East Gordon Avenue with more than 10 grams of methamphetamine, as well as heroin and “numerous suspected precious gems,” documents say.
Ayala was not wearing the wig at the time, but his hair was dyed and investigators found the wig in the cab of the truck, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Bob Doty.
Ayala is described by federal agents as a “mid- to upper-level drug trafficker in the Spokane area,” according to court documents.
Agents searched the home in the 2100 block of E. Heroy Ave., where Ayala had been spotted that morning, and seized a meth pipe, ammunition and hair dye from the home. The homeowner has a felony crack cocaine distribution conviction from the late 1990s.
Ayala had been wanted since April 18 for a federal case involving the alleged distribution of at least 100 grams of heroin.
Gary Erwin Douglass, 57; Charles R. Wallace, 41; Samuel William Wright, 36; Brian L. Sellers, 35; and James Clayton Lindsay, 57, also are charged.
Charges against Julie A. Rice-Lewis, 38, and Chad Jason Benefield have been dismissed.
Eight Spokane residents face federal charges for a heroin distribution ring that authorities allege supplied at least 100 grams of the drug.
The charges in U.S. District Court allege the group distributed heroin in Spokane from last April to this February.
Authorities sealed an affidavit supporting the charges out of concerns for the safety of a confidential informant, according to court documents.
Further details on the case were not available, but arrested in the last two weeks have been: Gary Erwin Douglass, 57; Charles R. Wallace, 41; Samuel William Wright, 36; Julie A. Rice-Lewis, 38; and James Clayton Lindsay, 57.
Frisco Ayala, 32, Chad Benefield, age unavailable, and Brian L. Sellers, 35, also are charged.
Sellers was arrested with 84 grams of heroin last May after a road rage incident on U.S. Highway 395.