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Police investigate robbery spree

Police in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls are investigating three robberies and an attempted robbery this week that may be the work of the same masked man. All four crimes happened within a 48-hour period and include some similar suspect descriptions, said Sgt. Christie Wood of the Coeur d’Alene Police Department. “We think they’re related,” Wood said. “We don’t have robberies like this on a routine basis.” The first robbery happened Sunday at 9 p.m. at Frontier Grocery, 2707 W. Seltice Way, Post Falls. A man entered the store, demanded money from a cashier and quickly left with an undisclosed amount of money, headed north. There was no mention of a weapon/Scott Maben, SR. More here.

FBI report details Henrikson escape attempt

James Henrikson and Bud Ray Brown appeared to be watching television during an incident at the Spokane County Jail in August authorities are referring to as an "escape attempt," according to an FBI report.

The report, which can be read in its entirety below, details an interview FBI Agent Michael G. Whitney conducted with the female corrections officer who discovered 100 feet of rope hanging from the cell belonging to Henrikson and Brown. Henrikson is facing multiple federal criminal counts for his alleged role in the deaths of Doug Carlile and Kristopher "K.C." Clarke; Brown has been charged in the gang-related 2012 death of David Deponte

FBI report on Spokane County Jail escape attempt, August 2015

In the report, the unnamed corrections officer says she was the only guard assigned to the wing where Henrikson and Brown were housed. She said she checked all cells at half-hour intervals and noticed that the pair appeared to be watching the floor's only television from their cell door.

She was first alerted to the rope hanging by the cell by radio after taking a break at 4:30 a.m., according to the FBI report. Prosecutors filed the report in court requesting that evidence of the alleged jail escape be introduced to a Richland jury when Henrikson's trial commences there early next month.  

The guard reported hearing no suspicious sounds from the cell. Prosecutors say that a broken broom handle was used to smash a narrow window, less than five inches in width. The broom handle then punctured the roof of a car in the jail parking lot, according to prosecutors.

Henrikson was back in custody of the Spokane County Jail earlier this week as part of pre-trial court hearings that occurred in Spokane. He's currently in custody of the Yakima County Jail.

Boise man arrested on felony charges after ‘series of dangerous and bizarre events’

It’s not often that a police department news release has a headline like this: “Officers arrest man after a series of dangerous and bizarre events leaves one man hospitalized.” It happened in Boise yesterday, starting in the afternoon at Northview Street and Maple Grove, when a driver apparently intentionally drove up onto a sidewalk in a grey, four-door sedan and hit a pedestrian, a 30-year-old who was hospitalized with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Then, less than 10 minutes later, police started getting calls from residents of the area saying a man was banging on their doors, with one resident saying he seemed to be trying to break down the door. Another report was that the suspect had run through a yard and broken a fence.

Fifteen minutes later, a report came in that a driver had been approached by a man who threatened him and ordered him out of his car; the driver refused and instead told the suspect he’d turn his dog on him, and the suspect ran away.

Police responded immediately and saw the suspect enter a pickup truck, then drive it through a yard and directly toward the officer’s patrol car. As the officer attempted to block the suspect from driving off, the man rammed the patrol car. A second arriving officer also maneuvered his vehicle to block the pickup, police said, and was also rammed by the pick-up. The suspect was yelling threats of violence toward the officers and claiming he had a gun; the two officers took him into custody and neither was seriously hurt.

 “Throughout this series of incidents, citizens were calling in good descriptions of the suspect and what direction he was headed,” said Boise Police Sgt. Justin Kendal. “That cooperation from people in the neighborhood helped officers get into the area to stop this guy, which likely saved other citizens from becoming victims of further crime.”

Christopher M. Conaty, 29, of Boise, was booked into the Ada County Jail on three felony charges, aggravated battery, leaving the scene of an injury crash, and aggravated assault on an officer. Additional charges are possible.

This week’s free game: ‘Money Money’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

We here at The Tech Deck do not advocate a life of crime. Not in the real world, that is. But as gamers, we often find ourselves on the wrong side of the law, usually with some sort of explanation as to why we're bending (or breaking) the rules of society in pursuit of some other, lofty goal.

Money, Money is not one of those games.

Starting out like a Pac-Man clone, this 1983 offering from Zaccaria, an Italian outfit, casts you in the role of a criminal seeking bags of cold, hard cash. You'll pick up beakers full of drug-like substances (yeah, really) as power-ups to defeat the cops that are chasing you. And then you take to the rooftops, the roads and eventually even a river in your pursuit of the purloined, almighty dollar.

Click below to play this weird one for free in your browser, from the folks at the Internet Archive.

Screen shot from arcade game "Money Money"
Click here to play Money Money, for free, in your browser!

The game is fairly straightforward. The arrow keys will move your character. Avoid the cops and pick up as many money bags as you can on your way to the rooftops.

Go inside the blog to learn more about Pac-Man clones, and what happened to Zaccaria.

Spokane County risk director responds to campus safety concerns

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Tuesday a break-in this weekend on the courthouse campus illustrated a need to beef up security.

Steve Bartel, head of the county’s Risk Management team, responded Wednesday that many of the improvements the sheriff talked about are in the works, or are being discussed. But budget concerns and the slow march of bureaucracy have slowed those efforts.

“This is government. Nothing happens overnight,” Bartel said.

Justin P. Reinhardt is being held on charges stemming from the break-in, which occurred Saturday afternoon in the Public Safety Building, where the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and Spokane Police Department are housed. Investigators say Reinhardt broke the glass windows on the front of the building attached to the Spokane County Jail and hid above ceiling tiles before being taken into custody without incident.

Knezovich said the campus wasn’t secure due to a lack of cameras, and the weakness of the glass.

Bartel said the county received a grant, in cooperation with the Sheriff’s Office, for a server to support a camera system the county hopes to install soon.

“The first grant was to get the infrastructure in place,” he said. “You’ve got to have this foundation, first, before you start installing cameras.”

Cameras could serve as a warning to would-be criminals, Bartel said, but he doubted whether they’d be able to actually stop someone from breaking and entering.

“Cameras themselves are a great deterrent,” he said. “But would they have stopped what happened last weekend? No.”

As for the glass, Bartel said a representative from the Department of Homeland Security recently visited the campus to assess its security. The Risk Management department is waiting on the report from that visit, which may include recommendations about the windows.

But Bartel said he spoke with Marshall Farnell, the county’s chief executive, who told him the windows hadn’t been an issue for the more than 40 years Farnell has spent with the county.

“That’s not an excuse,” Bartel said. “Certainly we’ll look at it closer.”

Bartel said a barrier to improving security has been the lack of a full-time employee overseeing security operations on the campus. The county employs one part-time campus security coordinator, Ray Bush, who is available 30 hours a week, Bartel said.

“I’ve been trying to get that position fully funded for a year and a half,” he said.

The grounds of the courthouse and Public Safety Building are routinely patrolled by security officers, Bartel said. A courtroom deputy is on call for issues arising from the courthouse, and all judge’s chambers are connected to law enforcement via a panic alert system. Background checks are conducted on all contractors and vendors who enter county buildings.

All of these measures could be upgraded, Bartel said, but the question is figuring out where limited dollars should be spent.

“We want to really get the details on what we’ve got, and what we need to improve,” Bartel said.

The county spent a little less than $1 million of its $170 million General Fund budget this year on courthouse security.

Muslim worshipers detail discovery of hate message at Spokane center

Ramadan prayers will continue at the Bosnia Herzegovina Heritage Association through July 17, following the discovery of the message "Death to Islam" spray painted on the building's exterior this weekend.

"We did take a few days off, while the dust settled, so to speak," said Admir Rasic, a member of the Spokane Bosnian and Muslim communities who was present at the club, along with about 25 other people, on July 4 when the graffiti was discovered. "We are back here, and we invite the whole community. Everyone is welcome here."

Spokane Police said Thursday the case had been assigned to its Joint Terrorism Task Force, and that photographs of the message were taken by investigators. Rasic said the message was written between 10:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on the building, which also serves as a warehouse. The club and the Washington Council on American-Islamic Relations is asking anyone with information to contact the FBI field office in Seattle by dialing (206) 622-0460.

The council issued a formal letter to U.S. District Attorney Mike Ormsby on Tuesday asking for federal involvement in the case. The group says the hate speech "fits a pattern of increased targeting of person s and property associated with Islam and the American Muslim Community."

But the message at a news conference held at the center Thursday morning was one of inclusion. Several leaders of area faith groups spoke, representing the Lutheran, Episcopalian, Catholic and Baptist faiths. All condemned the message of the graffiti and said it was important for Christians, Muslims and members of all religions to support each other against hate.

"We are together in our love for God, and our love for our neighbor, and we must keep that up," said the Rev. Martin Wells, bishop of the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Imam Yasser Shahin visited the Bosnian center to break his Ramadan fast on July 4, he said. It was the only time he'd visited the center during the holy month because of his obligations at the Spokane Islamic Center. Shahin said he felt guilt that his appearance, with his wife, in traditional Muslim garb may have incited the spray painted message.

Admir Rasic's wife, Azra, said the community and law enforcement needs to send a clear message that this speech won't be tolerated.

"It really shook you," Azra Rasic said of seeing the graffiti, which has since been covered by the landlord. "I worried for my daughter, and for her future."

In burglary of North Side pub, thieves stole whiskey

Three men are under investigation for a burglary at a Spokane bar that involved a smashed window and up to 10 stolen bottles of whiskey.

Blood was found at the scene, leading detectives to believe at least one suspect cut himself on a shard of glass while scrambling to steal Jim Beam, Jameson and Crown Royal whiskeys from the Backyard Public House, 1811 W Broadway Ave.

Manager Megan Severson called the burglary “a total smash-and-grab.”

One suspect, Gary L. Day III, 23, was arrested in a separate incident shortly after the burglary on June 2. Day faces charges of second-degree assault and second-degree robbery for allegedly choking his girlfriend and stealing her purse in a remote area along the Spokane River.

The burglary occurred around 4:30 a.m. Spokane police responded to the assault around 7 a.m., and the girlfriend reported that Day and a friend had planned to break into the bar. She also reported that Day hit her in the head with one of the stolen whiskey bottles.

Kettle Falls 5 sentencing pushed to October

Members of a family who grew medical marijuana on their farm near Kettle Falls will wait until October to learn whether they will spend time in federal prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice on Thursday approved a delay of the sentencing hearing for Rhonda Lee Firestack-Harvey, Rolland Gregg, Michelle Gregg and Jason Zucker. The hearing had originally been scheduled for next week in Spokane.

The defendants successfully asked that Rice delay their hearing until both sides have had time to review trial transcripts. The parties remain at odds over how long the defendants should spend in prison after a jury in March found them guilty of manufacturing between 50 and 100 marijuana plants in violation of federal law. The family has asked for a sentence of probation, while the U.S. Attorney’s Office wants them to spend five years behind bars.

 The legal landscape on medicinal marijuana laws could change greatly by the time the family appears again before Rice. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear later this year the case of Charles Lynch, a Los Angeles man who was found guilty in 2010 of manufacturing marijuana. Lynch appealed his conviction after Congress passed a law last year prohibiting funding for Department of Justice cases targeting state-sanctioned medical marijuana operations.

The Kettle Falls Five, as they are known in national stories on the case, unsuccessfully tried multiple times before trial to have their case thrown out based on Congress’ decision. Zucker eventually took a plea deal, and the family’s patriarch, Larry Harvey, was released from prosecution after his diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer.

Yakima man, found with meth, cocaine and heroin, gets appellate repreive

A Yakima County man earned a reprieve Tuesday from a five-year sentence for drug possession when appellate judges ruled a search of his bag by deputies was unlawful, despite his admission he possessed methamphetamine.

Heath Wisdom was pulled over near Moxee, Washington, in October 2010 driving a truck and towing an all-terrain vehicle, both of which were reported stolen. Yakima County Sheriff's Deputy Nate Boyer found a pipe used to smoke methamphetamine on Wisdom, according to court documents. After reading Wisdom his Miranda rights, Boyer asked if there was methamphetamine in the truck, and Wisdom told him it was lying on the front seat, according to court documents. Boyer found a zipped-up "shaving kit-like" bag in the cab, which he opened to discover meth, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and $2,700 in cash.

Read the entire opinion handed down Tuesday by appellate judges here.

Wisdom petitioned the court to throw out that evidence, saying the search of the bag was made without a warrant. Two judges on a three-member appellate panel, who heard the case in December, agreed and reversed Wisdom's conviction.

"Despite the banality ofthe facts, this appeal raises a fundamental question concerning whether Washington State will be a police state, in which law enforcement officers employ their own discretion when determining to search property, or a state under the rule of law with magistrates prejudging the validity of police searches," wrote Washington Appellate Judge George B. Fearing for the majority.

In dissent, Judge Kevin Korsmo said the decision "boggles the mind."

"A thief does not have a privacy interest in stolen property that society should recognize as reasonable and, thus, Mr. Wisdom had no standing to contest the inventory search," Korsmo wrote.

The opinion was published Tuesday and will stand as precedent pending an appeal to the Washington Supreme Court or another case overturning the findings.

Sheriff continues push for drug task force funding

UPDATE: Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich responded to Commissioner Shelly O'Quinn's criticism by questioning why the County Commission has not held public budget hearings in recent years to address the needs of individual departments.

"Perhaps if they had budget meetings like we use to we could have face to face discussions before they set budgets," Knezovich wrote in an email, responding to the original blog post. "They have not had budget hearings in 3 years."  

Knezovich said he and his staff informed commissioners at a meeting in August they would be underfunded in 2015 by about $1 million. He disputes claims that the issue was sprung on commissioners in January.

"It is disingenuous for O’Quinn to then say that we just popped over in January and surprised them with this news," Knezovich wrote. 

The original blog post follows. 

ORIGINAL POST: Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich is continuing his pleas for funding from County Commissioners to save a drug task force targeting mid- to high -level trafficking. 

"I lose my entire narcotics operation," Knezovich told commissioners Al French and Shelly O'Quinn on Tuesday. Lt. John Knowles earlier told commissioners without more money from county coffers, the Spokane Regional Drug Task Force would run out of money in October.

Tuesday's presentation followed a similar plea from Knezovich in October, and a news conference in January during which the sheriff said the task force would be insolvent by June. Knowles said the task force had moved some money and employees around, giving them a reprieve for several months, but declining grant dollars and money seized from drug raids have imperiled the task force for many years.

"If we can get Spokane County and the City of Spokane Valley, with just salary and benefits 100 percent, we can maintain" adequate funding reserves, Knowles said. That price tag would be about $370,000 annually, he added.

Commissioner Shelly O'Quinn said she was hesitant to approve that money because the sheriff is also asking for an additional $1 million to pay overtime to deputies who are filling shifts for about 16 vacant positions with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. Knowles said the office was having difficulty attracting high-quality candidates with a background in law enforcement because of character issues.

"When the sheriff comes in three weeks into the new year and says he needs an extra million dollars, and we're only three weeks into the budget, it's just - there's credibility issues there," O'Quinn said. 

Knezovich reiterated that he'd go before voters and campaign for a two-tenths of a cent sales tax increase to pay for public safety services. The sheriff estimates that would bring in about $9 million annually. 

After a spate of generosity at the polls, Spokane voters turned down a three-tenths sales tax increase to pay for transportation services at the ballot box last week but did approve an extension of a one-tenth sales tax for juvenile detention services.

Commissioners took no action on Knezovich's request Tuesday. 

Cd’A police chief brings philosophical change

Some crime statistics may be rising in Coeur d’Alene, and that’s a good thing.

A spike in the number of certain types of crimes could be the byproduct of Police Chief Lee White’s ongoing efforts to strengthen his officers’ relationships with the citizens they serve while deploying police department resources to more effectively target crimes.

White, who took command of the department in September, said the agency historically operated from a more reactive standpoint. Officers would wait for someone to call and report a crime, and then they would go deal with it.

“We’ve said all along that random patrols equals random results, so instead what we’re doing is focusing our efforts in the areas where we’re seeing crime spikes, where we’re having problems in specific neighborhoods,” White said. “We’re going to put more resources in those areas to try and combat our crime trends.” Full story. Maureen Dolan, CdA Press

‘Kettle Falls Five’ defendants to be free ahead of sentencing

The defendants found guilty of growing between 50 and 100 marijuana plants on their land near Kettle Falls may remain out of custody ahead of a sentencing hearing scheduled for June, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice ruled Tuesday.

Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, Rolland Gregg and Michelle Gregg were convicted by a jury earlier this month of manufacturing a controlled substance. Attorneys say the conviction does not come with a minimum five-year sentence as originally charged, and in the coming weeks will prepare arguments that seek to mitigate the trio's jail time. A sentencing hearing is tentatively scheduled for June 10 in Spokane.

Prosecutors Earl Hicks and Caitlin Baunsgard with the U.S. Attorney's Office for Eastern Washington had asked Rice to rule by Wednesday whether he would jail the members of the family pending their sentencing hearing. Prosecutors said the trio face a maximum 20-year prison sentence based on their crimes and should be jailed to prevent them from fleeing the country or contacting other people involved in the case before sentencing. Rice declined to do so.

A fourth defendant, Jason Zucker, is scheduled to be sentenced a week later. Zucker pleaded guilty to manufacturing more than 100 marijuana plants and told jurors at trial he provided the initial 75 plants that were used to start a grow operation on Firestack-Harvey's property in Stevens County in spring 2011. Prosecutors have recommended Zucker, who already has two convictions on drug-related charges, serve 16 months in prison.

Larry Harvey, the patriarch of the family, was dismissed from the case before trial after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

Several interested onlookers in the legal community and legal marijuana industry in Washington state weighed in on last week's verdict in Saturday's edition of the Spokesman-Review.

Prosecutors ask to jail members of ‘Kettle Falls Five’ before sentencing

The United States Attorney's Office for Eastern Washington has made official its request to jail three members of a Stevens County marijuana growing collective before their sentencing on federal drug charges.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks asked that Rhonda Lee Firestack-Harvey, Rolland Gregg and Michelle Gregg be taken into custody Tuesday immediately after a jury returned a conviction on manufacturing between 50 and 100 marijuana plants. U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice said he would allow the trio to leave the courthouse, but that he would entertain the request if it was made in writing.

Hicks' colleague Catilin Baunsgard did just that Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the verdict was delivered. You can read the U.S. motion to detain the three defendants below.


Kettle Falls Motion for Detention

Hicks' request drew some angry responses from supporters of the family in the courtroom for the verdict Tuesday. But in the filing, the government argues that federal law requires the defendants to be detained because they face a potential maximum sentence of 20 years.

Attorneys for the group said Tuesday night they believed the five-year minimum prison sentence that originally applied to the defendants on the manufacturing charge still held true, despite the jury's finding that they grew fewer than 100 plants. Federal law is not clear on that issue, and other marijuana advocacy organizations said there may not be a minimum sentence for the charge the trio was found guilty of. 

Jurors acquitted the group of most of the charges against them, including distributing drugs and possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes.

The government asked in its motion that Rice decide on the detention issue by April 3.

Felon suspected of pepper spraying theft victim

A man accused of stealing another man's cellphone in north Spokane and spraying the theft victim's face with pepper spray called police soon after the incident to report he was being followed, court records say.

Randy S. Vanderveer, 34, appeared in court Tuesday facing charges of second-degree theft and third-degree assault.

The victim reported to police that he set his smartphone on the counter in the Zip Trip gas station at 1503 E. Illinois shortly before 10:30 a.m. Monday. He noticed his phone was gone shortly after Vanderveer left and followed Vanderveer, asking for his phone back.

Vanderveer denied having the phone and then pepper sprayed the victim in the face, according to court documents. He reportedly told police he did it because the victim was following him and he was “big.”

Vanderveer, who is a fairly big man himself, then called 911 to report that he was being followed.

Police determined that footage from video surveillance cameras in the Zip Trip showed Vanderveer taking the phone, according to court records. The phone was recovered.

Vanderveer was ordered held in the Spokane County Jail on $5,000 bond. He has a lengthy criminal record that includes four felony convictions and 10 misdemeanor convictions. His most recent conviction was for criminal mischief in October.

No jail time for man who injured daughter making marijuana extract

A Spokane man will serve no time in jail after pleading guilty to manufacturing marijuana extract in his car, causing an explosion that injured his three-year-old daughter.

Jacob W. Sayman, 28, pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to attempted second-degree assault and manufacturing a controlled substance in relation to the Aug. 4, 2013 blast that occurred while he was driving in the Garland District. Both charges are felonies.

Judge Gregory Sypolt sentenced Sayman to a year of community custody and found him to have a chemical dependency. Sayman will be required to continue mental health treatment, take a parenting class and pay about $4,800 in restitution and court costs.

He was eligible for a reduced sentence because he is a first-time offender with no prior felonies. As part of the plea agreement prosecutors agreed to drop a third-degree child assault charge.

"I don't think he intentionally assaulted his child. I think it was sheer stupidity that brought him to his actions," said Kari Reardon, Sayman's attorney.

Sayman was also ordered to have no contact with his daughter outside from weekly four-hour supervised visits provided for in his existing parenting agreement. The girl's mother said in court that her daughter has recovered physically from the explosion but "mentally, no, it's never very far from her mind."

Before he was sentenced, Sayman apologized to those he had hurt.

"I'm extremely sorry to my daughter most of all for causing her any pain," he said.


FBI data shows drop in hate crimes

Hate crimes in the U.S. fell in 2013, according to FBI data released Monday, even as the agency included several new bias categories.

Spokane and Spokane Valley also saw a drop in reported incidents from 2012 to 2013.

For the first time, this year's data includes crimes motivated by by the victim's gender (male and female) as well as gender identity (transgender and gender-nonconforming).

Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. reported 5,928 hate crime incidents in 2013, versus 6,573 in 2012. Findings from the data include:

  • A plurality of single bias crimes, about 49 percent, were racially motivated. Of those, two-thirds resulted from anti-black or anti-African-American bias.
  • Following race, incidents targeted sexual orientation (20 percent), religion (17 percent), ethnicity (11 percent) and disability (1.4 percent). 
  • About 60 percent of religious bias incidents were anti-Jewish, and about 14 percent were anti-Muslim.
  • Gender and gender identity bias each accounted for less than 1 percent of total incidents.
  • 4,430 hate crimes were crimes against people. Intimidation (44 percent), simple assault (39 percent) and aggravated assault (17 percent) accounted for the majority of these crimes.
  • Another 2,424 crimes were against property. Most were damage, destruction or vandalism.

In Washington, law enforcement agencies reported 291 hate crimes in 2013.

Spokane reported two incidents - one motivated by race and one by sexual orientation - while Spokane Valley reported one race-motivated and one ethnicity-motivated crime. That's a drop from 2012, when Spokane reported six hate crimes and Spokane Valley reported four.

The Spokane County Sheriff's Office had six crimes: one each motivated by race, sexual orientation and disability, and three motivated by ethnicity. Spokane County data was not reported in 2012.

Pew: States that put more people in prison actually cut crime less than states that didn’t…

A new analysis from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that states like Idaho, which sharply increased its incarceration rate between 1994 and 2012, had no greater drop in crime than states like New York, which sharply cut its incarceration rate during the same time period. “States that decreased their imprisonment rates cut crime more than states that increased imprisonment,” the Pew Trusts reported.

New York’s incarceration rate fell 24 percent from 1994 to 2012; its crime rate fell 54 percent.

Idaho’s incarceration rate increased 103 percent during that same time period; its crime rate fell 46 percent. Idaho saw the third-highest increase in incarceration rates in the nation during that time, exceeded only by North Dakota and West Virginia. New York had the biggest drop in incarceration rates, and tied with Florida for the biggest drop in crime rates.

“Despite the conventional wisdom, states are showing that it is possible to cut incarceration rates without comprising public safety,” said Adam Gelb, director of Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project. The project looked at changes since the 1994 Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act, which led to large increases in imprisonment.

“The crime bill paid billions for new prisons but with nearly 1 in 100 American adults behind bars, we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns,” Gelb said. “There’s now broad bipartisan consensus behind alternatives for lower-level offenders that cost less and do a better job cutting recidivism.” That’s been the focus in Idaho’s new Justice Reinvestment Project, which is seeking to remake Idaho’s justice system to reserve prison space for the most dangerous offenders, find better alternatives for the less-dangerous ones, and reduce rampant recidivism, or repeat offense. That project, backed by all three branches of Idaho’s state government, won legislative approval this past year; it’s aimed at heading off the need to build a big new multimillion-dollar state prison in the next five years.

Pew found that the five states with the largest drops in their incarceration rate saw an average 45 percent drop in crime over the time period. The five states with the largest increases in their incarceration rate saw an average 27 percent drop in crime over that same period. Every state except West Virginia saw drops in crime rates; Pew said leading criminal justice experts say factors other than increasing incarceration – including declining demand for crack cocaine, better policing, technological advances, and reductions in lead exposure – likely contributed to the drop in crime. You can see Pew's 50-state comparison here.

Felon chucks allegedly stolen firearm in chase

A 26-year-old Spokane man with multiple felony convictions tossed a .45 handgun believed to have been stolen during a chase through a residential neighborhood Friday, according to court documents filed this week.

Joshua V. Fowler was booked into Spokane County Jail just after 4:30 p.m. Friday facing charges of attempting to elude police and unlawful possession of a firearm. A Spokane police officer, who said he recognized Fowler from multiple interactions, attempted to pull the 26-year-old over on suspicions he was driving with a suspended license.

"(Fowler) is as familiar with me and my Police Impala as I am with him," the officer wrote in his report.

Fowler fled, according to the officer's statement, leading him on a car chase through an apartment complex parking lot, reaching speeds of 45 miles per hour. Fowler eventually left the car and reached for his waist, according to court documents. He was arrested nearby without incident.

The officer found the handgun and some ammunition in a bush nearby. The gun is believed to have been stolen in a residential burglary, according to court documents.

Fowler has three forgery convictions and a conviction for eluding police. Spokane Superior Court Judge Linda Tompkins set his bail at $5,000 on Monday. He remains in custody.

Spokane man arrested for defecating on Kennewick sidewalk

A 71-year-old homeless man from Spokane was arrested in Kennewick this weekend for defecating on a public sidewalk.

The man, who is not named in a report from The Tri-City Herald, reportedly told the arresting officer, "When you have to go, you have to go."

The man was waiting for a bus on the west side of town around 11:30 a.m. when he decided to drop trou, according to the Herald. Several witnesses were present, and the man was taken into custody without incident.

Donovan Simons Jr., 71, was booked into the Benton County Jail for what is described as a "municipal code violation" shortly after 12:30 p.m. Sunday, according to jail records. Simons has criminal history in Spokane County and appeared in Benton County District Court on Monday, according to state court records. He was ordered held on $1,000 bond.

Cheney couple faces animal cruelty charges

Prosecutors have filed animal cruelty charges against the Cheney couple who owned multiple animals, including horses and a llama, seized during a search of their property last month.

Terri Marlin, 51, and Thomas Marlin, 53, face multiple animal cruelty criminal counts following an investigation into the conditions at their property at 23239 S. Cross Road in July. Authorities were initially alerted to the couple, who have an extensive history of animal abuse complaints, after several emaciated horses appeared at the Cheney Rodeo Grounds during a wildfire evacuation.

Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Services seized two horses, a llama, eight dogs and six cats from the residence. The Marlins face seventeen criminal counts apiece, including first-degree animal cruelty, second-degree animal cruelty and confining an animal in an unsafe manner, according to a news release from SCRAPS. First-degree animal cruelty is a felony, while the other charges are misdemeanors.

Wanted man flips plain-clothes cop the bird

A wanted man was jailed earlier this month after he swore at and gave the finger to a plain-clothes sheriff's detective, then struck the detective and ran, according to court documents.

David E. Lee, 22, is in custody at the Geiger Corrections Facility. He faces charges of assaulting a police officer, obstruction and resisting arrest after a series of events around 8 p.m. on July 9 near Mount Spokane High School.

Lee was a passenger in a Chevy sedan that came upon two trucks, one pulled off to the side of North Lowe Road so the driver could take a photo of the sunset, she told investigators. The driver of the sedan sped past the two trucks, at which time Lee yelled profanity and "flipping the finger," witnesses said. The driver of the second truck, Spokane County Sheriff's detective Shannon McCrillis, pulled the sedan over for a traffic stop.

A woman inside the car told police Lee asked whether McCrillis was a "real cop" because he had warrants out for his arrest. McCrillis said Lee was not compliant with his commands to keep his hands where he could see them during the stop, and when he tried to take Lee into custody on his warrants, the 22-year-old struck the detective with his elbow and ran to the woods nearby.

Police dog Laslo was eventually called in to take Lee into custody. Drug paraphernalia was found in a bag belonging to Lee inside the car, according to police reports.

Suspected van burner leaves trail of hard lemonade for police

A 60-year-old Spokane man was arrested on suspicions of arson after investigators found empty cans of Mike's Hard Lemonade at the scene of a scorching van and in the man's vehicle.

Steven Klemz was booked into Spokane County Jail early Thursday morning facing charges of arson and malicious mischief. Police were initially called to a home in the 6900 block of North G Street on Wednesday night around 10 p.m., according to court documents, after a home owner and Stemz got into an argument about yard work. An officer asked Stemz to leave, and he complied.

About two hours later, the home owner called police to say a van outside her home had been set ablaze and the tires of her nearby Chevy sedan slashed. The hoses in the yard had also been cut to prevent her from dousing the flames and the area was soaked in gasoline, she told investigators.

A neighbor reported hearing a bang shortly before midnight, shortly before the fire was reported. The neighbor also reported seeing Klemz in the yard. Found in a van nearby, Klemz denied involvement in the fire, but police found an empty Mike's Hard Lemonade can matching those found near the scene of the cut hoses and an empty gas can near the site of the fires.

Klemz's criminal history in Spokane County includes a burglary conviction in the 1970s, according to court records.

North Idaho Crime Outpaces Boise

Sheriff Ben Wolfinger patrols the streets during recent Coeur d'Alene 4th of July activities. (SR file photo)

North Idaho has the highest crime rate in the state, eclipsing the Boise area, according to the state’s latest crime statistics. It’s a trend that’s been growing in recent years. The Boise area had a much higher crime rate than the Panhandle as recently as 2008, but since then, North Idaho’s rate has surged as the state’s overall crime rates have dropped. “Our guys are working hard and they’re doing a good job, but it’s just trying to keep up is the hard part,” said Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger. One factor: Kootenai County is becoming part of a Spokane-North Idaho metropolitan area, rather than an isolated, more rural area with a seasonal influx of visitors/Betsy Z. Russell, Eye on Boise. More here.

Question: Do you feel less safe today in Kootenai County than you did 10 years ago?

Suspected robber uses spoils to spoil mother

A 24-year-old man used a credit card he swiped from a Spokane Valley shopper in a strong-arm April robbery to buy a Mother's Day present online, according to investigators.

Spokane Valley authorities searched several residences last week looking for Damian Plumley and evidence of the April 24 incident. A woman said she was walking from her car following a shopping trip when a man matching Plumley's description bumped her from behind, knocking her to the ground. The man took her purse, which contained several credit cards.

Detectives learned those credit cards were used to buy items at a local convenience store and at several department stores' websites. While searching Plumley's residence in the 11000 block of East Fourth Avenue, police found an electric tea kettle they confirmed was bought using the robbery victim's credit card.

Plumley's mother told police her son had bought it for her as a Mother's Day gift.

Plumley is in custody of the Spokane County Jail facing charges of robbery, identity theft, leaving the scene of an injury accident and possession of stolen property.

Second man accused of selling heroin arrested

Spokane police arrested 55-year-old Ernie Hern this week, the second of a pair accused of selling heroin out of a residence in the East Central neighborhood through March of last year.

Hern faces multiple possession and sale of drug charges after police used a confidential informant to buy heroin from him in January 2013, according to court documents. The informant allegedly twice bought heroin at home in the 200 block of Fiske Street, once from Hern and a second time a month later from Timothy Price, 36.

When authorities raided the house in March 2013, Price was there, but Hern wasn't. Price was arrested and scheduled to be arraigned, but never showed up, according to court records. He was taken back into custody last month and has pleaded not guilty to a drug trafficking charge.

Both Hern and Price have criminal histories that include past drug charges. Prosecutors are asking Hern be held on $1,000 bond in the new charge.

Man pleads guilty to child pornography charges in federal court

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named the man who pleaded guilty Monday. The story has been updated to correct the error.

A Spokane man caught by the Secret Service engaging in online trading of child pornography faces a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to a federal felony charge Monday.

Ryan Raymond Joseph Comerford will have to register as a sex offender in compliance with a plea deal reached in U.S. District Court. Comerford was indicted in September on multiple child pornography counts after a Secret Service sting revealed evidence he was using a peer-to-peer network to receive explicit images and videos featuring children.

Comerford pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released pending trial, which was scheduled for next week. He admitted using marijuana in violation of his release conditions, and was arrested again in January.

Defense attorneys were provided with the digital evidence in the case last month.

As part of the agreement, Comerford will remain on probation for 20 years after his release and be barred from contact with minors. A judge is expected to rule on the agreement in July.

Suspected drunken driver crashes near off-duty deputy’s home

A man suspected of drunken driving had his keys confiscated by an off-duty Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy who witnessed the man trying to drive over some boulders near Liberty Park, according to court documents.

Wayne Pederson crashed his Toyota pickup near a trailhead at the park just south of Interstate 90 in Central Spokane earlier this week. A sheriff's deputy who was home at the time of the crash left his home to find Pederson trying to drive over a boulder that was blocking the trail, he told investigating officers.

Pederson then fell out of his truck, according to court documents. The deputy took Pederson's keys and called law enforcement, who arrived and conducted a sobriety test. The investigating officer listed Pederson's level of impairment as "obvious."

Pederson refused a breathalyzer and blood draw at the scene, according to court documents.

Would-be booze robber leaves store without liquor, freedom

A man accused of stealing a $13 bottle of vodka from a Spokane grocery store was arrested on suspicion of first-degree robbery after he allegedly punched a clerk and heaved the liquor bottle into the road.

Chad Burk, 40, was arrested late Friday after witnesses said he left a Safeway store on North Market Street without paying for his alcohol. A clerk watched Burk grab a bottle of vodka and a can of beer, walk to the frozen foods section and place the can of beer inside. Burk placed the vodka in his jacket and walked out without paying, according to the store clerk.

The clerk chased Burk out of the store, where Burk allegedly punched him twice and pushed him up against a wall. The employee wrestled Burk to the ground when police arrived.

At some point during the altercation, Burk threw the vodka into the street, according to court records.

Burk was released from custody without bond this weekend. He is expected to make a first-appearance on the charge against him Monday afternoon.

Man arrested on DUI suspicion blames mom who isn’t there

A man arrested after crashing his vehicle and refusing a breathalyzer test earlier this week blamed the accident on his mother, who was nowhere near the scene of the accident.

Larry Coleman was found by Liberty Lake firefighters sitting behind the steering wheel of his car, which was resting in a snowy ditch along Interstate 90 around 6 p.m. Monday, according to court documents. Coleman was not injured and was the only person in the car when law enforcement arrived.

When a Washington State Patrol office arrived, Coleman had moved to the passenger's seat, according to court documents. He told the patrolman his mother had been driving at the time of the one-vehicle accident and that she'd started walking along the highway toward Liberty Lake following the crash.

Liberty Lake police officers and firefighters found no woman on the highway, according to court records.

Coleman admitted to drinking a couple beers and refused a breathalyzer test after speaking with an attorney. A court order was signed to test his blood for intoxicants and he was arrested, according to court documents.

Where Spokane’s homicides occurred in 2013

According to Spokesman-Review reporting, local law enforcement investigated 23 deaths as homicides in and near Spokane County in 2013. Public safety reporters Kip Hill, Kaitlin Gillespie and others kept track of each of the cases, and we're making our records available to you below.

Blue icon: Case has been resolved, either through legal procedures or the death of a suspect.
Yellow icon: A suspect (or suspect) is (are) in custody, and the case is moving through the legal process.
Red icon: No suspects have been apprehended to date.

Click on the icon to learn more about the case, and visit the Google spreadsheet for specific case details and customize the map to your preferences. As a companion to this piece, the Spokesman-Review is also publishing a list and map of the homicides involving law enforcement officers in 2013.