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In Montana, coroner’s inquests are conducted for every fatal police shooting in that state and whenever someone dies in law enforcement custody. The same requirement exists in Nevada, with Las Vegas authorities taking the extra step of televising their inquests. And elsewhere, communities are embracing inquests to help ensure public accountability as the number of officer-involved shootings escalates.
Now, following a rash of fatal police shootings statewide, including four in the past four months in Spokane County, some legislators want to make inquests mandatory in Washington, too. King County typically holds inquests into officer-involved shootings and allows a lawyer for the family of the deceased to participate. Legislation to require inquests for all fatal law enforcement shootings and in-custody deaths in the state is expected to be introduced during the 2011 session.
“This is a quicker, more transparent way to understand what taxpayer-paid servants – public servants – are doing,” said state Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and an intended bill sponsor. “These inquests answer what long, drawn-out litigation otherwise would have answered … and when they do it, they speak with authority.”
Medical examiners in Spokane County have avoided inquests and county commissioners have largely steered clear of the issue even though Prosecutor Steve Tucker publicly called for greater use of inquests in 2006 after the fatal Spokane police confrontation with Otto Zehm, the unarmed, mentally ill janitor mistakenly identified as a theft suspect. The last inquest conducted here was 29 years ago.
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Chris Gregoire has blocked the release of an Iowa man convicted of nearly killing a Richland police officer 28 years ago, her office announced Friday.
The governor signed the order Thursday night canceling the parole release of Jerry Dean Lain (pictured in 1982 and in 2010). He had been scheduled for release Monday by order of Washington’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board.
”It is rare for a governor to exercise this power,” Gregoire said in a statement. “But I reviewed the case and concluded there is an unacceptable level of risk to public safety here that called for me to act.”
The governor has the authority to overrule the board, but it’s not known when it was last used.
“We don’t think it’s been used in at least 30 years, if ever,” said Gregoire spokeswoman Karina Shagren.
Former Richland officer Mike Fitzpatrick had asked Gregoire to intervene. Fitzpatrick was stabbed seven times and shot in the face and abdomen in 1982 after he approached Lain, he was seen prowling cars.
Lain was convicted of assault and has been in prison ever since.
If he had been released, he was to go to Iowa, where he was wanted on violating parole for a stabbing in a bar fight.
Rowlanda Cawthon, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections, said that Lain would have been released to a “work release center/halfway house” in Sioux City.
In her order, Gregoire noted that Lain has had more than 20 infractions while in prison, including threatening staff.
While he hadn’t been cited for any problems since 2004, Gregoire wrote that she was concerned by a 2009 risk evaluation that found Lain was placed in a group “at a high risk of recidivism for both general and violent crimes in the range of medium to high risk.”
“I am particularly concerned that the potential for violence would be escalated in any future contact with law enforcement officers that could lead to revocation of his parole release,” she said.
Gregoire wrote that while Lain, 53, has made “creditable gains” during his time in prison, including educational courses, anger management classes and vocational experience, “I conclude that his rehabilitation is not complete and he is not a fit subject for release from prison.”
Friends say a man accused of shooting his girlfriend to death before attempting suicide on the Gonzaga University campus is a former U.S. Marine who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Tristen N. Jordan, 24, remains at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Angela Gilbert, of Spokane, said he’s under heavy police guard and that his family has not been allowed to see him.
“Never in a million years would we think he would have shot somebody,” Gilbert said. “He really is a loving and kind person, and he’s all about religion.”
Friends said a woman shot to death by her boyfriend on Sunday had a 9-month-old baby and lived with her mother at the Augusta Avenue home.
Michael Trout, who said he’s known Samantha Clark Franco (right) for about 10 years, said she attended Havermale High School but never graduated.
“She was pretty much a street kid,” Trout said. “She had a very tough life.”
Trout said Franco hadn’t been dating her accused killer, Tristen Jordan (left), long. He said he’s heard the couple was partying at the home when they got in an argument and Franco asked Jordan to leave. Jordan left, but returned with a gun, Trout said.
Police have not said what led to the deadly confrontation.
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.
Unable to complete sentences between tears, 56-year-old Donald Young explained how being shot in a botched carjacking last year “messed up” his life.
The man responsible, Joseph P. Ellery, 31, (pictured) pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree assault in exchange for prosecutors dropping other charges, including first-degree robbery and drive-by shooting during the bloody carjacking that occurred Dec. 18. He was sentenced to almost 13 years in prison.
“I get shot from some drug-induced … Why me? He screwed up my life,” Young told Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen. “I wanted to see what the guy looked like. I’ve never seen him before in my life.”
A Spokane woman who was nine months pregnant and unarmed when she was shot by a Washington State Patrol sergeant during a drug raid has been charged with drug trafficking.
Keamia D. Powell, 24, was allowed to leave jail on her own recognizance Wednesday under the condition that she report directly to a west Spokane drug rehabilitation center.
Powell has been living at the center since she was released from the hospital after being shot in the shoulder in what Sgt. Lee Slemp, a 25-year veteran, has told investigators was an accidental shooting.
A gunman killed in a shootout with police last week had attempted suicide several times, been hospitalized at Eastern State Hospital and was described as “volatile and explosive” in a state psychiatrist’s report two years ago.
Ethan A. Corporon saw drug-induced images of aliens and spaceships, dreamed of killing himself with a shotgun and described intense mood swings that experts said made him dangerous and likely to commit crimes, according to a June 2008 report by Dr. William Grant, forensic psychiatrist at Eastern State Hospital.
In a 2005 interview with another doctor, Corporon said “what do I have to do to get some attention, kill someone?” and said he had access to a shotgun.
A Spokane man who gunned down two men in a dispute over a car trade has been sentenced to nearly 63 years in prison.
Merle W. Harvey, 28, is in jail awaiting transport to state prison after Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen sentenced him on Friday to 753 months in prison.
A jury convicted him in late September of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm for the Sept. 26, 2009, killings of 41-year-old Jack T. Lamere and 45-year-old Jacob J. Potter.
Harvey had claimed self defense. He declined to speak at the hearing, which included testimony from victim family members. He was ordered to serve consecutive sentences for the murders with an extra 10 years because two firearms were used.
Defense lawyer Scott Mason had requested a sentence of 40 years. But Eitzen pointed out that she’d sentenced Harvey to an exceptionally low sentence after he was convicted of first-degree assault in 2000. She believed he would turn his life around then, but he proved her wrong.
A man shot and killed by his brother near Elk on Saturday has been identified as David A. Ruthruff, 41.
Ruthruff died of a single gunshot to his chest, according to the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office, which conducted an autopsy Monday.
Ruthruff’s brother, whose name has not been released, told deputies he was outside in the dark in the 13000 block of East Bridges Road when he was attacked by an unknown person about 8:30 p.m.
He retrieved a gun from the home and fired at the intruder, not knowing it was his brother, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said.
No arrests have been made.
Ruthruff’s girlfriend was questioned by deputies, as were his brother and his brother’s wife, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
A gunman shot and killed by police last week near a busy north Spokane intersection was identified Monday as Ethan A. Corporon, 29.
Corporon died of two gunshots wounds to his torso and lower extremities, the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office said after completing an autopsy.
Police say Corporon fired a shotgun at 1402 W. Buckeye Ave., while threatening his father about 3 p.m. Friday, then fled officers before abandoning his truck in Monroe Street and running westbound with the gun.
Corporon has convictions for harassment and violating a no-contact order and was charged with several felonies in Benton County in 2008 and 2009, including third-degree assault and second-degree malicious mischief.
A gunman suspecting of shooting at a home was shot and killed by Spokane police officers Friday after abandoning his truck outside a busy restaurant and firing at officers, witnesses said.
The man, whose name has not been released, died on the lawn in front of a Spokane Tribe of Indians building at the southeast corner of North Madison Street and West Indiana Avenue about 3:15 p.m. He appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s.
Officers were responding to a report of a man with a shotgun firing rounds at 1402 W. Buckeye Ave. (pictured), when the suspect fled in a white Chevrolet pickup with a canopy, said Sgt. Dave Reagan, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
Police have identified two people who were found dead inside a Post Falls home Thursday evening.
Christina K. Mandriguez, 38, and Jeffrey A. Hayes, 54, each died of a single gunshot wound to the forehead in a homicide/suicide, said Post Falls Police Chief Scot Haug.
The couple’s landlord found Mandriguez’s body around 5:15 p.m. and called police.
Investigators found her slumped up against the front door, with a cell phone in her hand, Haug said.
Hayes was working as a store clerk at Stateline in 2005 when he shot and killed a robber. Read more here.
Police on Wednesday released a photo of the weapon deputies say Quentin D. Dodd was carrying when he was shot and killed Sunday night.
Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy Rustin Olson said Dodd charged at him with the weapon after repeatedly yelling “shoot me,” Spokane police said.
In an an interview with investigators on Tuesday, Olson and Deputy Todd Miller had spotted Dodd dressed in black and carrying an obsidian knife on Valleyway Avenue near Progress Road, about a block from the halfway house where Dodd was staying at 507 N. Sommer Road.
A man shot and killed by a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy on Sunday underwent a mental evaluation after trying to commit suicide last summer.
A police report obtained Tuesday said Quentin Donald Dodd, 50, told officers “he was upset with his life and didn’t want to live anymore” when he walked down to the train tracks at Perry Street and Indiana Avenue in Spokane in July.
Before Quentin Donald Dodd’s fatal confrontation with a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy on Sunday, his landlord said she’d had enough.
“He was very aggressive and threatening, so I said, ‘You need to go,’“ said Melinda Seymour. “By that time, the police had already been called.”
Dodd, 50, (pictured) was holding an arrowhead-type knife when a deputy found him standing in the middle of Progress Road, about a block from his faith-based halfway house at 507 N. Sommer Road, where he’d lived for about 2 1/2 months.
A man who police say shot a Spokane teenager in both legs was arrested in Browne’s Addition early Friday by a federal fugitive task force.
Albert J. Reeves, III, 19, is expected to appear in Superior Court on Monday on one count of first-degree assault.
Spokane police believe Reeves shot a 19-year-old man during an argument near Sharp Avenue and Hamilton Street about 12:30 a.m. on Oct. 5.
Police released surveillance photos that showed the gunman, who was in a wheelchair, enter the Tesoro convenience store, 901 E. Sharp Ave., prior to the shooting. Reeves was identified as a suspect on Tuesday.
U.S. Marshals Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force arrested Reeves about 8:40 a.m. Friday in the 300 block of South Cannon Street. Reeves has previous convictions stemming from a January 2009 beer robbery.
His father, Albert J. Reeves, Jr., is a former high school standout athlete and notorious criminal who won a $2.5 million lottery in 2000, then was arrested the next year in a drive-by shooting investigation.
“He blew threw that money fast,” said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.
A gunman who shot a Spokane teenager in both legs Oct. 5 has been identified as Albert J. Reeves III, 19, police announced today.
Reeves is accused of shooting a 19-year-old man during an argument near Sharp Avenue and Hamilton Street about 12:30 a.m.
Police released surveillance photos (above) last week that showed the gunman in a wheelchair entering the Tesoro convenience store, 901 E. Sharp Ave., prior to the shooting, which helped identify Reeves as a suspect.
He faces first-degree assault charges and is wanted on a probation violation, police said.
Reeves was arrested in January 2009 for a botched beer robbery in which he told a police officer “he was the member of a gang that owned Spokane,” police said at the time.
Anyone with information on Reeves’ location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (509) 327-5111 or 1-800-222-TIPS.
New surveillance photos show a suspect in an Oct. 5 shooting entering a convenience store in a wheelchair prior to the incident, which injured a teenager in both legs.
Spokane police do not believe the man needs the wheelchair and described him as a Hispanic man in his late teens or 20s.
Photos released today from Tesoro, 901 E. Sharp Ave., show the suspected gunman wearing a dark sweatshirt and being pushed by a man wearing baggy pants and a gray sweatshirt about 12:15 a.m..
After the men left the store, police believe the man in the wheelchair shot a 19-year-old Spokane man in both legs during an argument involving four men at Sharp Avenue and Hamilton Street about 12:30 a.m. The gunman fled before police arrived.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.
A Bonner County woman accidentally shot and killed her boyfriend as she tried to stop him from seeking revenge on her assailant, investigators said today.
Lorraine K. Kenitzki, 45, is in jail on $10,000 bond for involuntary manslaughter after Erik Foust, 41, died of a gunshot wound Wednesday.
Foust had grabbed a gun and was trying to leave the couple’s motor home, parked north of Priest River, to find the man who assaulted Kenitzki in Pend Oreille County Sept. 28, said Lt. Doug Harris of the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office.
“She tried to sop him by taking the gun away,” Harris said. “As she was pulling way from him, it went off and he got shot in the chest.”
Harris described Kenitzki as remorseful. She was arrested the day of the shooting, which was reported about 2:30 a.m.
The couple’s motor home was parked outside the Green Owl Tavern, 4558 Peninsula Road, about five miles north of Priest River.
Kenitzki is from Clark Fork; Foust owned a home in Pend Oreille County where Kenitzki was reportedly assaulted Sept. 28 as Foust was out of town, Harris said. The Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office is investigating that case.
An unarmed pregnant woman shot during a drug raid in Spokane nearly two weeks ago faces felony crack cocaine charges under a police recommendation announced Wednesday.
Keamia D. Powell, 24, gave birth shortly after she was shot in the shoulder Sept. 24 at 1405 N. Lincoln St. No. 11, where she lives with her mother, Aletha A. Robinson, 41.
Investigators are recommending Powell and Robinson each be charged with felonies after detectives found crack cocaine in their apartment as part of an ongoing probe into drug dealing in the Moscow-Pullman area.
The apartment is where police arrested a woman caught on tape assaulting her young son at the downtown bus plaza in November. Powell is the woman’s niece.
A Spokane man shot by sheriff’s deputies two weeks ago pleaded not guilty to a single assault charge this week as investigators examined his medical records and searched the scene of the shooting for the second time.
Sean P. Houlihan, 37, is charged with first-degree assault after a friend said he fired a gun at him during an argument in the basement of Houlihan’s home at 909 E. Brentwood Drive on Sept. 16.
Sheriff’s deputies David Westlake (right) and Thad Schultz (left) fired several shots at Houlihan, striking him twice, after he returned to the home in his Dodge pickup.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said last week that Westlake has always said Houliahn fired no shots but Schultz believed Houlihan did fire shots. Investigators have said Houlihan faces two additional assault charges related to the confrontation with Schultz and Westlake, but prosecutors have not filed them.
“They are telling me the investigation is ongoing,” Houlihan’s lawyer, Robert Schiffner, said Wednesday. “But I suspect if they had hard evidence they would have charged him yesterday.”
Houlihan pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a single count of first-degree assault. He’s out of jail on $75,000 bond.
Lester J. Doyle, who argued with Houlihan earlier in the night, said the deputies were in the doorway of the home when twice ordered Houlihan to put is hands in air.
Doyle heard three shots but doesn’t believe they came form the deputies “because he was looking at the deputies when he heard the shots,” according to a search warrant.
Doyle, 33, said he heard Houlihan say “Oh, I’m hit. I’m down. I’m not doing anything,” according to the warrant, which was used to examine the shooting scene again Monday.
Investigators already recovered a .40 caliber handgun from the street near where Houlihan fell. They recovered a .40 caliber casing from the bed of the truck but have found no other casings. The state crime lab already has several bullets and fragments that were found next to the truck and in the truck.
“Immediately after Houlihan was shot, the deputies and medics repeatedly walked through the area where Houlihan was lying,” according to the warrant. “Casings from rounds fired by Houlihan could have easily been stepped on and forced deep into the grass or into the ground.”
Investigators recovered two bullets from the scene Monday.
Then today, they obtained a search warrant for Houlihan’s medical records at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.
WSP Detective Ryan Spangler wrote that he was hoping to establish “Houlihan’s position in reference to the Deputies at the time he was shot as it related to the injuries he received.”
Two deputies involved in a shooting last month near Wandermere have not changed their stories about what happened that night, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said.
A search warrant stating that interviews with Deputies David Westlake and Thad Schultz indicate it’s possible Sean P. Houlihan didn’t initiate the gunfire Sept. 18 was misinterpreted, Knezovich said in an interview last week week.
Schultz and Sgt. Martin Tucker “are adamant and have always been adamant that they were shot at,” and Westlake has always said he doesn’t believe shots were fired at him, Knezovich said.
The warrant, which was used to examine Houlihan’s Dodge pickup, said initial investigation “had not confirmed the statements of (Houlihan’s alleged assault victim) and both Deputies regarding shots fired at the Deputies.”
Investigators probing officer-involved shootings will no longer be required to wait at least 72 hours before interviewing Spokane County Sheriff’s Office employees.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich (pictured) announced the change Thursday, ending a departmental practice common at many law enforcement agencies but seen as contradictory and confusing outside of police circles.
The move comes amid continuing public outcry over the nine-day lapse between the Aug. 25 shooting of Spokane Valley pastor and businessman Wayne Scott Creach by Deputy Brian Hirzel, who was allowed to take a scheduled vacation to Montana and Las Vegas before being interviewed by detectives investigating the fatal encounter.
One of four men arrested after shots were fired at Hoopfest was given an exceptionally low sentence of six months in jail this week.
Marquis D. Johnson, 22, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in a plea deal that came nearly a month after prosecutors decided to drop about a dozen attempted murder charges filed after gunshots injured three bystanders at Hoopfest in downtown Spokane June 26.
Johnson has been in jail since the day of the shooting. He’ll be credited for time served and will be on probation for a year.
He faced a standard sentencing range of 43 to 57 months because of his criminal history, which includes convictions for second-degree assault, third-degree assault, car theft and theft, but Deputy Prosecutor Steve Garvin agreed to recommend an exceptionally low sentence. Garvin declined to comment today. Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno sentenced Johnson on Wednesday.
Johnson had been out of prison for an assault conviction just three weeks when police say he, Rashjel G. “Reggie” Cage, Adam Doe and Miguel C. Garcia approached rival gang members and Garcia fired several shots.
Cage pleaded guilty to felony riot and unlawful possession of a firearm on Sept. 13 and was released from jail. He faces 26 to 34 months in prison when he’s sentenced Dec. 14, but Garvin said he’ll ask for an exceptionally low sentence if Cage cooperates.
Doe and Garcia have trials scheduled. Both are in jail.
Past coverage: June 29: Hoopfest shots not ‘surprising’
A Washington State Patrol sergeant who shot an unarmed pregnant woman during a drug raid last week has told investigators it was “an accidental discharge,” sheriff’s officials announced Thursday.
Sgt. Lee Slemp (left, in 2006) said he accidentally fired his weapon as the woman, whose name has not been released, attempted to flee out a window at 1405 N. Lincoln St. on Sept. 24, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said.
Slemp, a 25-year WSP veteran, described the shooting to investigators in his first in-depth interview on Wednesday.
The chief of Washington State Patrol said Tuesday he has no reason to believe last week’s shooting of an unarmed pregnant woman in Spokane was accidental.
“I don’t have anything to lead me to believe that,” Chief John Batiste said Tuesday during an interview with The Spokesman-Review editorial board.
The possibility that the Friday shooting by WSP Sgt. Lee Slemp during a drug raid in Spokane was accidental has been reported by Spokane television station KXLY this week, which cited unnamed sources.
Deputies who initially said an armed assault suspect fired on them before they shot back, wounding him last week, now say they’re unsure if the man shot at them at all.
The newly disclosed doubts over who fired first in the Sept. 16 showdown are contained in investigative documents filed in Spokane County Superior Court.
Investigators recovered no forensic evidence at the scene corroborating the deputies’ initial statements that “multiple shots” had been fired at them, and in subsequent interviews with Washington State Patrol investigators this week the deputies have acknowledged it’s possible the suspect didn’t fire his gun.
Either way, deputies Thad Schultz (left) and David Westlake (right) say they feared that hostile fire was imminent.
The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, which is leading the investigation into last week’s shooting of an unarmed pregnant woman by a Washington State Patrol sergeant, said Monday it had no idea whether the woman was still in the hospital, whether her condition was improving or if she’d given birth.
Sgt. Dave Reagan, the department’s spokesman, said he didn’t check on the woman’s condition because the primary focus of the sheriff’s office probe is on the shooting, adding that he lacks the authority to publicly disclose her identity because a separate law enforcement agency is in charge of the investigation into alleged drug activity at her home.
Meanwhile, the woman’s family declined comment Monday but a Spokane TV station reported that labor was induced at a local hospital and that she gave birth over the weekend. The woman, who was 39 weeks pregnant, was shot once in the shoulder area Friday while investigators served a search warrant at her apartment, 1405 N. Lincoln.
A domestic dispute between two cemetery owners erupted in gunfire Sunday in Moses Lake, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office announced today.
Mark L. Benson, 55, is charged with attempted first-degree murder after his wife, Susan L. Benson, said he fired several rounds, striking her left shoulder, as she fled in her car.
Susan Benson, also 55, remains hospitalized today with a non-life threatening gunshot wound, according to the Sheriff’s Office. She called 911 about 6:30 p.m. Sunday and said she was fleeing her husband after being shot and was going to drive herself to Samaritan Hospital, the Sheriff’s Office said.
She’d been working at the Moses Lake Cemetery, which the couple owns, when Mark Benson arrived and wanted to talk about their pending divorce and whether their marriage could be saved, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Susan Benson said she left the cemetery, located about eight miles east of Moses Lake on Road 2, without saying anything but was followed by Mark Benson, who fired several shots.
Mark Benson called 911 and advised of his location. He was arrested without incident and remains in the Grant County Jail.