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2 arrested in Spokane Valley burglary

Two men were arrested on suspicion of burglary Monday after a Spokane Valley man and his daughter arrived home in the middle of the day to find a possibly armed burglar walking from their backyard.

Nathanial Brooks Hubbard, 20, and Robert E. Best, IV, 25, are accused of ransacking a bedroom in the home in the 3500 block of South McDonald Road and stealing a gun and several 50 cent and $1 coins.

The homeowner said he'd left about 10:45 a.m. and returned about 2 p.m. to find his back slider door partially open then saw a man later identified as Hubbard outside.

A sheriff's deputy responded and located the suspect vehicle near East 40th Avenue and South Woodlawn Drive, east of the Painted Hills Golf Course. The deputy and Valley police corporal stopped the car and identified the driver as Best and Hubbard the passenger. Sheriff's K-9 Ekko searched the car for others passenger; Ekko's handler found the stolen handgun under the front seat.

Hubbard and Best had the stolen coins in their pockets. They were booked into jail for first-degree burglary.

Burglar shoots at elderly woman’s home

A Spokane burglary suspect believed to have fired several rounds into an elderly woman's front door was arrested after a sheriff's corporal shot him with bean bags in front of another would-be victim's home early Saturday.

Ernest Earl Strebeck, 46, was armed with a handgun when members of the sheriff’s SWAT team confronted him as he sat on a porch of another home at 6536 N. Freya St.

Strebeck refused commands to lower the gun and instead stood up and stepped down from the porch, then tossed the firearm back onto the porch and walked away with his hands in his pockets. Cpl. Jeff Shover used a shotgun to fire three bean bags at Strebeck to subdue him enough to be handcuffed. He was transported to a hospital before being booked into jail.

Read the rest of my story here.

Letters address cop shooter’s release

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.

Man in Hooters bomb case to stay in jail

A man arrested with about 5,400 small explosive devices in his van outside Hooters in Spokane Valley last week will stay in jail without bail.

Peter Ward Westhaver, 53, pleaded not guilty today to a grand jury indictment charging him with dealing in explosives materials, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years on prison.

Investigators believe Westhaver was selling the devices. Two undercover agents met with Westhaver June 28 at the restaurant near the Spokane Valley Mall and listened as he discussed his manufacturing operation.

They were leaving the restaurant when Westhaver told the men he actually had the devices in his Ford Windstar van in the parking lot, according to court documents.

The investigators, who work for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the Spokane County Sheriff's Office, broke their cover and arrested him for officer safety purposes, then searched the van. The devices are described as red plastic balls filled with a flash-like explosive powder with a fuse inserted.

The indictment returned by a grand jury on Tuesday calls for Westhaver to forfeit ownership of the devices. He appeared in U.S. District Court today for his arraignment. He isn't even trying to get out of jail: His public defender waived his bail hearing.

Federal agents began investigating Westhaver in late May, about the same time a suspicious device was found in a home in northwest Spokane.
  

Wallace’s wrist, risk factors at hearing

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.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 25: Wallace had been to drug rehab before

June 21: Woman, 87, describes fight with Wallace

June 22: Task force directed deputies to stop SUV

Two arrested after high-speed chase

Two young people in a stolen car led a sheriff's deputy on a high-speed chase in Spokane Valley on Thursday.

Jordy Scott DeBoer, 20, and Nicole Dawn Singer, 23, were in a green Honda Accord when Deputy Brian Hirzel tried to stop it near North Pines Road and East Valleyway Avenue.

The driver, identified by police as DeBoer, fled at speeds of about 70 mph in the 35 mph zone, driving through residential area, blowing through stop signs and red lights, straddling lanes and cutting through grocery store parking lots.

Deputies Damon Simmons, Scott Bonney and Jason Karntiz helped Hirzel in the pursuit.

DeBoer nearly struck several vehicles, deputies say. Hirzel ended the search because of public safety concerns; a Washington State Patrol trooper later located the suspects and they admitted to fleeing Hirzel.

"Singer admitted to Deputy Hirzel she told DeBoer to 'go, baby, go' when he attempted to stop them," according to court documents.

The Honda was stolen early that morning or late the night before from a home in the 1300 bock of North McDonald Road.
  

Man arrested w/ 5,000+ bombs in Valley

A man was arrested with about 5,400 small explosive devices in his van during an undercover investigation at Hooters in Spokane Valley Thursday.

Peter Ward Westhaver, 53, is in the Spokane County Jail on a no-bail federal hold.

He met two men who turned out to be undercover investigators at the restaurant about 2:15 p.m. and "talked extensively about his explosives manufacturing operation," according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

He was leaving the restaurant with the investigators about 3 p.m. when he told them he had explosives in his vehicle. The investigators, who work for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the Spokane County Sheriff's Office, broke their cover and arrested him for officer safety purposes and say he allowed them to search his blue Ford Windstar van.

Investigators seized 18 Home Depot buckets, each filled with about 300 "ping pong ball bombs," according to court documents. The devices are described as red plastic balls filled with an explosive powder with a fuse inserted.

The devices matched two devices found in the possession of a cooperating source who was working with law enforcement to mitigate potential charges or sentencing related to his possession of the devices.

The investigation into Westhaver began about May 25; explosives experts first examined the two devices from the cooperating source on May 23.

Westhaver, whose last known address was in Elk, Wash., was convicted in Spokane County of third-degree child molestation and two counts of communication with a minor for immoral purpose in 2005. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail and four years probation.

He made his first appearance today at 1:30 p.m. in U.S. District Court on explosives charges.

Shelter-seeking prowling suspect busted

A man arrested for prowling a car in Spokane Valley had a radio control car with him, and police are trying to find the owner.

Justin Wayne Croson, 27, told the maintenance manager at an apartment complex in the 2400 block of North Cherry Road that he was just sitting in his car when confronted Tuesday, but the manager knew he didn't own the vehicle.

Croson then told sheriff's deputies he was homeless, had fought with his girlfriend and was sitting in the car to get out the rain. He said he didn't know the owner of the car but denied looking through the glove box.

Deputies say the glove box and center console were open, and that the gas-powered radio control car was sitting on the a passenger seat. The vehicle owner said she'd left her car unlocked but that the glove box and console had been closed. She also said the radio control car wasn't hers.

Croson said "his ex-babysitter gave him the radio control car but could not remember his babysitter's name, address or what type of radio control car he was given," according to a news release by Deputy Craig Chamberlin, Spokane County Sheriff's Office spokesman.

Croson was booked into jail on a second-degree vehicle prowling charge. The radio control car is a red, silver and blue Red Cat Volcano S30 valued at $229.  If you can prove you own it, call (509) 477-6612.
  

Home burglar caught on tape - who is it?

Detectives are looking for help in identifying a man who burglarized a home in north Spokane County earlier this month.

A photo released today from the homeowner's game camera shows a man wearing gloves leaving the backdoor of the home in the 3100 block of East Deer Park-Milan Road. The homeowners returned from an eight-day vacation June 8 and discovered the break-in, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

The man's accomplice, identified by police as Christopher John Steinbaugh, 32, was arrested last week on a residential burglary charge.

Detectives are asking for anyone with information on the man's identity to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 and reference case #12-176653.

Steinbaugh already is charged with property crimes for arrests in March and May, including one that occurred when a sheriff's detective recognized him at a pawn shop.

Deputies recovering as probe continues

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.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 21: Sheriff: Deputies Spink, Northway, the kind 'you can count on'

Wallace had been to drug rehab before

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.

View a PDF version of the 1997 report involving Knezovich and Wallace here.

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.

Past coverage:

June 22: Man accused of helping cop shooter to stay in jail

June 21: Task force directed deputies to stop SUV

Woman, 87, describes fight w/ Wallace

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.

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach's story here.

Spink, Northway seasoned deputies

Spokane County sheriff’s deputies Matt Spink and Mike Northway have backed each other up on patrol in north Spokane County for six years, so it’s not too surprising the men were together when fugitive Charles Wallace opened fire on them Tuesday, wounding both.

The deputies, who are good friends outside of work, remain hospitalized but in stable condition. Spink, 45, (pictured left) suffered a single gunshot wound to his leg, police officials said. Northway, 42, (pictured right) took four bullets, including one that shattered a femur and another that blew away three inches of an artery in his arm.

Read the rest of Jody Lawrence-Turner's story here.

 

 


  

Wallace’s release baffles Knezovich

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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.”

Read the rest of the story here.\

View a photo gallery from Tuesday here.

Original story: Suspct kills self after two deputies shot

Cop shooter robbed woman, 87, of car

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.

Coverage:

Police mistake hit-and-run suspects for shooting accomplices

Two sheriff's deputies shot; suspect kills self

Suspect recently left drug rehab center

Ego-driven sex abuse suspect arrested

A man who wanted to prove to his ex-girlfriend that he wasn't a child molester instead was arrested on a child sex abuse warrant after contacting a Spokane County sheriff's deputy Tuesday in Deer Park.

Jesse A. Smith, 20, apparently did not know of a felony warrant out of Jerome, Idaho, for three counts of lewd conduct with a minor under 16 years old when he contacted sheriff's Deputy Dan Dutton Tuesday about 7:45 p.m.

Dutton was responding to an unrelated domestic situation at a home when Smith knocked on the door and asked to speak to him.

Smith asked Dutton to check his criminal history because his ex-girlfriend sent him a text message accusing him of being a child molester, and he wanted to prove her wrong, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Smith said he would wait by Dutton's patrol car until Dutton was finished at the home. Dutton checked Smith's criminal history and confirmed Smith in fact did have a $75,000-bond warrant that essentially accuses him of being a child molester.

He was booked into the Spokane County Jail on the warrant. He remained there this afternoon awaiting transport to southern Idaho.

Cops remark on meth suspect’s honesty

Police in Spokane Valley remarked on the honesty of a man after he admitted he had a glass pipe and bag of methamphetamine in his pocket.

Christopher Joseph Nordby, 47, was standing next to a car holding a screw driver near East Valleyway Avenue and North Mullan Road Tuesday about 7:45 p.m. when sheriff's Deputy Juan Rodriguez stopped and told him he looked suspicious.

Nordby told him it was his car and he was working on the carburetor, but he didn't have anything to verify the car was his. Rodriguez asked him if he had a suspended license and Nordby, who was described as very nervous, aid he thought he did and also thought he had a warrant for drunken driving.

Rodriguez verified his license was suspended and handcuffed Nordby. Nordby then told him about the glass pipe and methamphetamine. He was booked into jail for felony meth possession.

Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office, wrote a news release about the arrest and headlined it "Honest Valley Man Arrested For Meth."

Homeowner spots suspected prowlers

A Spokane Valley homeowner spotted two suspected prowlers looking at his car early today, leading police to arrest a suspect.

The man opened the front door to his home in the 2800 block of South Davis Road after seeing two men - one with a flashlight - looking into his Subaru Legacy about 2:30 a.m.

The men ran west from the home. The homeowner said he saw them start looking into other vehicles because they through he'd stayed at his home. The man's wife called 911, and Spokane County sheriff's Deputy Dale Wells searched the area of 13500 East Redlin Road, where the man said he'd last seen the prowlers.

Wells found Jacob S. Mager, 24, hiding between two gardens inside a fenced yard. Others deputies arrived and Mager was arrested without incident.

The homeowner identified Mager as one of the men he'd seen at his Subaru. Mager told Wells "he was walking with his friend "Mike" and had no idea "Mike" was prowling vehicles, according to the sheriff's office.

A woman who owns the yard where Mager was hiding told Wells she wants to pursue trespassing charges against him, so Mager was booked into jail on a count of second-degree trespass. He already posted bond and is out of jail.

2 cars crash on tracks in wild chase

A wild car chase on Sunday ended in a father and son's vehicles crashing off railroad tracks into trees and a suspected thief getting away, police said Tuesday.

Authorities are asking for tips on the car thief, who they say stole a car from a Spokane Valley home then ditched it near East 16th Avenue and South Dishman-Mica Road after being pursued by the owner and his father.

The father had moved his son's car about 4:30 a.m. because it was partially blocking his vehicle. He left the keys in the ignition, then went inside to wait for his car to start because of a problem with its alarm system, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

He looked out the window to see his son's vehicle being driven north on South Dishman Road. He and his son got in his car and gave chase north on Dishman to East 8th Avenue, where the car thief began driving south on railroad tracks and they followed.

The car thief and the father-son team lost control of the cars and drove into a group of trees just south of 16th, where the suspect ran north on Dishman and the victims lost sight of him.

He's described as a white man, about 6-feet-tall and wearing a blue shirt and black pants. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

911 call in homeowner shooting released

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911

In this file photo, Doug Snarski, 55, stands at the top of the stairs where he shot an intruder in his home last month. (SR/Jesse Tinsley)

A Newman Lake homeowner did nothing wrong when he shot his girlfriend’s ex to death after being threatened by him with guns last month, prosecutors say.

Spokane County prosecutors said Tuesday that no criminal charges will be filed against Doug Snarski, 55, for the homicide of Sean Parsons on May 13.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

May 15: Man shoots, kills armed intruder

WARNING: THE 911 CALL POSTED ABOVE CONTAINS CRUDE LANGUAGE AND GUN VIOLENCE.

DNA identifies suspect in 2011 robbery

DNA on a hat and gloves dropped by a man who robbed a Spokane Valley tavern owner last year has led authorities to identify a suspect.

 Isaiah P. Wandler, 32, is charged with first-degree robbery for a Feb. 13, 2011, attack outside Poppy's Tavern, 415 S. Dishman-Mica Road.

He's accused of robbing owner Donna O'Donnell of her purse and punching her in the face and knocking her to the pavement. The robber also stole her shopping bags, but police found them ditched outside a nearby trailer with the purse. Officers also found his red and gray jacket, black baseball hat and black gloves, which they believe he discarded when he saw them converge on the area.

While the move may have prevented the robber's arrest that day, police submitted the hat and gloves to the state crime lab for DNA testing.

The crime lab notified Spokane County Sheriff's Detective Mike Ricketts of a match to Wandler earlier this year.

He was already in jail in Kootenai County, Idaho, for violating his probation on a burglary case. Records show he failed to show up for a hearing about a month before he's accused of robbing O'Donnell. He was arrested in Idaho last June for the probation violation.

Now Wandler's in the Spokane County Jail on $100,000 after appearing in court Monday on the new robbery charge and a no-bond Department of Corrections warrant for a probation violation.

Judge won’t reverse medical pot rulng

A judge has refused to reverse a decision about a marijuana search that local law enforcement says could hinder their ability to investigate pot cases.

U.S. District Judge Frem Nielsen said Monday that his decision to prohibit prosecutors from using marijuana plants and other evidence seized during a sheriff's search of a northeast Spokane County home last November stands.

Spokane lawyer Richard Wall, who represents one of five men indicted by a federal grand jury on marijuana charges, had written a motion asking Nielsen to suppress the evidence because police did not consider the Washington Legislature's overhaul of medical marijuana laws when they obtained a search warrant for the home.

“In this case they simply just did what they'd always done,” Wall said.

The Legislature had rewritten the law to state that using, growing or distributing marijuana in compliance with medical marijuana laws was not crime. Before July, it had been an affirmative defense - law enforcement could arrest users and make them prove their case in court.

The request from the U.S. Attorney's Office to reconsider the decision reiterated their previous argument that legislators did not intend to change the law when they rewrote it.

"The Court concurs with the Government that "it is axiomatic that plain language is to be given plain meaning and enforced accordingly,"" Nielsen wrote.  "Reading "use" to exclude possession, delivery, or manufacture would be in contravention to the entirety of the statute. It is impossible to imagine a scenario where a person could use without possessing. 

Further, the statute clearly indicates exactly how much a person can manufacture under the statute, so clearly the drafters anticipated that manufacture, under specific circumstances described by the statute, also is not a crime. Additionally, the statute permits a person to manufacture the medical marijuana for another, thus the statute addresses delivery of medical marijuana."

A drug detective said the case could prohibit them from investigating suspected marijuana grows because it's difficult to establish whether someone's obeying medical marijuana laws.

Past coverage:

Feb. 14: Grand jury indicts men in marijuana grow

Nov. 21: 'Judge Judy' to feature Spokane pot defendant

Chronic DUI suspect Crabtree sentenced

A chronic drunken driving suspect who badly injured a sheriff's deputy in a crash about 10 years ago has been sentenced to two years in prison on drug charges.

James Lee Crabtree, 51, is in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to prison after being sentenced to 24 months for possession of a controlled substance and delivery of a controlled substance.

He was sentenced last month to a year in jail and two years probation for a felony DUI charge.

Crabtree was a Spokane County sheriff's deputy in the 1980s. He went to prison for vehicular assault in 2003 and was arrested in November 2011 on suspicion of drunken driving after motorists noticed him passing out at the wheel of his car.

Police found an open can of Four Loko in the car, but his blood-alcohol level was under the legal limit for driving, and he was never charged. His current convictons stems from drunken driving and meth arrests in April and July.

In January, Crabtree was assaulted in a home-invasion robbery in which two assailants demanded “dope and money,” according to court documents.

Ruling puts marijuana searches in limbo

A recent court ruling that deemed a drug raid illegal has raised questions about how law enforcement in Spokane County investigate marijuana growers.

Sheriff’s detectives had reason to believe marijuana was being grown at a northeast Spokane County home when they raided it Nov. 2, but they didn’t have reason to believe the growers were violating the state’s medical marijuana law – or at least they didn’t say they did when they got authorization from a local judge to search the home.

A federal judge ruled the search violated Washington’s recently expanded law governing medicinal marijuana and last week prohibited prosecutors from using marijuana plants and other items seized at the large grow house.

Now a federal grand jury indictment against five young men, two of whom have previous drug convictions, is in limbo, and drug detectives in Spokane are wondering how they’ll continue investigating marijuana growers.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 14: Grand jury indictments men in marijuana grow

Nov. 21: 'Judge Judy' to feature Spokane pot defendant

Thief hits Homeland Security officer’s car

A Spokane woman is accused of stealing a federal Homeland Security officer's passport and and using it to pawn two stolen rifles.

 Investigators identified Amanda Wayne Macklin, 23, as a suspect after finding her number in Double Eagle Pawn's phone records. They say she called the pawn shop on Nov. 21 asking if a passport could be used to sell items there, then went to the East Sprague Avenue store and sold the stolen guns for $475 using a passport belonging to Shannon L. Hart.

Hart was at Oz Fitness at 603 E. Holland in Spokane on Nov. 20 when someone prowled her vehicle and stole her Homeland Security identification card, her passport and a Sig Sauer .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, according to court documents.

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms obtained surveillance video of a woman pawning the rifles, which were stolen in a burglary Nov. 21 at a home in the 12000 block of North Denver Street. Macklin's family members identified her as that woman, according to court documents. Macklin told them she dumped Hart's passport and pistol into a dumpster, investigators say.

Federal agents also obtained a recording of Macklin telling her mother in a phone call from the Spokane County Jail that she pawned the guns and burglarized other homes to support her and her sister's drug habit. Macklin and her sister, Jordan Newkirk, already are charged with several felonies for an alleged burglary ring.

In the Dec. 26 break-in, the thieves used a spring-loaded punch to break holes through a lower window at a home in the 100 block of West Falcon Avenue and stole thousands of dollars in jewelry, including a ring that contained the ashes of the homeowner's mother.

Police in Kent, Wash, had noted the unusual burglary tool in Macklin's Kia Spectra when they arrested her there four days before the burglary.

Spokane County sheriff's Detective Mark Newton noted in his report that he and his partner have been detectives for 45 years total and have never found anyone in possesses of such a device, which he said would shatter normal glass but didn't at the Falcon Avenue home because the glass was tempered.

"If one were to use such a punch on a normal piece of glass, the punch would shatter the glass leaving no indication a punch was used," Newton wrote in court documents.

Macklin was charged in that case in March. Prosecutors filed six new gun and property crime charges May 25 for theft of Hart's passport. Then a federal grand jury indicted her last week on a charge of unlawful possession and barter and disposal of a stolen firearm and misuse o a passport for allegedly dumping Hart's gun and passport.

Student teacher investigated for sex crime

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether a sex crime was committed when a student teacher reportedly had a relationship with a 17-year-old high school girl.

Read the rest of Jody Lawrence-Turner's story here.

Disgruntled bar customer returns w/ gun

A man who scuffled with employees at a Spokane Valley bar fired a gun in the bar's parking lot late Wednesday, police said today.

Bret A. Nemitz, 29, finished a drink at Boomers Classic Rock Bar, 18209 E. Appleway Ave., just as the bar was closing. The owner told Spokane County sheriff's deputies that they asked him to leave after he began harassing two customers who were playing pool, and Nemitz grabbed the owner by the shirt and neck.

The owner's father helped control Nemitz, but the owner said he had an uneasy feeling as Nemitz walked away.

Ashort time later, the owner saw Nemitz drive a vehicle into the parking lot and noticed a shiny object in his hand. The owner told his father to crouch down just before a gunshot ran out, according to a news release.

Deputies responded about 11:30 p.m. saw the bullet hit a window on the west side of the bar. They located his car at a home near the bar and found Nemtiz standing in the backyard. He was booked into jail on two counts of drive-by shooting.

Neighbor’s call leads to meth, 2 arrests

A report of a burglary at a vacant home in near Holy Cross Cemetery in north Spokane Tuesday led deputies to arrest two people and seize a methamphetamine and a backpack stolen in a vehicle prowling last March.

Christine Lorrain Blumenshein, 40, and Robert K. Schulte, 30, were arrested at a home in the 7000 block of North Normandie Street after a neighbor reported a suspicious vehicle parked near the home, which had recently been purchased, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said today.

The neighbor said he saw a man and woman exit the car and walk toward the home, then saw a short while later that the back gate was open.

Blumeshein had a small metal cap with methamphetamine in her hand when she was handcuffed, deputies say.

Deputies also found a tool bag and backpack on the floor of the home that contained snips, tools and 17 key chains with keys to Ford vehicles. A name written on the backpack in black marker linked it to the victim of a vehicle prowling on March 17.

The two were booked into jail for first-degree criminal trespass. Blumenshein also faces a meth possession charge.
  

Tripped-up cop gets lucky in traffic stop

A sheriff's deputy who fell while chasing a fleeing suspect last month got lucky in a traffic stop early Tuesday and located the man's roommate.

The driver alerted Deputy Ryan Truman that suspect Brandon J. Hoffman, 22, was living at his home in the 12500 block of North Freya Street. Truman and another deputy went to the home and arrested Hoffman.

Truman had been looking to arrest Hoffman since the man threw his bicycle at him and ran away after being stopped for riding without a front light and rear reflectors about 4 a.m. May 18.

Truman said Hoffman gave him a false name, but he was able to identify him through booking photos and other police records.

Truman yelled at Hoffman to stop several times as he an away, but he "fell during the foot pursuit and sustained minor injuries," and the man got away.

Hoffman was booked into jail on charges of making a false statement, resisting arrest and third-degree assault.