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Pictures show car theft suspects

The men pictured may be responsible for car thefts in northeast Spokane, police said today.

The surveillance photos could help solve what authorities describe as a surge in vehicle thefts in the city.

The number of auto thefts is the highest it has been in 2009, with more than 60 cars reported stolen in one week last month, police said.

Since the beginning of August, auto thefts in Spokane have risen from about 20 a week, statistics show. Police arrested a young man suspected of vehicle prowling last week and found him with tools used to steal cars, police said.

Police also use a new automatic license-plate recognition system to detect stolen cars. Read about it here.

Anyone with information on the men is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Videos show Zip Trip robbery

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Spokane police released video Friday of a weeks-old robbery for which two men have already been arrested.

Police say Christopher R. Walinski, 25, robbed the Zip Trip at 3030 E. Euclid at gunpoint Sept 29 at 11:12 p.m. as Justin J. Ellery, 24, waited in a car.

Ellery was arrested Oct. 31 for a holdup Sept. 28 at Papa Johns, 900 East Indiana. He’s been in Spokane County Jail since, now charged with two counts of first-degree robbery. His bail’s at $80,000. 

Walinkski (right) was arrested Wednesday and is in jail on $50,000 bail. Both had their first court appearances Thursday. (Read more here. )

The two videos give a complete look at a holdup that’s probably not too different from the other robberies that have plagued the Inland Northwest recently.

Just last night the Sunset Grocery on the edge of Browne’s Addition was robbed at gunpoint.

The culprit was described as in his mid-30s, medium build, wearing a green or gray hooded sweatshirt and camouflage pants.

Crash with police cruiser leads to cash claim

A police cruiser crashed into a truck on the Sunset Bridge last week, part of a three-car crash that totaled at least one vehicle.

The crash closed the bridge and surrounding streets for hours last Friday night as investigators tried to determine what led the cruiser to cross the center line and hit a truck driven by an Idaho man head on.

A 1995 Subaru Legacy then hit the truck. No serious injuries were reported.

Officers Chris McMurtrey and Darrell Quarles were responding to a distress call from a sheriff’s deputy trying to catch a speeding driver when their car slid into eastbound traffic on the rain-soaked road, police said.

Both officers - police haven’t said who was driving - were treated and released for minor injuries at a hospital.

Neither of the other drivers went to the hospital that night, but Hallie Curnutt, whose Legacy hit the truck, spent most of the next day hospitalized for a concussion.

 

Curnutt, 22, filed a claim with the city of Spokane asking for her car and medical bills to be covered.

Read the rest of the story by clicking the link below.

Pizza place robber also hit Zip Trip, police say

 A man accused of robbing a Spokane pizza place is now thought to have helped rob a convenience store the next day.

Spokane police say Justin J. Ellery, 24, (left) waited in a car as Christopher R. Walinski, 25, (bottom right) robbed the Zip Trip at 3030 E. Euclid at gunpoint Sept 29 at 11:12 p.m. Ellery was arrested Oct. 31 for a holdup Sept. 28 at Papa Johns, 900 East Indiana. He’s been in Spokane County Jail since, now charged with two counts of first-degree robbery. His bail’s at $80,000. 

Walinkski was arrested Wednesday and is in jail on $50,000. Both had their first court appearances Thursday.

Detectives were able to solve this case based on information gathered by patrol Officer Casey Jones,” according to a news release from the Spokane Police Department. “The suspects wore masks and did not leave any fingerprints, but because of excellent police work they were still caught.”

Court papers show the case broke when Jones spoke to a confidential informant during an unrelated investigation.

“CS#1 said Justin said he had done something bad and asked “Well did you hear about the (pizza place) up north that got robbed? Well I did that,” according to a probable cause affidavit filed Oct. 29.

Detective Brian Hamond compared a photo of Ellery to witness descriptions and spoke with a couple of other people who named Ellery as the robber. One woman said Ellery got $160 in the robbery and spent it on heroin, Hamond said.

The accusations against Ellery and Walinski show the series of robberies in the county is likely connected to several groups or individuals instead of a large crime ring. The Sheriff’s Office arrested three men Oct. 28 in connection with a robbery at a Zip Trip at 711 W. Hastings.

Detectives say the men appeared to be preparing to rob another convenience store when they were arrested and are being questioned in other robberies. (Read more here.)

Spokane police report spike in car thefts

Vehicle thefts are at an all-time high in Spokane, police say. As the Spokane Police Department works to get the word out about - and solve - the problem, an arrest yesterday provided a glimpse at tools typically used in car heists.

Brendon T. Kaluza-Graham, 22, was arrested after an officer realized the 1997 Honda Accord he was driving was stolen and pulled him over just before 4 p.m. at Olympic and Helena, according to a police report.

Inside the car were vehicle plates, screwdrivers, work gloves, a pair of used rubber gloves, and an Allen wrench grounded down to resemble a vehicle key, police said.

Kaluza-Graham, who police say had a suspended driver’s license, remains in Spokane County Jail on a charge of possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

Kaluza- Graham was sentenced to 60 days in jail in July for reckless driving and second-degree driving with license suspended, according to news archives.

Police officer in crash out of hospital

A Spokane police officer injured when a woman rear-ended his squad car was released from the hospital last night and will return to work in “a few weeks,” police said today.

Officer Jeff Graves has a soar back, neck and arms from the collision Wednesday on North Maple Street just south of Sinto Avenue.

The woman who police say hit him, Debra Hatcher, faces a vehicular assault charge and has been placed on paid leave from her job as a third-grade teacher at Finch Elementary School, according to Spokane Public Schools.

Hatcher, 54, is in her second year teaching at the school after transferring from Audubon Elementary.

Police think she was under the influence of prescription medications at the time of the 1 p.m. crash.

Police officer injured in rear-end crash

A Spokane police officer was hospitalized with serious injuries Wednesday after a woman thought to be on drugs rear ended him, a police spokeswoman said.

Officer Jeff Graves is expected to survive injuries caused when Debra Hatcher, 54, rear ended his squad car on Maple Street just south of Sinto Avenue about 1 p.m., according to a news release. Graves was sitting in the driver’s seat of the car, which was stopped as he helped a citizen, police said.

Hatcher was thought to be under the influence of drugs and was arrested on a vehicular assault charge, police said.

Last year, 39 police officers died in car crashes in the United States, according to the news release.

“Citizens are reminded that in Washington State we have a “Move Over” law, requiring motorists approaching a stationary emergency vehicle on the side of the road or in a lane of travel to proceed with caution,” police said.

Police may have suspect in ATM thefts

A man arrested on drug charges is suspected of an attempted ATM burglary two days after he posted bail. George W. Butrick, 31, (left, allegedly) was arrested again Wednesday after police identified him as a suspect in an incident Oct. 21 at the Conoco at 3125 E. Mission.

Authorities have said the more than a dozen similar thefts and attempted thefts are likely linked, but Butrick has only been named as a suspect in one.

Surveillance video captured images of a man police think was Butrick before he smashed the Conoco store’s front window and fled. He had been arrested Oct. 19 on drug charges and one count of unlawful possession of a gun but posted $7,500 bail.

He was back in Spokane County Jail Wednesday night on new charges of burglary and attempted theft.

Police say he had another gun on him when he was arrested.

Read a story on the ATM thefts here.

SPD Honor Guard to attend Seattle officer’s funeral

Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and four members of the Police Department Honor Guard will attend the funeral of slain Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton this week.

Brenton was shot to death Saturday following a routine traffic stop. He was in the passenger seat of a squad car training a new officer when a car pulled up alongside and shots fired. The car turned around and drove away, presumably to avoid the squad car’s dash camera, according to the Seattle Times.

A $105,000 reward is being offered for tips that lead to an arrest. Brenton has an 11-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son.

Kirkpatrick, Sgt. Jon Anderson, Cpl. David Beckley, Officer Wayne Downing and Officer Shaney Redmon will attend Brenton’s memorial service Friday at the Key Arena. They leave Thursday.

Audio features Subway store robbers

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Subway robbery

Spokane police released an audio recording today of a recent robbery at a northwest Spokane Subway store in hopes someone will recognize the voices of the two robbers.

The men held an employee of the store at 1103 W. Northwest Blvd. at knife point about 10:30 p.m. Oct. 22, before fleeing with an undisclosed about of cash, police said.

The men can be heard telling employees to lay down as one employee says, “That’s all there is, man. It’s too late. Dude, I can’t get nothing out. Swear to God.”

An apparent struggle between the employees and robbers also can be heard.

Included in the recording is an employee telling 911 he’d been attacked with a mop bucket .

The robbers were described as black, of medium build, between 5-foot-10 and 6 feet tall, wearing black sweatshirts with the hood pulled down over their faces.

Details emerge in big pot bust

A big marijuana bust last month started in March when drug detectives grew suspicious of a man arrested with four pounds of marijuana, according to search warrants. 

That man, Frank Kimberling, has not been charged in Spokane County Superior Court, but two men arrested Oct. 16 face drug charges in Stevens County Superior Court for 58 marijuana plants and about 40 pounds of bud found in their home at 7193 N. Highway 291. Police also seized $70,000 in cash.

David Raugust, 28, posted $10,000 bail on Thursday and is represented by Bevan Maxey; Greg Brecken, 52, (police spelled his name incorrectly at the time of his arrest) is represented by Mark Prothero and remains in jail on $10,000 bond.

Police started watching Raugust after learning he’d supplied Kimberling with marijuana.

Officers credit Aaron Douglas, (right) who died of cancer last month, with pushing the investigation along because of suspicions that Raugust was a large scale marijuana dealer and would continue to traffic in marijuana” even after Kimberling’s arrest, according to a search warrant.

Police began watching Raugust and tacked him to a house at 415 E. Teddy Lane. Avista Utilities showed the power bill was in Brecken’s name; detectives noticed high power usage consistent with a marijuana grow.

But Raugust and others used a -U-Haul to move several items from the home in May top the home in Tum Tum. Power records showed a jump in usage at the residence, leading to the Oct. 16 raid. Detectives noted the amount of dried marijuana greatly outnumbered what could be produced by the 58 plants.

A possible explanation for that could lie in two rubberized duffel bags used by white water guides.

“Bags similar to these are often used when smuggling marijuana across the border when the crossing may involve a portion of the travel across water,” according to a search warrant prepared by Spokane police Detective Bryan Tafoya. “In speaking with other detectives and agents who patrol the border I have been told that often smugglers will put marijuana in rubberized bags and come down from Canada in rubber rafts.”

Read past coverage here.

Man accused of helping hide murder suspect cleared

A man arrested on suspicion of trying to help hide an accused double murderer had his charges dropped because of a lack of evidence.

But Mark H. Toner, 33, remains in jail on a drug charge for methamphetamine police say was in his car when he was arrested. He appeared in Spokane County Superior Court via video Friday on one count of possession of a controlled substance.

Felony first-degree rendering criminal assistance and first-degree witness intimation charges were dismissed against Toner Oct. 14 after Merle W. Harvey told police he didn’t know Toner and had never met the woman who said Toner had tried to get her to hide Harvey.

Toner stayed in jail on a District Court warrant and was charged last week in connection methamphetamine found in his car, according to court documents.

While Spokane police Detective Chet Gilmore said some sort of confrontation happened between Toner and Sarah-Nicole Hill the night of the murders, Toner was not involved in the double homicide Sept. 26 and does not appear to even know Harvey, who’s charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Harvey, 27, and his girlfriend, Diane L. Richardson, 34, denied knowing Toner and Hill after they were arrested in Kennewick on Oct. 10. Their statements about what they’d done since the murders didn’t leave room for the confrontation involving Toner and Hill, Gilmore said.

Toner always denied having anything to do with the shooting deaths of Jack T. Lamere and Jacob J. Potter, but Hill had told police he showed up wanting her to help hide Harvey the night of the murders.

She called police, then said she’d received threatening text messages from Toner and was followed by him to a McDonald’s on the Newport Highway, according to the affidavit. She called police after Toner followed her inside the restaurant, according to the affidavit. Toner left, and she exited the store to find her friend’s truck’s tires slashed. A McDonald’s employee had written down Toner’s license plate.

The day Toner’s charges were dropped, Spokane police tested two baggies found in Toner’s Oldsmobile 2002 Alero that contained methamphetamine.

The drug bags were in a large black bag with electronic scales and about 100 other baggies, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Oct. 29.

Read past coverage here and here.

Photo of ATM burglar released

Brazen thieves are targeting cash machines at Spokane-area convenience stores, using stolen vehicles to bash through locked doors and storefronts to grab and loot the secured ATMs.


Spokane police hope someone recognizes the man pictured above outside the Conoco Station at 3125 E. Mission on Oct. 21.

The Conoco burglary was one of at least a dozen incidents in the last three weeks in which thieves have used stolen vehicles to bash through locked doors and storefronts to grab and loot secured ATMs.

Read more here.

Bar stabbing may be gang related

Here’s Sara Leaming’s report:

The owner of a downtown Spokane night club says his employees stopped a gang “hit” outside of his business early Wednesday night, during which two men were sent to the hospital with minor stab wounds.

Jordan Troutt, the owner of Uno Supper Club and Lounge, said in a press release that club bouncers intervened after a man walking by his club at 515 W. Sprague Ave. was attacked by a group who later identified themselves as members of a Crip street gang set.

Spokane police confirmed the Violent Crime Gang Enforcement Team is investigating the incident.

The melee began just after 12:30 a.m., when a crowd loitering in a parking lot across the street attacked a 22-year-old man walking in front of Club Uno. None involved were patrons of the club.

Bouncers chased and held at least them until police arrived. Arrested were John D. Proctor, 24, Rakee D. Cage, 22, and Adam Doe, 18, police said. The three remain in the Spokane County Jail.

Anyone with information about the stabbings is asked to call Crime Check at (509)456-2233.

Spokane policemen honored for saving lives

Two Spokane policemen were honored by the City Council tonight for saving lives.

Officer Tim Moses (left) saved a man who was threatening suicide on the Monroe Street Bridge last month, and Cpl. Robbie Dashiell (right) saved a man who’d been shot in an apparent accidental shooting in August.

Read more on the shooting here.

Read the full news release from the Spokane Police Department by clicking the link below.

Robbery roundup

Two Deer Park men have been identified as suspects in an OxyContin robbery that police linked to a 20-year-old woman.

Jed L. Boles, 31, (left) and William E. Higgins, 21, (right) face charges of first-degree robbery for allegedly helping Ariel A. Arrieta rob the Rite Aid at 5520 N. Division St. on Sept. 27, according to the Spokane Police Department.

Arrieta’s boyfriend told police she drove with two men, whom police identified as Higgins and Boles, to the pharmacy, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Arrieta also is a suspect in an attempted robbery Oct. 12 at the Rite Aid at Wandermere Mall. Read more here.

OxyContin robberies are beginning to be upstaged by armed robberies at seemingly random locations: ice cream shops, restaurants, anywhere with cash. Read more about it here.

Bonnie and Clyde coin was in stolen Jeep

The Jeep allegedly stolen by a double murder suspect and his girlfriend in Coeur d’Alene this month contained a coin depicting the famous outlaw duo Bonnie and Clyde.

“It’s just kind of weird,” said Julie Forsythe, a single of mother of three now out a 1992 Jeep Cherokee after authorities found it submerged in a canal in Kennewick Oct. 9.

Forysthe had reported the Jeep stolen from outside a Sherman Avenue Coeur d’Alene business, Bee Hive Homes, two days earlier.

On Oct. 10, police arrested Merle W. Harvey, accused of shooting two men to death Sept. 26, and his girlfriend, Diane L. Richardson, walking in a wheat field in Kennewick. Harvey told police he’d stolen a truck in Spokane, then driven to Coeur d’Alene where he stole Forysthe’s and Glock pistol that was inside, according to a search warrant.

Forsythe said the Bonnie and Clyde coin belongs to her son.

Court papers detailing Harvey and Richardson’s alleged crime spree suggest the two hardly compare to the famous crime duo shot to death in 1934 after more than a year on the run and a series of major crimes. (Read more about Bonnie and Clyde here.)

Police say Richardson was driving the Jeep when Harvey shoplifted from a Kennewick convenience store. Police chased the car but stopped because it was too dangerous, according to court papers. Harvey told police Richardson crashed it in the canal shortly after.

Forsythe doubts she’ll get the Jeep back. She’d had it just two years and it ran fine, but repairing the damage Harvey and Richardson’s allegedly did do it would cost more than it’s worth, she said.

Her insurance policy won’t cover the loss, and she wonders how her family will get around, she said.

“It was all we had,” she said.

Read past coverage here.

Spokane man arrested in July shooting

A man accused of attempted murder is due in court today after nearly three months on the run.

Timothy “Stoney Boy” Lucious, 38, was booked into Spokane County Jail early Sunday morning in connection with a July 24 shooting in south Spokane that began with a fight at a north town bar.

Acting on a tip, police arrested Lucious early Sunday at a North Lincoln Street address, said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.

He’s to appear in Spokane County Superior Court via video this afternoon on two counts of first-degree attempted murder and one count of second-degree assault.

A second suspect, Michael “Mikey Mike” R. Gardner, 23, remains at large, according to Crime Stoppers.

Spokane police say the men were involved in a fight that left two women with gunshots to their arm and chest. The victims were joined by two other women at Lefty’s when the argument ensued, and the group saw each other again at a party in the 2200 block of North Denver after the bar closed about 2 a.m., Lt. Dave McGovern said in July.

The five women left in a white car for Grant Park, where one received a call about another party at Hartson and Seventh Avenue. But when the women were driving there, they saw the woman from the earlier confrontations standing with others, two of whom police identified as Lucious and Gardner, near Seventh and Perry.

Witnesses reported 10 to 15 people involved in the fight.

The two women brawled, and Lucious shot one in the arm, according to police.

When the women tried to flee, they noticed a friend missing and went back for her, but Lucious shot her in the chest, police said.

Read past coverage here.

Also arrested this weekend was a teen charged with second-degree murder. Christopher Hooper was booked into jail Sunday at 12:20 p.m.

‘My side of the story is self-defense’

A Spokane man accused of shooting two men to death over a car trade says the slayings were in self-defense.

Merle W. Harvey, 27, shot Jack T. Lamere, 41, and Jacob J. Potter, 45, after “three guys surrounded my truck with guns,” Harvey told a local TV station this week.

“My side of the story is self-defense,” Harvey (left) said in the videotaped interview with KREM-TV. “It could have been me and my girlfriend dead.”

Authorities, however, dismiss his claims.

Investigators allege the shooting deaths were planned, and a Spokane County District Court judge ordered Harvey held on $1 million bond for two first-degree murder charges after he and Diane L. Richardson were arrested Oct. 10 in Kennewick, two weeks after the Sept. 26 killings.

Richardson, 34, (right) is being held on $250,000 bail for one count of first-degree rendering criminal assistance.

Police say the couple stole a Jeep in North Idaho before crashing it into a canal after shoplifting from a convenience store, according to newly filed court documents.

Read the rest of my story here.

Read past coverage here, here and here.

Cancer-stricken officer credited with big pot bust

A huge marijuana bust this morning uncovered an international operation that shipped duffel bags of pot down the Kettle River, according to the Spokane Police Department.

About 40 pounds of marijuana, $70,000 and a grow room were found at a home in Stevens County in an investigation police say was triggered by the suspicions of an officer who died of cancer Oct. 5. 

Officer Aaron Douglas (right) suspected there was more to a case of a man found with 10 pounds of marijuana a few months ago.

The investigation involved people selling the drug “using the cover of selling medical marijuana,” according to a news release.

The case was about to close, but Douglas’ suspicions led investigators to search a home this morning.

David Raugust, 28, and Greg Breken, 52, were arrested on charges of manufacturing a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

  “Seized ledgers indicated transactions of over $100,000 were being conducted,” according to the news release.

Spokane police Officer Devin Presta said the operation apparently involved B.C bud being imported to the United States by backpack and river rafts.

Look for more details next week when the search warrant and probable cause affidavits are available.

Reward offered for teen in murder case

A teenager charged with second-degree murder for a fatal stabbing in January has a warrant out for his arrest after failing to show up for a court hearing.

Christopher E. Hooper, 18, (left) and Michael L. Summa, 20, and Tylor T. Buttolph, 19, are accused of killing Shannon Cochran on Jan. 16 near Garland and Helena as Cochran defended a friend in a fight over a debt, according to this story.

Summa and Buttolph are in jail, but court papers filed May 1 ordered Hooper released from jail on his own recognizance.

He had already had his $750,000 bond reduced to $150,000.

The release order, signed by Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell, offers no explanation other than “good cause exists.”

Now Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that leads to Hooper’s capture after he didn’t show up for a pre-trial conference.

The order for a bench warrant signed by Judge Harold Clarke calls for no bail.

Anyone with information on Hooper’s location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online here.

Read more coverage here and here.

Funeral today for cancer-stricken SPD officer

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and Spokane Valley Police Department traffic units handled calls inside the city of Spokane this morning while police department employees attended the funeral of an officer who died of leukemia.

Aaron S. Douglas, 38, was hired as a police officer with the city of Spokane in 1993. He worked full-time until July.

He started volunteering at 14 and worked his way onto the SWAT team as a sniper and medic. He also served on the meth team, the dignitary protection team, the tactical team and was a neighborhood resource officer before spending the last six years on the bomb squad.

“Aaron loved his job as an officer, always giving 110 percent in whatever he did,” according to his obituary.

He was described as a man with a “warrior mentality” in his battle with cancer who enjoyed hunting and fishing, riding his motorcycle, playing with his dogs and spending time with his wife and friends.

Douglas was born in Spokane and graduated from North Central High School in 1989. He died Monday at his home in Deer Park with his wife, Spokane police officer Traci Douglas, and friends by his side, according to his obituary.

“He gave most of his life to this community and SPD,” said Spokane police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe in an e-mail.

The sheriff’s office and Valley police handled all priority one and two calls during the 10 a.m. funeral, said Sgt. Dave Reagan.

“Regular sheriff’s and Spokane Valley patrol units will pitch in as needed, depending on call loads in our jurisdictions,” Reagan said in an e-mail. “We share their sense of loss.”

Chief responds to Center for Justice story

Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick just fired off a fierce e-mail responding to this story by BIll Morlin for the Center for Justice.

The article states that Kirkpatrick confirmed “widely circulated rumors that she has been looking for a job elsewhere, including a recent opening in San Francisco.”

Though Kirkpatrick denied in the e-mail that she’s “looking” for another job, she did say she applied - and didn’t get - the job in San Francisco.

Read Jonathan Brunt’s story here.

Read Kirkpatrick’s full e-mail, which was sent to the Spokane City Council, Mayor Mary Verner, City Administrator Ted Danek and all police department employees, then forwarded to media, by clicking the link below.

Double murder suspect may be in Las Vegas

The reward for information leading to the capture of a Spokane man accused of gunning down two men in a dispute over a car trade is up to $1,750.

An anonymous donor recently gave $500 to Crime Stoppers, and another has said he’ll give $1,000.

The organization had already offered $250 for tips that help arrest Merle W. Harvey, 27.

“For information on a double homicide, there’s an inflation factor here,” said Spokane police Lt. Dave McGovern.

A search warrant filed Tuesday shows a tipster told investigators he or she knew of a man who’d received a call from Harvey on Sept. 27 saying he was in Las Vegas with his sister.

Police found that man’s phone number through a child abuse report filed Sept. 28, according to a search warrant that seeks call records for that number.

At least one of the donors is a friend of victim Jack T. Lamere, who was shot to death with Jacob J. Potter, 45, on Sept. 26 while working on a car at 1310 W. Boone Ave.

Read the rest of my story here.

Look for another story this week exploring Lamere’s ties to outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Where was this photo taken?

Any guesses on where this photo of Spokane police Officer Paul Gorman and his K9, Maximus, was taken?

Spokane police sent it to media yesterday. I’ve never seen an alley like that in Spokane. The fallen Roman pillars are a nice touch. I’ve put a call into Officer Matt Rose, the photographer, inquiring.

Read about Maximus’ first arrest here.

UPDATE: Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said it’s “Glass Alley,” near Second Avenue and Lincoln Street.

UPDATE #2: Officer and photographer Matt Rose says the location is actually Railroad Alley between Lincoln and Monroe, across the street from the Spaghetti Factory.

Courthouse watch: 9.30.09

The man accused of killing two men Saturday argued with one before firing a gun at them, then picked up a “bigger gun with bigger flashes” and continued shooting, witnesses told police.

But victim Jack T. Lamere, 41, had a gun, too, though it was apparently never fired. Those details and more are included in a search warrant filed today in Spokane County District Court.

Merle W. Harvey, 27, is wanted on two counts of first-degree murder. Crime Stoppers is offering a $250 reward for tips that lead to his capture.

His girlfriend, Diane L. Richardson, is wanted for questioning after police say she drove Harvey to and from the murder scene in a flat bed truck.

As this story explains, witnesses say the deadly confrontation was over two rundown cars involved in a trade between Harvey and Lamere.

One woman told police she sensed trouble brewing and grabbed a knife from her apartment. The men were still arguing when she went back outside.

“She heard Merle say, “You want to make something about it, I’ll shoot you.” Lamere stated, “then shoot me.””

Police found seven shell casing from two different guns at the crime scene.

The search warrants filed today authorized detectives to scour the Blazer and Cadillac over which the men were reportedly arguing.

Read more about the victims here.

Suspect in double homicide remains at large

A man accused of helping a double homicide suspect has been arrested, Spokane police announced early this morning.

Mark H. Toner, 33, (left) is in Spokane County Jail on charges of rendering criminal assistance and witness intimidation after being captured without incident at a motel on the Sunset Highway.

The man he’s accused of helping, Merle W. Harvey, 27, remains at large.

Harvey (bottom right) is accused of gunning down two men Saturday night near Boone Avenue and Adams Street.

Police were called to an apartment at 1310 W. Boone Ave about 9:30 p.m., where Jack Lamere was living with his girlfriend. Toner’s first appearance in Spokane County Superior Court is set for 1:30 p.m.

Read Jonathan Brunt’s story on the homicides here. .

One of the victim’s, Jack Lamere, was involved in a major methamphetamine bust in the late 1990s.

Read about it here.

Police haven’t released the name of the second victim.

Word.

What’s in a word? When the word is “lunge”, it could be quite a bit.

That’s lunge the verb, as in the Spokane Police Department’s repeated insistence that Otto Zehm “lunged” at Officer Karl Thompson the night of March 18, 2006, in an altercation that led to Zehm being struck with a police baton, jolted with a Taser, handcuffed, hog-tied, going unconscious, slipping into a coma, being declared brain dead, and eventually dying.

That word was used by Acting Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks the night of the altercation, who had been called to the scene.“The suspect lunged at the officer during the initial contact and basically a fight occurred at that time,” he told the assembled news media.

All the bad things that happened, it seemed, sprang from that lunge.

But Nicks wasn’t there when the altercation started…

SPD sergeant accused of drunken driving

A Spokane police sergeant was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence Wednesday and may face additional hit-and-run charges.

Bradley N. Thoma, 44, was cited for suspicion of misdemeanor DUI and released, following a hit-and-run crash at Newport Highway and Farwell Road about 5 p.m., said Sgt. Dave Reagan, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

Read the rest of Sara Leaming’s story here.

Read the full news release from Reagan by clicking the link below.

UPDATE: Thoma has been placed on paid leave. Read more here.

AP looks at Washington pot dispute

SEATTLE — In one corner of Washington state, a 62-year-old rheumatoid arthritis patient could face more than eight years in prison for growing marijuana for himself and three others.

In Seattle, meanwhile, a collection of grow operations serves 2,000 people with little interference from police.

The discrepancy is typical of the confusion that has reigned since voters passed Washington’s medical marijuana law more than a decade ago. Nor have things improved much since the state clarified how much pot patients can have last year.

To read the rest of AP writer Gene Johnson’s story, which was published in newspapers across the country and includes quotes from Spokane police spokeswoman Jennifer DeRuwe and local lawyer Frank Cikutovich, click the link below.