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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.

Searching for robber, police find possible Oxy ring

A young man accused of robbing two pharmacies of OxyContin last month was to plead not guilty in Spokane County Superior Court today.

Dustin J. Rockstrom, 26, has been in jail since Sept. 15, charged with two-counts of second-degree robbery for OxyContin heists Aug. 24 at the Shopko at 4515 S. Regal St. (pictured above), and Sept. 5 at the Rite Aid across the street, 4514 S. Regal St.

In each case, a white man who appeared to be wearing a wig handed an employee a note demanding OxyContin and told the pharmacist “don’t make me come over the counter,” before fleeing with the drug, according to a probable cause affidavit filed last week.

Rockstrom remains in jail, but his alleged getaway driver, Aaron M. Weyrauch, 27, is in Benton County Jail and hasn’t been charged in the case.

Two anonymous tips led police to the men and an apartment at 9th and Adams where they were allegedly selling OxyContin, according to the affidavit, which was prepared by Detective Kip Hollenbeck.

One informant “also revealed that Rockstrom and Weyrauch intended to rob a pharmacy in Moses Lake, WA on 9/14/09,” Hollenbeck wrote. Drug detectives were already investigating the apartment for OxyContin sales. They searched the apartment Sept. 15, seizing pills, drug paraphernalia and suspected heroin. They also found the wig thought to have been worn by Rockstrom in the robberies.

Rockstrom and Weyrauch were arrested after a short car chase near 29th and Grand.

A third man, Dalen J. McMillon, 27, was with them and is under investigation for selling OxyContin with Weyrauch, according to a search warrant.

Police say he told them he knew Rockstrom and Weyrauch were responsible for other robberies, too. OxContin-maker Purdue Pharma had offered a reward for information that helped solve the robberies.

The company is touting a new version of the OxyContin pill that makes it more difficult to abuse. Read an Associated Press story on the new pill by clicking the link below.

Papers detail medical marijuana probe

The investigation into the medical marijuana dispensary Change began when a detective saw a TV news article about the business in May, court documents show.

“The news story advised that Scott Shupe dispenses marijuana and that he grows, possesses and sells marijuana and that ‘it’s all perfectly legal,’” according to search warrants filed this afternoon in Spokane County Superior Court.

About the same time those warrants were filed, Shupe was appearing in an upstairs courtroom via video on a felony charge of delivery of a controlled substance related grow operations and fresh marijuana found at his home and at Change. Spokane police arrested Shupe and Change co-owner Christopher Stevens, a former City Council candidate, yesterday.

Judge Harold Clarke ordered Stevens released from jail on his own recognisance today; Shupe was given a $10,000 bond because of six felony convictions and pending felony drug charges in Oregon.

Both were out of jail early this evening.

The search warrants detail months of investigation that began when Spokane police Detective Brian Tafoya spotted a KXLY story on Change.

The investigation was fed by Shupe and Stevens’ blatancy in selling marijuana to more than a thousand medical marijuana patients, something they argue is allowed under the state’s medical marijuana law.

But police, prosecutors and the state Department of Social and Health Services say it’s illegal, and the Spokane Police Department is the first agency in Washington to arrest medical marijuana dispensers.

The KXLY story didn’t give Change’s location: Tafoya found it by requesting Shupe’s business license.

Drug detectives started watching the place. They noted Shupe (top right) and Stevens (bottom left) coming and going from the building regularly with a duffel bag. They followed them to their homes, and installed a video camera on Change May 21.

That same month, patrol officers detained someone near Change with a fake handgun and talked with people inside Change. They wanted a search warrant after smelling “an overwhelming odor of marijuana.” Drug detectives told them they were already on it.

In July, police pulled over several drivers for expired vehicle licenses and confirmed they’d purchased medical marijuana from Change, according to the search warrants.

While police appeared to have a reason to stop each person, detectives wrote in the search warrants that the stops were actually “terry stops” to investigate Change. (Named after the 1968 court case that established them (Terry v. Ohio), terry stops allow police to stop people if they have reasonable suspicion that they’ve engaged in criminal activity.)

“The vehicle license infractions were used to minimize any suspicion to the drivers of the “Change” shop investigation,”according to the search warrant. “No sample of the marijuana was taken from these subjects. This was also done to minimize suspicion of the investigation.”

Police received two anonymous complaints about marijuana grows at Stevens’ and Shupe’s homes. But their investigation really amped up Sept. 2, when detectives were staking out Change, Stevens’ home on North Cedar, and Shupe’s home at 726 W. Mansfield.

They expected Stevens to arrive at Change around 10 a.m. Instead, he traveled to Nine Mile Falls, and police found a card on the front door of Change saying something like “Call us about 12:00 - on the hunt,” according to the warrant.

“Your affiant believed this to mean that they were ‘hunting’ for marijuana to sell,” Tafoya wrote.

A detective followed Stevens to a home in the 6400 block of Circle Drive, where police found more than 100 marijuana plants in a raid yesterday.

During a search of the Mansfield home, police found 17 marijuana plants and a note stating “I’m upstairs - Scott.”

They also found several pounds of marijuana.

In all, police searched five locations - Change at 1514 Northwest Blvd., Stevens’ North Cedar home (where they found 33 plants), the Mansfield property, the Nine Mile Falls place, and a home on 11th Avenue.

Read past coverage of medical marijuana here.

Pot advocates protest outside courthouse

Medical marijuana advocates rallied outside the Spokane County Courthouse today.

Led by dispensary owner Chantel Jackson and a bullhorn, the protesters saved signs advocating medical marijuana and asking where patients can buy their supply now that dispensaries have been warned to shut down.

Their main target? Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor John Grasso.

In case you missed it, the owners of Change were arrested yesterday after a four-month investigation that saw search warrants served at five properties.

All the other dispensaries in town were warned to shut down by the prosecutor’s office. Read my story here.

Spokane police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe explains the raid in a video below.

At one point, she says investigators have fielded complaints from Change customers that they’d been overcharged or had paid too much for their pot.

“There is no quality control. We’ve had indications that people are returning marijuana for lack of good quality. You know, maybe some over charging of the amount of marijuana they could buy on the street,” DeRuwe said.

But it’s not like there’s quality control on the street either, and the police department is hardly the Better Business Bureau.

DeRuwe’s statement touches on a central issue in the controversy clouding Washington’s medical marijuana: the lack of a legal way for medical patients to obtain marijuana.

The law doesn’t specify how patients can find caretakers, or how caretakers can obtain seeds to grow plants.

Jury: Boothe not guilty of assault

The jury has reached a not guilty verdict in the trial of a Spokane police officer accused of kicking a handcuffed man in the face, Thomas Clouse reports.

Lots of police officers stopped by to watch the day-and-a-half trial, including Karl Thompson, the officer charged in Otto Zehm’s death. The jury took just 45 minutes to reach the verdict.

Read Clouse’s story here.

Boothe trial could go to jury today

The trial of a Spokane police officer accused of kicking a handcuffed man in the face is expected to wrap up today.

Officer Rob Boothe is charged with fourth-degree assault after two officers reported seeing him kick a handcuffed suspect in the face who apparently wasn’t struggling to get away.

The case is both a criminal trial and a window into internal conflict in the Spokane Police Department, as Thomas Clouse explains here.

The victim, John Luna, testified yesterday.

The picture of him at the left, courtesy KHQ news, was taken by the Spokane Police Department after the alleged assault.

Rob Boothe trial begins today

Opening statements are set to begin today in the trial of a Spokane police officer accused of kicking a handcuffed man in the face.

Rob M. Boothe has been on paid leave since the alleged incident occurred Sept. 5, 2008, after several officers pursued a car theft suspect through a north Spokane neighborhood.

Michael Carbone, a Pend Oreille County deputy prosecutor, was appointed to the case and filed a fourth-degree assault charge in Spokane Municipal Court. (Read a story on that here.)

Private Spokane attorney F. Dana Kelley has since contracted with the city of Spokane to prosecute the case after Carbone went on leave.

Boothe is represented by Rob Cossey, the same lawyer who successfully defended now-former Spokane police officer Jay Olsen.

Reporter Thomas Clouse will be covering the trial, which is in Judge Maryann Moreno’s courtroom but is being handled by Municipal Judge Mary Logan.

1 man, 2 OxyContin robberies

Spokane police think one man is responsible for two unsolved OxyContin robberies at South Hill pharmacies in the past two weeks.

The robberies occurred Aug. 24 at the Shopko at 4515 S. Regal St., and Sept. 5 at the Rite Aid across the street, 4514 S. Regal St. In each case, a white man who appeared to be wearing a wig handed an employee a note demanding OxyContin, then fled with the drug.

Shopko surveillance photos show the robber wore sunglasses, a black T-shirt, blue jeans, white sneakers and a dark baseball hat with a white logo. (See all the photos here.)

Witnesses said he was about 6-foot-3. Witnesses to the Rite Aid robbery described the man as 6-foot-2 with fake facial hair, white shirt, blue jeans and a white beanie-style hat over a dark wig.

The company that makes OxyContin and has come under scrutiny for lying about its addictiveness, Purdue Pharma, is offering up to $1,000 for information that solves the Shopko robbery.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS, or submit tips online at www.crimestoppersinlandnorthwest.org.

Tipsters do not have to leave a name but should provide a code name or number.

Dog beating suspect tried to turn himself in

A man accused of beating a dog outside Spokane City Hall in June tried to turn himself in last week but was turned away because charges hadn’t been filed.

An arrest warrant was issued for Michael J. Jones, 20, this morning after police filed a charging recommendation of first-degree animal cruelty late Thursday, said Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Rachel Sterett.

Jones hadn’t been charged previously because “we didn’t have a charging request from law enforcement,” Sterett said.

Read my story here.

Deputies arrest a familar name

Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a familiar name Monday: Erica J. Jennings.

That’s the woman Spokane police detectives interviewed during their investigation of the still unsolved stabbing death of William “Billy” O. Floyd, 22, on Aug. 15. 

Police detective John Miller filed a search warrant Aug. 20 seeking call records for phones belonging to Jennings, 26, and Timothy Lubben, 20. 

Lubben (right) was with Floyd when an altercation broke out at Shannon and Lincoln, then continued to the parking lot of the Spokane Dance Company at Lincoln and Indiana, where Floyd died of a stab wound, according to police.

Lubben and Floyd had argued on the phone with Jennings in the hours before the fight, according to Miller’s search warrant. 

Jennings had challenged them “to come and meet” for a fight but called Lubben Saturday morning to ask why they never showed.  Lubben told Jennings Floyd had been killed, according to the search warrant. (Check out a sketch of a person of interest in Floyd’s death here.)

Jennings is not considered a suspect in the case, but she’s facing a methamphetamine possession charge after an unrelated traffic stop Monday. 

Deputies stopped a car she was riding in for allegedly running a red light. 

Jennings told deputies the driver, Angelic M. Bessermin, had ran the red light while trying to load a drug pipe, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Sheriff’s detectives had no idea about Jennings’ connection to the Spokane police homicide investigation until this morning.

She was released from jail Tuesday.

Thompson supporters rally on Facebook

 The evolution of Facebook over the years, particularly the last six months or so, has been astonishing.

When I learned of the social networking web site in 2004, it was reserved for students at specific universities.

An email address ending an .edu was required, and group pages were reserved for encouraging your least favorite professor to retire or admiring a friend’s mother.

Now, everyone and their mother is on Facebook, and groups have become gathering places for supporters of civic movements, political causes, and even judicial defense.

Case in point, Thomas Clouse’s story today on a Facebook page for supporters of Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson, who faces federal charges for his role in an encounter with Otto Zehm. Read Clouse’s story here.

Warrants give new details in Saturday’s stabbing

Police today released a sketch of a “person of interest” in the death of William O. Floyd, 22, early Saturday.

Detectives also filed search warrants seeking records for two cell phone numbers connected to the case.

Also, the man who was with Floyd was booked into Spokane County Jail on unrelated charges Tuesday.

Those details and more in my story here..

Bloody knife could hold clue to March murder

A fatal stabbing in Spokane in March involved two knives - one of which is splattered with blood that could belong to the killer.

These details were revealed in a search warrant filed this week in Spokane County Superior Court that seeks DNA samples from Robert T. Waters, 27, Joseph T. Harper, 24, and Christopher R. Harper, 27. 

The men are charged with second-degree murder for the March 3 slaying of Michael “Mickey” Lyng, 19. (Read a story on the case here.)

Lyng died after stepping into a fight between Lucas Weatherford and Joseph Harper at Harper’s home at 1008 W. Spofford Ave., according to police. 

Weatherford and Lyng had a threatening phone conversation with one of the defendants after that fight, leading to a brawl in the street at 900 W. Augusta Ave., where Lyng died, according to a search warrant filed this week in Spokane County District Court.

Weatherford tried pulling Lying from the fight as he exchanged punches with the Harpers, the search warrant said. 

Another witness said he heard Chris Harper yell “get your knife” over and over again.

“Weatherford saw blood gushing from Lyng’s left side. Lyng collapsed and died,” the search warrant reads. “The three defendants ran away in the direction of their apartment.”

Detectives recovered two knives - one from underneath the Maple Street Bridge - believed to be used in the killing. One didn’t have any blood; the other had Lyng’s blood and that of an unknown man.

The three men remain in jail.

Amie C. Schott, 20, is charged with three counts for first-degree rending criminal assistance for allegedly driving them from the scene. Her trial is set for October.

Spokane has had four fatal stabbings this year. The most recent, the slaying of William “Billy” O. Floyd, 22, on Saturday, remains unsolved.


One dead, one at large after knife fight

Police released a description of a suspected killer Monday, two days after a man was stabbed to death in a Spokane parking lot.

William “Billy” O. Floyd, 22, died after police found him unconscious and barely breathing in a parking lot at West Indiana Avenue and North Lincoln Street about 2 a.m., according to the Spokane Police Department.

Floyd’s death is Spokane’s seventh homicide this year and the fourth fatal stabbing. Read my story here.

Landlord wanted on 20 theft charges

A scandal police say bilked a rental owner out of more than $15,000 ended with 20 theft charges filed against a husband and wife hired to managed two Spokane apartment complexes.

Trial for Theresa M. Walters, 33, scheduled to begin Aug. 21, but police can’t find her husband, Wesley O. Walters, 38. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that leads to his capture.

The Walters managed the King’s Village Apartment Complex in the 12000 block of East Cataldo Avenue and King’s View Apartment Complex at 2309 E. Euclid Avenue from August 2007 until May 2008.

The owners, Leila and Marcus King, discovered that tenants had paid rent, but that money was never turned in to them, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Anyone with information about Wesley Walters’ whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS or submit the tip online at www.crimestoppersinlandnorthwest.org. Tipsters do not have to give their name to the reward but should provide a code name or number.

The story is similar to an alleged apartment-related fraud I wrote about the other week. Check that out here.

Two stabbings; one family

Last night, police found a man with stab wounds his mother said were inflicted by his girlfriend.

Today, a 35-year-old man was sentenced for the stabbing death of his cousin last year.

In each case, police responded to the same location - the 1400 block of West Boone. The men are brothers.

The story of the Ellenwood brothers stabbings begins in May 2008, when the oldest, Adrian, was arrested for stabbing his cousin to death.  

Last night, the eve of his sentencing, police found his younger brother, Michael J. Ellenwood, at the West Boone home after the men’s mother, Peggy Ellenwood, reported a stabbing you can read about here.

Ellenwood had tried washing the blood from wounds on his head, neck and lips and told police several different stories about how his injuries occurred, according to a search warrant.

That search warrant was used to search an apartment in the 1100 block of North Walnut, where police believe the stabbing occurred. Ellenwood’s girlfriend, Roxanne Wood, 27, is considered a “person of interest” in the case, police said.

A man who answered the phone at the Ellenwood home tonight said Michael Ellenwood was in good condition. Adrian Ellenwood’s sentencing this afternoon ended with the judge accepting his plea of not guilty because of insanity.

But, as Tom Clouse explains in a story you can read here, he’ll probably be in a mental hospital for the rest of his life.

More charges expected against alleged robbers

It didn’t take police long to connect the witness to the suspect: they live in the same apartment.

That detail may have helped police solve a series of pizza place holdups over the past two weeks that Spokane detectives think culminated with a robbery at a payday loan center Monday.

Read my story here.

Through the years: ‘Stoney Boy’ Lucious

The suspected gunman in this morning’s wild fight in the South Perry Street area has a lengthy criminal history.

Timothy “Stoney Boy” Lucious (shown above in pictures distributed in, left to right, 2009, 2007 and 2004) has dozens of arrests on his record, including convictions for riot, second-degree assault, resisting arrest and possession of a controlled substance.

In 2007, bail bondsmen trying to arrest him on misdemeanor warrants backed off when they realized he was armed, triggering a SWAT team stand off you can read about here.

Now he’s wanted for two counts of attempted murder. Read my story here.

The second suspect, Michael R. Gardner, was questioned ina  shooting at a home on North Perry Street four years ago. (Read about it here.)

That home was eight blocks down the street from a fatal gang-related shooting in 2007 that started much like this morning’s chaos did: an altercation at Lefty’s followed by a fight at a house party.

Read a story on that case here.


Woman arrested in fatal stabbing

A woman accused of stabbing a Spokane man to death this month was arrested Thursday.

Maggie May Tyler, 24, faces one count of second-degree murder after Spokane police arrested at Walgreens at Crestline and Wellesley at 1:30 p.m.

Read my story here.

Oops! Police chief cited for speeding

Even the city’s top cop can have a lead foot.

Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick was ticked for speeding on Saturday as she hunted for a picnic spot along the Spokane River.

The chief was cited for driving 43 mph in a 30 mph zone in the 2900 block of Upriver Drive by Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Thurman.
That’s a $154 fine.

Kirkpatrick apologized for the mishap in an interview with KHQ news. Check that out here.

I posted the ticket, but policy prevents me from redacting personal information, so that didn’t work out.

Rental managers accused of big scandal

When a Western Washington real estate owner died in a freak skydiving accident in Texas last year, his children felt his Spokane assets were in good hands.

The couple in charge had worked for Rex Williams for eight years, and his family needed someone trustworthy to handle things as they dealt with his unexpected death.

But the couple, Kathy and George Bagwell, now stand accused of trying to dupe Williams’ family out of tens of thousands of dollars in an alleged scheme that triggered a civil lawsuit and a criminal probe.

Read my story here.

OxyContin robberies hit high

After a relatively quiet period, Spokane has seen a surge in pharmacy robberies.

At least three robberies and one attempted robbery have occurred since the beginning of June.

Nicholas A. Blessing, 28, (right), who’s accused of stealing OxyContin from the Walgreens at 2105 E. Wellesley Ave. on June 16, turned himself in on June 28.

Only July 6, another man robbed the Rite Aid drugstore at 29th Avenue and Regal Street of OxyContin. Tom E. Snell, 24, was arrested Friday for first-degree robbery.

Search warrants show detectives had little trouble solving either robbery.

Tips poured in referencing Blessing after police released a surveillance photo,

A detective contacted Blessing’s family, who agreed to help him turn himself in.

“(Blessing’s father) states that Nicholas told him that five minutes after he had done the robbery he knew he had made a mistake,” according to a search warrant prepared by Spokane police Detective Marty Hill.

In Snell’s case, witnesses and a tipster led police to identify him as a suspect.

Witnesses identified the robber’s getaway car as a blue Toyota pickup, and a tip based on a news report led police to 7th Avenue and Adams Street.

There, they found a truck matching the description from the robbery. It was registered to Snell in Nine Mile Falls, according to a search warrant. Snell was arrested July 10.

Both accused robbers remain in Spokane County Jail.

Spokane sees two homicides in one week

A lot happened in the past two weeks, and I’m still catching up.

Most notable is two homicides. Seven months into a year with an unusually low murder rate, the city recorded two homicides in one week: the stabbing death of Vitaly M. Shevchuk, 24, Monday night (he died Tuesday) and the police shooting of Jason M. Poss, 23, Friday morning.

Two men interviewed in the Shevchuk case, Nathan D. Gilstrap, 28, and Matthew M. Nedeau, 24, remain in jail on unrelated charges.

Maggie May Tyler, 24, (right) is wanted for second-degree murder, police say. Read past coverage of the murder here and here.

Read coverage of Poss’ death, which is still under investigation, here and here.

Police responded to 5th Avenue and Green Street on July 6, where they found Shevchuk with a stab wound to his neck. He died the next night at Deaconess Medical Center.

Shevchuk was walking with a friend to buy cigarettes when a red car drove by with its windows down and he made a comment, according to a search warrant filed last week in Spokane County District Court.

The car stopped and two men and a woman exited the vehicle, witnesses told police.

An argument ensued and Shevchuk picked up a large rock, witnesses said.

One witness recalled Shevchuk saying, “I have a brick and you have a knife. What are you going to do?” according to the search warrant.

Police on Friday released a photo of Tyler and named her as a suspect in the murder.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (509) 327-5111 or 1-800-222-TIPS, or submit tips online at crimestoppersinlandnorthwest.org.

Captured: Spokane’s own Hamburglar?

Call him Spokane’s alleged version of the Hamburglar.

Police today arrested a man they say is the ringleader of a cutlet cartel that had been stealing meat and selling it in Spokane for at least three years.

Read Sara Leaming’s story here.

The rush to judgment…

Good morning, Netizens…

I was impressed with the lengthy story in the Spokesman-Review about Karl F. Thompson, Jr.’s career in law enforcement. Several prior glowing statements notwithstanding by Chief Ann Kirkpatrick regarding his 37 years of service to law enforcement, there are few people who would contest my statement that Thompson has been a professional lawmen of incredible acumen and skill for most of his adult life. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Justice Studies and has attended the FBI Academy. If there is a poster child for the Spokane Police Department, Karl Thompson probably ranks right up near the top of the list.

Until he beat Otto Zehm senseless in the Zip Trip store and was later indicted by the Grand Jury, that is.

However, none of the allegations mean he is guilty until he receives a fair trial on the two charges he currently faces.

The convoluted trail of evidence, including the rest of the videotape from the Zip Trip store, other witnesses to the events that took place there and of course, the tearful history of the end of Otto Zehm’s life, which is what this is all about.

Or is it? Is Karl F. Thompson, Jr. the poster child of the Spokane Police Department he appears to be, or is he the unfortunate victim of flawed training programs which all Spokane Police Officers study?

I will say more about this later today, as I feel before we rush to commit judgment on Thompson, we need to understand the rationale behind his behavior.


An eye-opening timeline

Tom Clouse alerts us to a timeline he put together in 2006 that chronicles the police response to the Otto Zehm death.

Check it out here.

In the news: Zehm, accused paralegal

It’s been a busy two days on the beat.

Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson has been indicted in connection with the death of Otto Zehm.

Read Tom Clouse’s original story here, and check this link for ongoing coverage.

Overshadowed by the Zehm announcement but still interesting is a story about a paralegal for the city of Spokane accused of a drunken altercation on an airplane. Read that story here.

The story linked above is the version that was posted before the final version uploaded to the web site at midnight. Read that version here. We usually delete the earlier version but didn’t with this because that verion had comment that would have disappeared.

Is Thompson taking one for the Gipper too?


Good morning, Netizens…

Everyone in the Spokane News Media yesterday were separately and yet together beating their spoons against the bars that, until then, had kept the news media from truly knowing what was going on in the Otto Zehm murder investigation. For nearly two years all anyone in Spokane knew for fact was that Otto Zehm died at the hands of the police, and that there were horrid pictures of Karl F. Thompson, Jr. wailing on Zehm with his nightstick while Zehm lay on the floor; meanwhile we have the squad of officers standing outside the Zip Trip in the aftermath.

Then last Friday Howard F. Delaney, City Attorney and Rocco N. Treppiedi, his Assistant, filed a response to a civil lawsuit brought against the City of Spokane by the Center for Justice, who represent Otto Zehm’s mother in a lawsuit claiming Zehm’s civil rights were violated because of the unlawful use of deadly force in apprehending him, and in the city’s subsequent actions to “falsely portray” Zehm as the aggressor in the encounter. (Portions from the Center for Justice’s website.)

Yesterday, a day that will live long past this time in Spokane history, Federal Prosecutor Jim McDevitt made public the grand jury indictment. In it two felony indictments against police officer Karl F. Thompson, Jr. were unfurled before the news media that on or about March 18, 2006, Karl F. Thompson not only beat Zehm viciously with his baton and tasering him, thus inflicting bodily injury to Zehm, and (count 2) that on March 27, 2006, Thompson then knowingly gave false testimony to investigators.

You can read the entire indictment here http://cforjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/indictment.pdf again, courtesy of the Center for Justice.

According to McDevitt’s statements at the press conference, the reference to giving false testimony refers to a lengthy interview of Thompson by an investigating Spokane Police Department detective whose name was not mentioned.

“What it looks like in hindsight,” the Center for Justice’s Breean Beggs said, when asked about it Monday, “is that the city knew this indictment was coming and did its best to get out a public relations story, trashing Otto, in the papers before readers knew about the indictment.”

As in nearly all cases of this stature, until Karl Thompson’s trial, there have been more unanswered questions to be resolved than there are hard answers. For example:

Given this was a sealed Grand Jury indictment, when were the Spokane City Attorneys told of its contents? Was it before what I believe to be the ill-fated, defamatory and false counter-suit against the Zehm family? It would seem so, given Rocco Treppiedi’s long and illuminating history of counter-suing anyone who files a claim against the City of Spokane, that seems credible enough. Do we know enough to prove it? No.

References are made to an investigator for the Spokane Police Department who interviewed Thompson which resulted in Count Two of the indictment. Of course, until Thompson’s trial, we may never know the named of this brave soul who probably sacrificed his career in the SPD in exchange for justice.

If the second count of the indictment is upheld by the court trial, yesterday why did Police Chief Ann Kirkpatrick wax euphorically about what a good cop Thompson has been for 37 years? Is she blithering daffy or simply trying to muster her troops under fire? Which is it?

If you have read the Center for Justice’s web link (above) then you know Karl F. Thompson, Jr. is facing some pretty serious jail time if convicted of the two felonies. Along the path between now and trial, it could make or break the careers of several local attorneys. There are a lot more questions than answers, but what remains to be seen is can the Spokane Police Department learn from their mistakes and restore the public’s trust? 

That seems to be most of the issues that leap out at me.

Portions of this text and the picture of McDevitt all courtesy of The Center for Justice (http://cforjustice.org/) with our gracious thanks.


Officer Indicted In Otto Zehm Death

Item: SPD officer indicted in Otto Zehm death/Thomas Clouse, SR

More Info: A federal grand jury has indicted the first officer who responded to a confrontation with mentally ill janitor Otto Zehm, which resulted in Zehm’s death and sparked a cry for citizen police oversight. U.S. Attorney James McDevitt announced that the grand jury has indicted veteran Spokane Police Officer Karl Thompson, who was the first of seven officers to confront Zehm, a 36-year-old janitor who had schizophrenia. Zehm died two days after he was beaten with a baton, shocked multiple times with a Taser and hogtied inside the Zip Trip at 1712 N. Division St.

Question: In the comments section, HMOffsuite posts and link to this story and comments: “It looks like Otto Zehm may receive the justice that he deserves.” Do you agree with that assessment?

Otto Zehm Died for our sins…

Good afternoon Netizens…

By now most of you reading this already have heard the City of Spokane asked a federal court Friday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the family of Otto Zehm over his death in police custody in March 2006, saying the developmentally disabled janitor, not police, is responsible for his own death. Does this come as a surprise to anyone?

After all, when you have the likes of Rocco Treppeidi arguing for the City of Spokane against the Zehm estate, I’m frankly astounded Treppeidi didn’t already file a lawsuit against Otto Zehm’s estate, as if there was anything to take.

Which farce would you like? We have the farce where sworn police officers referred to a 2 liter bottle of Pepsi in Otto Zehm’s hands as a “legal weapon”. Yeah, sure. Got a permit for your Pepsi?

We have the farce of the circumstances themselves, where when confronted by officers at the Zip Trip, Zehm refused their orders to stop and to drop the two-liter bottle of soda he was holding. When he refused officers’ orders, he was struck with a baton, jolted with a Taser, handcuffed and hog-tied. Oh yes, and then, the ultimate farce, when he was choked to death by a mask that did not have an airway.

This sordid affair smacks of BS, a pile of crap and it is time for the City of Spokane Police Department to admit their culpability and make amends, not file for dismissal.

Do you believe, for a minute, that Otto Zehm was responsible for his own death?