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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

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?


Do you recognize this man?

Spokane’s newest pharamcy robber apparently didn’t think he had much to hide.

This photo shows the man police say robbed a north Spokane Walgreens of OxyContin at gunpoint Tuesday walking into the store dressed like a normal guy - no attempt was made to conceal his identity.

“it kind of shows you the addictive nature of the drug,” said Lt. Dave McGovern. “It’s not like we enver arrest these people. They know people are being arrested and they still do it anyway.”

Another sign of OxyContin’s popularity: the number of tips police receive on robberies that turn out false.

Lots of people know someone they think is capable of robbing a pharmacy for the drug, police said.

In this case, police anticipate a quick arrest. A tip based on a surveillance photo led to the arrest of suspect in the last robbery at at the South Hill Walgreens.

The company that makes OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.

The company introduced OxyContin in the late 90s and has been under scrutiny for lying about the drug’s addictiveness and encouraging doctors to over prescribe it.

Grant could aid in discovery of problem

The Spokane Police Department is applying for a grant to fight a problem officials say they don’t fully understand.

The department is preparing an application for a $500,000 federal grant dedicated to fighting the sexual trafficking of children, Assistant Chief Jim Nicks said at Monday’s public safety committee meeting.

“We believe there’s some kind of problem in the city because of the size of the area,” Nicks said. “Perhaps we’re not aware of the depth of it.”

The three-year grant is from the U.S Department of Justice.

Then and allegedly now

Spokane’s newest accused pharmacy robber is in good company at the Spokane County Jail - two other young men are in there charged with robbing the same pharmacy.

Terran D. Schatz, 23, is accused of robbing the South Hill Walgreens of OxyContin June 7 in the first successful robbery of the narcotic in Spokane in a couple months.

He was arrested Friday night after a police officer contacted him in a car at Liberty Lake park and recognized his name.

Adam J. Dally, 25, was arrested in April for a December robbery at the same store. Richard T. Ludvik, 23, is also charged with robbing the store in January.

Tips based on Walgreens surveillance photos led police to name Schatz as a suspect. A police officer recognized his name after contacting him at Liberty Lake park Friday, police said.

A 2006 photograph from the Eastern Washington University student newspaper (left) shows Schatz being arrested on charges of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, drive-by shooting, possession of a short firearm by a person under 21-years-old, possession of drug paraphernalia, false reporting and obstruction of a public servant.

He got a plea deal for possession of marijuana and received credit for six days served in jail, record show.

Courthouse watch: 6.8.09

A man urinating in a bush triggered a drunken altercation involving a handgun this weekend, according to court documents.

Phillip J. Koller, 61, pointed a silver handgun at a man and four children and threatened to “blow your brains out” after one yelled at him for peeing in a bush at 4622 N. Assembly St. about 10 p.m. Saturday, according to a probable cause affidavit prepared by Officer Jason Arredondo.

The children told police they’d been playing hide and go seek.

Koller was on today’s Spokane County Superior Court docket but his first appearance was delayed until Tuesday, according to jail records.

He remains in Spokane County Jail on five counts of first-degree assault. Appearing in court via video today was a Spokane man accused of stabbing another man in the neck during a fight at a downtown motel.

Coleby A. Richards, 24, appeared on one count of first-degree assault about 10 hours after his arrest at The Downtowner, 165 S. Washington Street.

Read a story about his arrest here.

No murders, just robberies

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The city of Spokane has had a nice distinction since March - no homicides.

Besides the shooting death of Johnnie Longest by Spokane police officer Dan Lesser, the last police-investigated killing was a stabbing death March 3.

Spokane averages about 12 to 14 homicides a year, said Lt. Dave McGovern.

The March 3 killing is the third murder case in Spokane in 2009.

“It’s a little bit unusual but not unheard of,” McGovern said. “We’re more than happy to not have to respond to murders.”

SPD’s newest addition: Ajax the puppy

A Pullman man inspired by the shooting of a Spokane police dog has given the department a German Shepherd puppy.

Nick Lungu breeds and trains the dogs for his business I-Guard International. He sells the animals for as much as $2,500 each but gave the Spokane Police Department first pick out of his latest litter after reading of the March shooting of Var, a longtime police dog.

Var left the force after police say Johnnie L. Longest III, 22, shot the dog before being shot to death by Officer Dan Lesser, Var’s handler.

The police investigation into that shooting is complete and was recently sent to the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office, which will make a decision on charge, Lt. Dave McGovern said last week.

Var was awarded the police department’s Purple Heart last month.

Var’s replacement, Rav (featured left in an April photo by the SR’s Christopher Anderson), arrived from Holland in March.

The puppy, named Ajax after the mythological hero, will be raised by Officer Jay Kernkamp as part of the Spokane police K-9 unit’s puppy program.

“This program, due to its careful selection process, has been extremely successful in producing some of the regions finest police service dogs,” according to a news release prepared by Officer Kevin King.

Ajax will follow a “detailed” training regimen that includes tug of war, socializing, simple obedience, environment exposure and lots of play in the early months, King wrote.

“Although only weeks old Ajax is showing promise and has the potential to be one of Spokane’s finest someday,” the news release said.

Ombudsman Candidates coming to town…

Good morning, Netizens…

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner yesterday announced the three candidates who will be considered for the position of Police Ombudsman. All three candidates will be in Spokane May 29 through June 1 to attend public forums, interviews and various other meetings.

The finalists include:

  • Anthony Betz, of College Station, Tex. Mr. Betz is a retired FBI agent who is currently working as an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University. According to the Spokesman-Review, in 1995, Betz was suspended with pay during an investigation into FBI’s handling of the 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge in North Idaho. Almost a year after he was suspended, he was reinstated and cleared of wrongdoing, according to news reports at the time. “I was cleared completely,” Betz said in a phone interview Monday.

  • Timothy Burns, of Visalia, Calif. Mr. Burns is a retired police officer who is now working as the Neighborhood Preservation Manager for the City of Visalia.

  • Greg Weber, of Spokane. Mr. Weber is an attorney in private practice and has previously served on the staff of the Washington State Attorney General. Last year he came in third in a three-way primary for a Spokane County Superior Court judgeship.

A series of three forums, designed to allow the public to provide their comments on the candidates, will be held as part of the selection process. The forums are set for:

  • Friday, May 29, at 5 p.m. in the Chase Gallery in the lower level of City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

  • Saturday, May 30, at 10 a.m. at the West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt.

  • Saturday, May 30, at 2 p.m. at the East Central Community Center, 500 S. Stone.

In addition, a meet-and-greet session with the candidates has been set for 5 p.m. on Monday, June 1, also in the Chase Gallery just prior to the start of the City Council meeting. You might want to come early to guarantee yourself a good seat.

The City of Spokane began recruitment for the ombudsman position earlier this year; 128 people applied for the position. A five-member committee oversaw the candidate review process and recommended the three top candidates for the position to the Mayor.

The selected candidate will be appointed as ombudsman for a three-year term and can be reappointed to a second three-year term. The salary range for the position is $77,130 to $94,628.


City to PD: We may need cuts in 2010

Spokane Police were told Thursday to begin thinking creatively about a cut to their budget next year which could top $2 million.

Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, Mayor Mary Verner and Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley held a closed-door meeting with more than 100 members of the department, both commissioned and civilian, to say that the budget looks steady for 2009 but cuts may be coming in 2010.

At a press briefing outside the meeting, Kirkpatrick emphasized that nothing has been settled and all options were “on the table.” All city departments have been told to look at ways to cut their budget by 4.07 percent in 2010, and for the police department, that would be about $2.2 million.

“We’re not making major changes right now in 2009,” Kirkpatrick said. “We must prepare for 2010.”

Personnel cuts of between 20 and 50 employees have been mentioned, but only as a starting point for discussions, Kirkpatrick said.

The Zehm lawsuit

Good afternoon Netizens…

It has taken me awhile to figure out how to upload this PDF copy of the Zehm lawsuit, then to make it accessible, but it does appear I was successful.


 This represents justice for Otto, the first justice he has had since he was killed.


Otto Zehm case draws to a close?

Good morning, Netizens…

Otto Zehm died for our sins. At least the cherubic-faced janitor died for something, of that we can be certain. But did he die unlawfully, due to excessive use of force at the hands of the Spokane City Police Department? After nearly 3 years of contention, discussion and rumors of litigation, we do not seem to be any closer to closure in the case of Otto Zehm than we were, and yet are we?

The Spokesman-Review’s Bill Morlin takes a long look at this case here http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/mar/01/otto-zehm-case-at-crossroads/ and discusses the various legal aspects of this case, which has so divided our community.

What remains to be seen is why it has taken this long to bring this case to a close. There are rumors that civil action is about to take place, and other rumors that criminal action may take place. It all depends upon who you believe, who you trust. The facts are that on March 18, 2006 Otto Zehm died at the hands of the Spokane Police Department. Shortly thereafter, Deputy Chief Al Odenthal, resigned on December 19, 2006. Can you call this a coincidence?

Were it not for the Center for Justice (http://cforjustice.org/) we probably would never reach any resolution in the Otto Zehm case. Were the fate of Otto Zehm left in the hands of the Spokane Police Department, nothing would have been done, for they are not in search of the truth.

It is time for the case of Otto Zehm to reach closure NOW.


Police say stay home

Law enforcment agencies are asking people to stay home.

The ISP put it this way: “Due to extreme road and weather conditions the Idaho State Police requests that all non emergency traffic stay off the roadways.”

Spokane Police Officer Teresa Fuller, police spokeswoman. urged employers to make allowances for the weather. ”Most city roads are impassible at this point, with cars getting high centered in the snow on even major arterials,” Fuller said. ”If you must head out today, the best routes from the south side are the Ray/Thor corridor and the Grand/Stevens corridor.  From the north, the Maple/Ash corridor or Division are probably the best routes.”

Police also recommended going out with four-wheel drive vehicles, snow tires and chains.