Shonto Pete filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against a former Spokane police officer for shooting him in the head during a drunken chase in early 2007. Federal Judge Edward Shea dismissed the suit on March 2, 2011, after Pete was unable to find an attorney to represent him in the case.
Pete had also wanted to sue the city of Spokane, but Shea ruled March 12, 2010, that the city could not be held liable for the actions of James “Jay” Olsen, who was off-duty and drunk when he fired at Pete several times in Peaceful Valley. Pete was shot in the head; the bullet lodged in his scalp.
Olsen, who was a 16-year veteran of the Spokane Police Department, was charged with first-degree assault and two counts of reckless endangerment for shooting Pete on Feb. 26, 2007. After his jury trial was postponed five times, Olsen was acquitted in March 2009. The city had to pay him $153,000 for the time he was placed on unpaid layoff status following his arrest.
Olsen resigned from the police department in April 2009, shortly before he was to meet with Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick to discuss her decision to fire him from the force for departmental violations stemming from the shooting, including conduct unbecoming an officer and making an untruthful statement during a criminal investigation.
Olsen accused Pete of driving away in his truck after the bars closed in downtown Spokane. A jury in October 2007 acquitted Pete of criminal charges that he stole Olsen’s truck.
Pete said he’d asked Olsen for a ride and was rebuffed, and that Olsen started following him in the truck as Pete fled on foot. Olsen told investigators he feared for his life because he thought Pete had a gun.
In December 2009, Pete filed a $750,000 claim against the city, citing a violation of his civil rights. Federal judge Edward F. Shea ruled in favor of a motion brought by Assistant City Attorney Ellen O’Hara seeking to sever the city from the case.
Pete said he has about $20,000 in medical bills and $18,000 in attorney fees he must pay.
Summary written by Scott Maben
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