Spokane Police Chief Terry Mangan is being investigated for arming himself with a loaded shotgun and confronting three men outside his home.
The men were sitting in a Chevrolet Blazer on a public road Friday night, not knowing they were parked near the front of Mangan’s rural Spokane Valley home.
After a neighbor called about 9 p.m. to alert the chief to the idling Blazer, Mangan grabbed his shotgun and went outside.
Mangan said Monday he feared the men might pose a danger to his wife, who was about to return home. He decided against calling the Sheriff’s Department, which has jurisdiction in his neighborhood.
Mangan said he ordered the trio out of the Blazer, holding his shotgun in the “ready” position, with the twin barrels pointed down.
Two of the men tell a different story, and the third isn’t talking.
They claim Mangan surprised them by sticking the shotgun through the open front passenger window and holding it to Bruce Rakowski’s neck.
Rakowski said Mangan hit him twice on the arm with the gun, leaving a large welt.
The chief was swearing and threatening to shoot, the men said.
“I was waiting to get shot,” said Bill Nelson, 24, who was sitting in the driver’s seat. “He had this gun stuck in the window.”
Mangan insists he did nothing wrong. While he admits using profanities and detaining the men, he said he made no threats.
“I wouldn’t have gone out there at all, but my wife was due home any minute,” the chief said. “I was concerned for her safety and our safety as a family,” he added, noting he has received death threats in the past.
Sheriff John Goldman said two detectives are investigating the incident, but preliminary findings show the chief did not commit a crime.
The Spokane Police Department’s internal affairs unit also will conduct an investigation.
Because it involves the chief, this complaint will be reviewed by City Manager Roger Crum.
“We could praise the chief for taking proper action under feelings of a threat,” Crum said. “Or at the other end of the spectrum, we could fire someone. This doesn’t sound like it’s either of those.”
Mangan suspended himself for two days in 1994 for cursing at a 19-year-old man who flipped him off.
The incident occurred when Mangan was driving home. The teen, Ryan Evarts, made the obscene gesture toward the chief as their cars passed.
Mangan then stopped Evarts’ car. During the stop, Evarts’ friend and girlfriend said the chief repeatedly poked Evarts in the chest and berated and threatened him in a tirade peppered with profanities.
In Friday’s incident, self-employed carpenters Rakowski, 38, and Nelson, 24, both of Spokane, said they were playing a game of “bunny hunting” with friends.
Rakowski, Nelson and another man drove to the Bigelow Gulch area, randomly picking the spot. Then they waited for six friends in three other cars to track them down by finding their citizens band radio signal.
The third man who was with Rakowski and Nelson didn’t want to come forward and be identified. He feared retaliation, they said.
Rakowski and Nelson said the chief used profanity throughout the encounter and put his shotgun to each of their heads before positioning them face-forward against the vehicle.
“He said, ‘I’m a police officer. Get out of the (expletive) truck. This thing is loaded and I intend to use it,”’ Rakowski said.
Rakowski said he was up against the side of the Blazer when Mangan kicked him in the right leg, then pulled him by his collar, all the while holding the gun to his head.
“He told me to shut up or you’re going to wind up dead,” Rakowski said.
Then, the men said, Mangan handed the shotgun to a neighbor, who pointed the gun at them while the chief conducted the pat search.
Rakowski said he asked to see Mangan’s identification.
Mangan approached, put the gun to Rakowski’s chin and shined a flashlight in his own face, according to Rakowski.
“He said, ‘I’m the (expletive) chief of police. (Expletive) with me and you’re dead,” according to Rakowski.
Mangan denied making such threatening statements.
Following the encounter, the men said they went to an Albertson’s at Trent and Argonne and called 911. Two sheriff’s deputies responded, took a statement from the men and then questioned Mangan at home.
Mangan defended his actions.
“You can understand that I may be a little sensitive about three or four men in a truck,” he said.
“There’s nobody who comes up there unless they’re lost or have business with one of the six families on the road.”
Mangan’s home is off a dirt road in a secluded area dotted with 10-acre lots.
The chief said he normally would have called the Sheriff’s Department for help, but he was concerned that his wife was on her way home from a 4-H meeting and would have to pass the men on her way.
“Not knowing who they were, I didn’t want to put her in any jeopardy,” Mangan said.
He said he took the shotgun along as a precaution. He kept the safety on, he said.
Police officers suspicious of a felony in progress may investigate, even while off-duty and out of their primary jurisdiction, the chief said.
Mangan said he tapped his shotgun on a partially open window to alert the men. The chief said he ordered the men to turn off the engine and step out of the Blazer. He told one of the men to drop his cigarette.
Police officers consider cigarettes a weapon, he said.
The man initially didn’t comply and when he began lifting up the hand holding the cigarette, Mangan said he pushed the arm down with his shotgun.
The man then dropped the cigarette.
About that time, Mangan’s next-door neighbor came out of his house and assisted the chief by holding the shotgun.
Mangan said he patted two of the men around their waists to check for weapons but didn’t do a full search. He asked to see each man’s identification.
The chief said he thought he smelled the odor of alcohol on the men. They said they weren’t drinking.
The incident ended after Mangan told the men to leave or he’d call sheriff’s deputies.
Rakowski and Nelson hired Spokane attorney Bevan Maxey to help them explore their options.
“They want the same accountability that would be expected of them in a similar circumstance,” Maxey said. “The unfortunate part is that if you or I would have acted the same we would have been put in jail.”
Both men said they want to see the chief face consequences.
“If we got a police chief like that, what are the officers like?” Nelson asked.
Mangan’s wife Charlotte said she can’t believe the men could come into the secluded neighborhood, frighten neighbors and then believe they’d been wronged.
“We’re the victims,” she said Monday night.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 color photos
The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Gita Sitaramiah Staff writer Staff writers Dan Hansen and Kristina Johnson contributed to this report.
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