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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Chief: Cop was targeted

Thomas Clouse Staff writer

A Spokane Police officer shot a man Saturday because the suspect was aiming a pistol at another officer, Police Chief Roger Bragdon said.

Following protocol, Officer Karl F. Thompson was interviewed Tuesday by detectives from both the city and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office about his actions Saturday when he shot a man twice after a domestic dispute.

Thompson, 57, who ran for Kootenai County sheriff in 1996, fired several shots at 34-year-old Christopher Tracy Felch, striking him twice. Bragdon said Felch’s condition has improved, and he will soon face criminal charges including first-degree assault.

The incident started Saturday when officers responded to a domestic violence call at a family gathering on West Broadway.

Witnesses said Felch got into a dispute with a 23-year-old man and it escalated into a fight.

“Several witnesses said Felch grabbed the 23-year-old man and tried to force his head into the lighted barbecue,” police spokesman Dick Cottam said in a press release. “One person pulled Felch from the victim. He went to his own residence and returned with a pistol in his hand.”

As Felch brandished the pistol and yelled threats, several people ran from the gathering and hurried children into the house, Cottam said.

Felch then left in his Chevrolet S-10 pickup as the family called police. One officer spotted Felch’s vehicle at 5:32 p.m. and forced the truck off the road near Maple Street and Nora Avenue.

“Felch accelerated and spun the tires, but was unable to leave,” Cottam said. “Officers saw Felch brandishing a semi-automatic pistol and (Thompson) fired several shots.”

Two bullets struck Felch and officers pulled him from the truck. Medics transported him to an area hospital where he was initially listed in critical condition but has been upgraded to serious condition, Cottam said.

“Apparently, Felch was aiming his gun at another officer who didn’t realize it,” Bragdon said. “Because (Thompson) was so well-trained, he responded quickly. I told him I was glad that he was there.”

Thompson’s law enforcement career started in 1969 with the Los Angeles Police Department.

In 1979, he joined the Kootenai County Sheriff’s office where he attained the rank of captain, Cottam said.

He worked two years with juvenile probation before coming to Spokane in 1997.

In 1990, Thompson trained for three months at the FBI’s National Academy. Thompson was initially placed on leave but has already been reinstated on the force, Cottam said.

“He’s very well-trained technically and old enough to be level-headed,” Bragdon said. “I’m not sure what a younger, less experienced officer would have done.”

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