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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Officer in shooting didn’t seek help via phone

Thomas Clouse Staff writer

Spokane police Officer James “Jay” Olsen was not only packing his personal gun while drinking in a bar into the early hours of Feb. 26; he also had his cell phone on his hip, according to investigative files released Tuesday.

But Olsen, 43, never used his phone to call 911 when he said he saw a man, later identified as Shonto K. Pete, driving off with his pickup about 3:30 a.m.

Olsen also didn’t use his cell phone to call for backup when, he said, Pete turned in a threatening way, prompting the officer to shoot Pete in the head as he fled down an embankment toward Peaceful Valley.

But as paramedics began arriving to treat Pete, Olsen finally did use his cell phone: to call his attorney.

“(Olsen) stated he called his attorney because of the state of the climate with the new Chief (Anne Kirkpatrick),” Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Mike Ricketts wrote in his report.

Nearly 400 pages of interviews and lists of evidence were released Tuesday by the Spokane County prosecutor’s office detailing the near-fatal confrontation between the two drunken men.

In those interviews, both Olsen and Pete gave sometimes inconsistent explanations for the events that resulted in Pete’s charge of second-degree vehicle theft, and Olsen’s charge of first-degree assault and two counts of reckless endangerment. He remains on unpaid leave.

Pete, 27, has consistently denied stealing Olsen’s pickup – and a witness has come forward who appears to support Pete’s contention.

However, Olsen and his friend, Renee Main, are adamant that they saw Pete drive off with the truck for several blocks before parking near the 1200 block of West Riverside and running to where Olsen shot him.

Pete, who had a blood alcohol content of .25 percent, was first interviewed in Sacred Heart Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit about three hours after he was shot. A few hours later, Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Doug Marske reinterviewed Pete in the hospital room and confronted him about his earlier statements.

“I advised Shonto that the information that we had received indicated that he had attempted to steal a vehicle, that he was pursued by the owner of the vehicle … and was shot during some type of altercation,” Marske wrote. “I told him that it was important that we got to the truth, that I wasn’t concerned about the stolen vehicle … and I advised him that the person who shot him was an off-duty police officer.

“Shonto stated, ‘Now I know why you’re trying to get me to say something. … You’re looking after him,’ ” Marske quoted Pete as saying. “I advised him that I wanted to get to the truth and Shonto stated that he was lucky to be alive.”

Olsen, who had a blood alcohol content of between .08 and .13 percent, did give some preliminary information to detectives immediately after the shooting. But Olsen’s attorney, Rob Cossey, asked detectives to hold off on interviewing his client until days later.

“Cossey stated that because of Olsen’s condition, he felt it was in (his) best interests to postpone the interview until Olsen was in better condition to be interviewed. Cossey stated … (Olsen) needs some time before being interviewed,” Ricketts wrote. “I told Rob Cossey that I understood.”

Telling details came when both suspects met detectives at the scene of the shooting more than two weeks after it occurred.

Olsen, a 16-year-veteran, and Cossey met several Spokane police and sheriff’s detectives on March 12 near the 1200 block of West Riverside. But Olsen’s story didn’t agree with the physical evidence collected at the scene earlier.

For instance, Olsen’s descriptions of the events did not match where shell casings indicated the shooting took place and where blood stains indicated Pete had fled down the hill.

“Olsen was having a difficult time with orientation,” Ricketts wrote. “Olsen was not able to approximately show me the area that he had fired his shots from. It was then decided that after speaking with Sgt. (James) Goodwin and Sgt. (Joe) Peterson to advise Olsen where the casings were found and where the house had been struck by a bullet in an attempt to help Olsen orientate himself to the location.”

Ricketts later asked Olsen to have Marske stand where he remembered shooting at Pete. “There was no blood evidence found in the area that Olsen had Detective Marske move to.”

But when the same team of investigators had Pete show them the scene on March 13, they got different results. Pete was able to show where he was shot and followed the “proximate” trail that detectives had earlier matched with blood evidence.

“Pete stated he told Olsen all he wanted was a ride,” Ricketts said. “Pete told me that if he would have known the individual was a cop, he would have stayed there. He stated he was glad that he didn’t, because he believes the individual would have finished him off.”

Forensic specialists found Pete’s fingerprints on the exterior door jamb of Olsen’s truck, but nothing to indicate that Pete was ever inside the pickup other than Olsen’s and Main’s statements.

On March 22, Ricketts interviewed Kevin Alexander, who said he saw a man, whom he later learned was Pete, running west on the north side of Sprague Avenue, and that he was being chased by a pickup that matched Olsen’s.

According to the reports, Olsen had a 16-minute window from when the shooting took place to when Olsen was first contacted by Officer Zachary Dahle. At no time did Olsen call 911, according to the report.

“I asked Olsen if he was all right, and he stated, ‘Yeah, he never touched me.’ ” Dahle wrote in his report.

“Olsen then stopped and stated, ‘He turned on me and threatened to kill me.’ Olsen then turned to Renee (Main) and stated, ‘Just tell them everything, just tell the truth … just tell them the truth.’ “

Dahle then told Olsen that the man, who was later identified as Pete, was talking and it appeared that he would be OK. “Olsen then stated, ‘Damn.’ “

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