Spokane officer to be charged with assault
He is accused of kicking handcuffed man after chase
Fri., Oct. 24, 2008
A Spokane police officer will be charged with fourth-degree assault today after his colleagues said he kicked a handcuffed man in the face following a car and foot chase, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Rob M. Boothe, a senior officer who joined the force in September 1994, is accused of kicking John P. Luna, 22, after Luna’s arrest Sept. 5.
Michael Carbone, a Pend Oreille County deputy prosecutor appointed to the case, will file the charge in Spokane County Municipal Court. Fourth-degree assault is a misdemeanor under Spokane city code, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Boothe, who could not be reached for comment, remains on paid administrative leave, police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said.
“He is innocent until proven guilty,” she said.
The Spokane Police Department’s personnel investigation will begin after Boothe’s criminal charge is resolved. Spokane police detectives handled the initial criminal investigation.
Boothe, 37, denies intentionally kicking Luna, according to investigation papers obtained through a public records request.
The documents detail statements by several officers involved in the chase, in which police say Luna struck other vehicles as he sped through residential neighborhoods. Officers nabbed him with help from a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office helicopter.
The chase started after an officer saw Luna rear-end a car and realized the car Luna was driving had been reported stolen.
According to the documents, at least three officers told detectives they saw Boothe kick Luna after he was handcuffed in a backyard. But two officers said they didn’t see anything, and one of those was adamant he wouldn’t have missed the kick because he was so close to Luna.
A shift supervisor who interviewed Luna said that he changed his story several times and that Luna admitted it was possible the officers thought he was resisting arrest when he was kicked.
One officer who said she saw Boothe kick Luna said she was troubled by the incident and discussed it with co-workers, one of whom contacted a supervisor, launching the investigation.
Detective Terry Ferguson asked one officer what she thought after seeing what she perceived as Boothe kicking Luna.
“She said that she literally prayed to God that Luna still had his teeth,” according to police documents.
Another officer told Detective Chet Gilmore: “Luna complained of the kick and then officer Boothe told Luna, ‘You’re lucky that’s all you got,’ ” according to the documents.
The week after the incident, Luna told a newspaper reporter he hadn’t resisted his arrest. He pointed to a dime-size mark on the left side of his chin and said it was what remained of a bruise that covered that side of his jaw.
Kirkpatrick said she has spoken with each officer involved in the case, including Boothe.
“These are heavy times, and everyone needs my support,” she said. “By nature, because we’re just human beings, anytime there are allegations of this degree it will always impact us in our hearts and morale.”
Luna remains in jail on charges of eluding police, vehicle theft, second-degree assault and hit-and-run. His bond was set at $100,000.
Boothe, who earns $69,426 a year, was one of the first two officers in the state to be designated a master firearms instructor by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, according to a Spokesman-Review article in 2002.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.