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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Water rights dust-up

Man, 93, says he was pushed, breaking his hip

Lippincott (The Spokesman-Review)
Lippincott (The Spokesman-Review)

A 93-year-old Newman Lake man is in convalescent care with a broken hip from an alleged confrontation with a visitor to his neighbor over century-old water rights.

The injured man, Gerald Lippincott, said Jeff Sharp pushed him down on Aug. 28; Sharp said Lippincott fell accidentally while trying to hit him.

“He’s 93 years old and I’m 31,” Sharp said. “I don’t need to push old men.”

But Lippincott said Sharp’s claim that he took a swing at the younger man is “all baloney.”

“I never struck, and I wasn’t going to strike,” he said.

Three eyewitnesses, all friends of Sharp, supported Sharp’s account when interviewed by Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy Shawn Audie.

Lippincott, who was being treated by medics, was inconsistent about whether he was “hit in the face” or “punched in the chest,” Audie reported. The deputy said he “could not see any injury.”

That incensed Lippincott’s son Gene: “He’s 93 years old, and it broke his pelvis in two places.”

He said he and his siblings find it hard to picture their father as the aggressor.

“He’s never been a violent guy,” Gene Lippincott said.

In an interview last week at the Sunshine Gardens convalescent center, Gerald Lippincott said he couldn’t remember talking to Audie because he was in so much pain and because medics also were asking questions.

“All I can remember is they were asking questions right and left,” Lippincott said.

He said he had gone to the home of Gary and Holly Frampton, who gave him permission to walk across their property to inspect a small dam. The dam diverts water from Thompson Creek onto his and two neighbors’ land for agricultural use.

At the time, Sharp and 33-year-old Harry Eck were visiting the Framptons.

Sharp said his interest in the Thompson Creek diversion is “only as a concerned citizen.” He lives some distance away, on Green Mountain Lane.

He and the Framptons are “very good friends,” Sharp said.

Audie said Gary Frampton told him Lippincott and Sharp were arguing.

Lippincott told The Spokesman-Review he was walking toward the creek when Sharp approached him from behind, at an angle, and asked where he was going.

Lippincott said he answered and Sharp responded, “The hell you are.”

While both men were still walking, Lippincott said, Sharp clapped him on the shoulder, spinning him around and causing him to fall with one leg twisted.

One thing the two men agree on is that Lippincott threatened a lawsuit. Lippincott said he asked Sharp to call 911, but was carried to his pickup and told to leave.

Lippincott said he managed to drive to a nearby home for help, but he was twisted and unable to get out of his truck.

He said he used a big bolt to reach and open the passenger door to reassure a woman who was scared by his honking and yelling.

According to Sharp, Lippincott said he didn’t need medical attention.

“I thought he was fine,” Sharp said.

John Reidy, another recipient of the diverted water, said he had a similar confrontation with Sharp about a week earlier while removing sediment that caused Thompson Creek to meander onto the Framptons’ property.

Sharp “told me to leave the creek – ‘Don’t do that work’ – and he pushed me in a rather passive manner, one time,” Reidy said. “It wasn’t anything too physical, but he certainly was confrontational.”

Although Sharp has no direct interest in the water diversion, he contends it is illegal. However, a 1930 deed grants Lippincott, Reidy and Greg Intinarelli access to maintain the small dam that directs some of the creek’s flow into a pipe.

Intinarelli said the system has been in place since 1895.

In consultation with the state Department of Ecology, which controls water rights, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a permit Sept. 11 for silt removal.

Before the diverted water flows back into Thompson Creek, it feeds a pond Newman Lake Fire and Rescue needs for fighting fires.

Reidy and Intinarelli say sediment needs to be shoveled out of the creek periodically to keep water flowing into the diversion pipe.

They have permission from an Oakland, Calif., deputy prosecutor to cross his land, which is on the other side of Thompson Creek from the Framptons’ property.

Meanwhile, Lippincott’s family doubts he will be able to return to his home of 28 years.

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