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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Suspect at large after shooting

Witnesses say two slain over car deal

The shooting deaths of two men in Spokane on Saturday may have been sparked by little more than a dispute over two run-down cars, witnesses say.

Jack Lamere and a friend, whose name has not been released by police, were shot, allegedly by a man angered because Lamere refused to trade his early 1970s Chevy Blazer for an early 1970s Cadillac, neighbors said.

“It’s a waste of life, you know,” said Hiram Michel, who witnessed the shooting. “A little bit of rage, and it’s too late, you can’t take it back.”

Detectives have identified the suspected shooter as Merle W. Harvey, 27. He was still at large Sunday evening, and police asked anyone with information about Harvey’s whereabouts to call 911.

When located, Harvey will be booked into jail on two counts of first-degree murder, said police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe. Police believe Harvey may be with a white woman described as in her mid-30s to 40s, about 5 foot 8, and with a thin build and short red or brown hair. The two may be using an older-model flatbed truck.

In 2000, Harvey was sentenced to about seven years in prison after he pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in connection with a shooting near Minnehaha Park, according to previous Spokesman-Review coverage.

Lamere was released from prison last year after serving a dozen years for his role in an Eastern Washington drug ring. Just before leaving prison, Lamere was part of a work-release program.

“He was an excellent worker,” said Rich Ziesmer, who owns property that Lamere helped clean up in the program. “Everything I saw, he was on the up and up.”

Late Sunday, police announced they were searching for another suspect in the case. Mark H. Toner, 33, is wanted for rendering criminal assistance and witness intimidation. He was arrested overnight, according to police.

Police were called about 9:30 p.m. Saturday to a parking lot behind an apartment at 1310 W. Boone Ave., where the men were shot.

Neighbors said Lamere, who was living with his girlfriend at the address, was working on a pickup behind the building with a friend when they were approached by another man. The man, who arrived in a truck with a woman driving, was seeking to trade his Cadillac for Lamere’s Chevy Blazer.

“The shooter said, ‘I’m not leaving here without the Blazer,’ ” Michel said. Lamere responded, “You’re not taking nothing.”

Lori Averill, who also lives in the building and was outside when the shooting occurred, said the discussion wasn’t heated, but the man pulled a gun and shot Lamere six times before aiming at Lamere’s friend. A couple shots missed before one shot hit him, Averill said.

Michel said the gunman emptied one gun, retrieved another and continued shooting in several directions. Lamere’s girlfriend was also there, Michel said.

“She was sitting outside and ran to (Lamere) and was with him when he died,” Michel said.

The dispute between the men centered on the Cadillac. Lamere had briefly had possession of it but traded it to Harvey for the Blazer, said Ziesmer, who kept in touch with Lamere after the work-release program was completed.

Harvey recently decided he wanted to trade back the cars, said Ziesmer, who owns Pacific Towing and Recovery. One complication was that Ziesmer, who earlier sold the Cadillac to Lamere for a few hundred dollars, still has the car’s title.

Ziesmer said he received a voice mail from Harvey on Saturday afternoon.

“He called me a weasel and Jack a couple names,” Ziesmer said, adding that he could hear a woman egging him on in the background.

Just before the shooting, Ziesmer said Lamere called to tell him he might accept Harvey’s proposal to trade back the vehicles.

Neighbors, however, said it appeared the deal soured because Lamere wouldn’t give up the Blazer until the Cadillac was brought to him.

Ziesmer said he also knew the second victim, who was Lamere’s friend but not involved in the car deal.

“He was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Ziesmer said.

Lamere recently concluded a federal prison sentence for his part in an extensive Spokane methamphetamine ring during the 1990s.

He pleaded guilty in 1997 to conspiracy, three counts of distributing meth and two counts of possession. He admitted that he became an “enforcer” for the drug ring to pay off the rising debts from his addiction and acknowledged that he played a part in the abduction and torture of a man who owed drug dealers $370. The man was stripped, beaten with boards and spray painted; he also had his testicles burned with a candle, according to court testimony.

The ring included people with connections to outlaw motorcycle gangs, and prosecutors described it at the time as one of the largest, most violent drug operations ever busted in Spokane.

Lamere was sentenced to 155 months in prison, one of seven people convicted. He testified against other members of the ring and said at the time that he had received death threats and feared for his life. He was released from prison custody in September 2008.

A month later, Lamere was arrested after he attempted to elude Spokane police and crashed into a tree, according to court records. He agreed to serve 90 days of home confinement as a result of the incident. After completing required drug treatment late last year, Lamere requested that he be referred for mental health counseling, records say.

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