Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now
News >  Column

Doug Clark: Off-duty ruling’s a real cop-out

They don’t call it “March Madness” for nothing.

Oh, yeah. And the basketball scene is pretty nuts, too.

I mean, are you kidding me? I can’t believe the Zags have to shuffle off to the other side of the country and then play as a No. 8 seed. Honestly. When I first heard the Zags’ name associated with Buffalo, I didn’t think it had anything to do with the state of New York.

I figured Mark Few had brokered some savvy sort of deal to get free wings for his team.

But getting back to today’s topic, the real March insanity for me took place late last week in a courtroom.

A federal judge ruled that the city was off the hook for any civil penalties regarding former Spokane cop Jay Olsen’s boozed-up shooting of Shonto Pete three years ago.

You remember. Olsen took his concealed weapon into Dempsey’s Brass Rail, where he pounded down a few.

Then later, after leaving the bar, Olsen claimed he saw Pete trying to steal his truck and gave chase. (Pete was later acquitted of that crime.) The wee-hours rundown erupted in violence near Peaceful Valley, when Olsen pulled out the aforementioned gat and plugged the unarmed Pete in the head.

On Friday, Judge Edward F. Shea agreed with a city lawyer’s argument that since Olsen never identified himself as a police officer, you can’t tie his off-duty gunplay to the department.

So Olsen is just a besotted heat-packing civilian fool.

“I have great sympathy for Mr. Pete and the grievous wrong that Mr. Olsen did to him,” stated Judge Shea, in our news report. “Nevertheless I grant the city’s motion. … Mr. Olsen was not acting under the color of law.”

This is why people get so apoplectic about our so-called justice system.

It was barely a year ago that Olsen was tried and found not guilty in the Pete shooting.

I had the misfortune of sitting through part of that dog and phony show. And I distinctly recall that a major theme of the defense Scheme Team was that Olsen action’s clearly showed that HE WAS A COP!

Of course poor Jay didn’t identify himself or call for backup, it was argued. He was too afraid the department would discover he was gay.

Personally, I don’t care if our police engage in homosexuality, polygamy or macramé. Just don’t shoot, Tase, club or hogtie the innocent citizens.

I remember one expert witness in the Olsen trial testifying how all that wonderful cop training made the shooting absolutely justified.

And the sheeple sitting on the jury bought this Spokaloo soap opera. When the verdict came down, Olsen’s brother officers pumped their fists with gleeful camaraderie.

Well, maybe that’s what they were doing. I always suspected that the gesticulating was really the officers getting ready to launch themselves into a spirited rendition of that timeless disco hit “YMCA.”

On a side note, I almost recorded a parody song to that famed Village People tune.

Here’s the first verse:

Drunk cop. He’s out lookin’ for fun.

He’s a drunk cop. Took his off-duty gun,

Into a gay bar. Now he’s out on the run,

Through the streets of down-town Spokane.

You better duck your head it’s SPD-Jay.

Or you’ll get hit with lead from SPD-Jay. …

You get the idea.

Hey, I realize Pete is an unhappy victim right now.

Shea’s ruling means he can only go after Olsen for the $38,000 he said he owes in medical and legal bills. And Olsen’s pockets are apparently none too deep, according to the man’s attorney.

But that’s the wrong way of looking at this.

Pete needs to forget all the talk about money and litigation and think back to that chilly night in February 2007.

Sure what happened was a travesty. No matter what any judge or jury rules, to me this will always be a clear case of a rotten cop behaving badly.

But had Olsen’s aim been a little less shaky, well, Pete wouldn’t have any bills to worry about.

Keep smiling, Shonto. You’re a lot luckier than you think.

All together now:

SPD-Jaaaayyyy …

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at