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Key players and contradictions

A comparison of statements in the Otto Zehm case

Use of force

THEN: “The officers were definitely within the (department) policy. The officers used the lowest level of force possible.”

• Assistant Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks, March 18, 2006.

NOW: “Based on the video, Otto Zehm is retreating the entire time that Officer Thompson is advancing upon him and attacking with his baton; … There was no reasonable threat to Officer Thompson and Officer Thompson’s use of an impact weapon was objectively unreasonable and violated Spokane Police Department use of force policies.”

• Assistant Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks in newly filed documents in U.S. District Court.

Chain of events

THEN: “The suspect lunged at the officer during the initial contact, and basically a fight ensued. It was actually hand-to-hand combat.”

• Assistant Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks, March 18, 2006.

NOW: “Based on the video, Zehm is retreating the entire time from the rapidly advancing Thompson and does not take a position of aggress and/or engagement, and does not appear ‘about to be assaultive’ toward Thompson.”

• Assistant Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks

in newly filed documents in U.S. District Court.

Officer’s account

THEN: “As time goes on, and we talk to more and more people, it supports Karl’s account of the incident.”

• Assistant Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks, July 15, 2006.

NOW: “Based on the video, Otto Zehm did not, as Officer Thompson claimed, stand up in the south aisle, take a boxing position, and throw punches at the Officer.”

• Assistant Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks in newly filed documents in U.S. District Court.

Officer’s behavior

THEN: “In my personal opinion … I just don’t think that the behavior of the officer rose to criminal behavior.”

• Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, June 22, 2009.

NOW: “We have a responsibility to evaluate all information in this matter. … Our employees must tell the truth as they see it.”

• Spokane Mayor Mary Verner in a prepared statement issued Tuesday, just hours after being asked by a Spokesman-Review reporter about apparent contradictions in the city’s position on the police department’s handling of the Otto Zehm case and what the assistant chief told FBI agents during a 2009 interview.

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