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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

County stands by deputies in lawsuit

Plaintiff was injured in 2009 confrontation

Spokane County will stand behind two sheriff’s deputies who broke a Spokane Valley man’s rib and punctured his lung when they were dispatched to help him in September 2009.

County commissioners voted this week to defend Deputies Glen Hinckley and Walter Loucks in a federal civil rights lawsuit and pay any punitive damages, which aren’t automatically covered under the county’s liability insurance.

Hinckley and Loucks were dispatched to John Hudson’s home in the 4300 block of North Lillian Road to check on a report that he might have been suicidal. The information came from his girlfriend’s son.

Hudson, 42, said he had been sleeping when the deputies arrived about 8 a.m., and he went to his front porch to talk to them.

Both sides agree that when Hinckley and Loucks asked whether Hudson had ever contemplated suicide, he said something like, “I have thought about it many times, but I’m still here.”

Hudson claims one of the deputies then responded with an obscenity: “We don’t need your mouth, just answer the … questions.”

The county denies that claim, and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said the deputies were warned that Hudson had weapons and reported that Hudson threatened violence against emergency responders and to shoot anyone who came to his house.

Hudson said in his complaint that Loucks and Hinckley dragged him off the porch by his hair and threw him face-down onto the ground when he told them he was going back to bed.

He said wasn’t able to put his hands behind his back as ordered because the deputies had their knees on his neck and back.

One of the officers choked him while the other struck his back at least eight times with a closed fist, Hudson said in his lawsuit. He said the blows broke one of his ribs, puncturing his left lung and causing it to collapse.

County officials acknowledge Hudson’s injuries.

“There were hammer blows to the back of the body,” Knezovich said.

But he said a use-of-force expert “found that there was no policy violation and, based on what I’ve seen of it, I don’t think they did anything wrong.”

Knezovich said the deputies couldn’t allow Hudson to go back into his house because of the threats he made and the possibility that he had weapons.

Hudson couldn’t be reached for comment.

He was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing a public servant. The obstructing charge was dropped immediately, and the resisting charge was dismissed after Hudson went six months without another violation.

Hudson had to acquiesce to the allegations against him to obtain the six-month continuance for dismissal. County attorney Dan Catt said in a court document that Hudson’s admission “precludes all or some of his claims.”

Hudson caused his injuries “by failing to obey lawful orders,” Catt said.