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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Prosecutor’s office: No charges in Will Berger case

Deputies Paynter and Audie acted appropriately, prosecutor says

The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office will not seek criminal charges against the two sheriff’s deputies who used a stun gun and a neck hold on a man who later died in June 2013. Will Berger, 34, died of injuries sustained in a confrontation with deputies Shawn Audie and Steve Paynter outside a Moran Prairie gym June 6, 2013. The deputies responded after calls of disturbing behavior from Berger, who struck a paper towel dispenser in the gym and menaced other gym-goers in what his father described as a manic episode stemming from a medical condition. Bill Berger, Will’s father, said Thursday he was unsurprised by the findings. The elder Berger has launched a campaign, traveling to communities throughout the state seeking support for legislation that would require all law enforcement agents to undergo crisis intervention training. “It shouldn’t take a year and almost a month to determine if a crime was committed,” Bill Berger said Thursday. The Oz Fitness case is the last outstanding officer-involved investigation from 2013. Five men died at the hands of Spokane area law enforcement last year, and the prosecutor’s office ruled all of the actions justified. Calls made to Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who has supported the actions of Paynter and Audie, as well as Jack Driscoll, the deputy prosecutor who oversaw the charging decision, were not immediately returned Thursday afternoon. Bill Berger said he’s continuing to see support in communities for his legislative request, but many local law enforcement agencies are concerned about the cost for the training.