A protest group’s plan to toss volleyballs in front of police cars to draw attention to what it considers a law enforcement cover-up in the death of a Spokane Valley teen has drawn a strong warning from Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.
“I am very concerned about this,” Knezovich said Wednesday, disputing the cover-up assertions and questioning the motives of the group’s leadership. “This is very serious to us and an extreme danger to the public.”
Knezovich sent notice Wednesday to activist Scott Maclay, president of the Rattlesnakes Motorcycle Club, advising that state law prohibits intentional obstruction of vehicular traffic. Knezovich said those caught throwing anything in front of vehicles will be arrested for disorderly conduct and could face other charges as well if they cause or contribute to auto accidents.
Maclay, who announced the protest plan Tuesday night through social media, is openly critical of criminal investigations that cleared a Spokane County deputy sheriff of responsibility for a fatal bicycle accident last year that killed 15-year-old Ryan Holyk.
The group says it plans to target only law enforcement vehicles it sees speeding without emergency lights or sirens activated, which Maclay described as common along Sprague Avenue and other arterials at night. It also plans to videotape the encounters.
“We’re escalating this to the next level,” said Maclay, who has taken his concerns about the investigation to city councils, the U.S. Justice Department and others. “We’re trying to educate the public about what happened to Ryan Holyk.”
Maclay contends the teen cyclist was hit by a speeding police car driven by Deputy Joe Bodman, who was traveling about 70 mph along Sprague Avenue in the Valley without emergency lights or sirens while responding to assist another officer the night of May 23, 2014. Maclay said the injuries were so severe it’s hard to believe they could have been suffered solely by losing balance and falling off of a bike.
Holyk’s family filed a lawsuit in March against the Sheriff’s Office.
Although Bodman initially thought he’d hit or swiped the cyclist, Knezovich said the patrol car was undamaged and accident reconstruction specialists using security video footage from a nearby auto dealership concluded the deputy missed Holyk, whose bike had no brakes. The boy was riding without a helmet.
The teen was crossing Sprague against the traffic light and fell as the patrol car and another vehicle a couple of lanes over approached, Knezovich said. Among other things, the location of where Holyk was found – in the crosswalk portion of the intersection – supports conclusions that he wasn’t hit, the sheriff said, because the momentum of colliding with a patrol cruiser traveling that fast would have flung him into the intersection.
Knezovich said an internal investigation examining the deputy’s compliance with department policy still is underway.
An animated video reconstruction that also includes interspersed sequences from actual video footage was prepared as part of the investigation to show how investigators believe the crash occurred. It concludes that Holyk fell and that Bodman and another vehicle both missed the teen.
Knezovich said another reconstruction shows that if the teen hadn’t fallen, he would have collided with a pickup truck that was alongside the deputy’s vehicle a couple of lanes over. The investigation was conducted by Spokane police and the Washington State Patrol.
Maclay, however, said the video is inconclusive.
“It is a reconstruction done by law enforcement for law enforcement,” he said.
Maclay, who changed his name from Dunwell, also disputed assertions that his protests are politically motivated, or part of a vendetta against law enforcement for previous arrests and investigations, including a recent armed standoff with other bikers at a Valley restaurant that resulted in no charges being filed.
“It’s too bad that he’s not concerned about enforcing his own department’s policies and procedures,” Maclay said of Knezovich. “His deputies are out there every night racing up and down Sprague without any lights and sirens and what has he done to stop it?”
Maclay also organized a protest rally in December outside the department’s Valley precinct that drew hundreds upset over what they described as the unnecessary militarization of America’s civilian police forces. The rally followed release of a viral video containing a Spokane County deputy sheriff’s defense of the department’s armored vehicle as necessary because of the prevalence of anti-government groups in Eastern Washington.
And Maclay has used social media to attack Knezovich’s religious faith, calling Knezovich’s leadership the “Mormonization of all our Spokane County law enforcement agencies.” He’s also compared the Sheriff’s Office to the Islamic State militant group.