Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich is investigating whether Spokane police officers tampered with evidence and assisted the suspect, also a police officer, in an ongoing sexual assault investigation.
“If there is anything nefarious, we will prosecute,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Spokane Police Department officer who hosted the party where the alleged assault occurred has been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues.
Spokane police patrol Sgt. Gordon Ennis is accused of sexually assaulting a female police officer at a party hosted by fellow Officer Doug Strosahl on Saturday evening. The woman told investigators she passed out after consuming several drinks and that when she awoke in a guest bedroom, Ennis had his hand down her pants and was fondling her.
The Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case, and a sheriff’s detective noted in court documents that both Strosahl and Ennis hired attorneys before they were contacted by investigators. The detective also noted in the documents that Ennis had been tipped off that investigators were seeking a search warrant for his cellphone records and DNA sample.
Knezovich said detectives working on the case were angry that other officers may have improperly assisted Ennis.
“This is just unacceptable,” Knezovich said.
According to court documents, the woman told Strosahl what had happened before she left his home Sunday morning. She had been wearing borrowed clothes at the time of the alleged assault and left that clothing behind when she left Strosahl’s home.
Knezovich said Strosahl had an obligation to notify his commanding officer immediately about the allegation and preserve any evidence, neither of which happened. Instead, Strosahl barred investigators from his home until they obtained a search warrant and washed the clothes the woman had been wearing before investigators could collect them, Knezovich said.
“We’re dumbfounded by that,” he said.
Interim police Chief Rick Dobrow said his department has launched an internal investigation into whether any officers hampered the sexual assault investigation.
“My directive is that members of my staff cooperate fully with any investigation,” he said.
Ennis is currently on paid administrative leave.
Dobrow said he couldn’t comment on specifics but said Strosahl also has been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation into his actions after the alleged assault continues. If his alleged actions are substantiated, they would be considered policy violations at the very least, Dobrow said.
“This is so disturbing,” Dobrow said. “Really, the emphasis should be placed on the victim at this point and getting the victim the support she needs.”
Knezovich said he has contacted the FBI, and the agency is monitoring the investigation. He said Spokane Police Department command staff have been cooperative with the investigation.
“They have bent over backward,” he said.
Chris Bugbee, Strosahl’s attorney, did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday evening.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.