Family of man killed in 2013 police shooting outside Salvation Army sues city
Wed., Aug. 31, 2016
The family of a man shot and killed by Spokane police officers more than three years ago in the parking lot of the Salvation Army is suing the city and former police Chief Frank Straub.
The wife and three children of Danny Jones filed a wrongful death claim days before the standard three-year statute of limitations expired. In addition to the city and Straub, the lawsuit names Kevin King, Robert Collins, Corey Lyons and Scott Lesser, the four police officers who shot into Jones’ truck after he led police on an early-morning chase Aug. 22, 2013. The incident was captured by surveillance cameras.
Police spokeswoman Teresa Fuller declined to comment on the case, saying the department would not speak about pending litigation. Brian Coddington, the city’s communications director, also declined comment, citing the pending lawsuit, and didn’t believe the city had been served with the lawsuit as of Wednesday. Mark Harris, the attorney representing the family, confirmed that the lawsuit had not yet been served at City Hall.
The lawsuit was filed Aug. 19 in Spokane Superior Court and has been assigned to Judge Maryann Moreno, according to court records.
Autopsy reports revealed Jones had drugs in his system at the time of the shooting, and witnesses told investigators the 40-year-old was shouting wildly and telling officers he wouldn’t be taken alive as he revved the engine of the red pickup truck. Earlier, Jones had struck another motorist on the Division Street bridge.
Jones had served as an undercover drug buyer for the police department, according to investigative reports prepared following the shooting.
Surveillance cameras inside and outside the housing facility at 204 E. Indiana Ave. showed Jones’ truck lurching forward toward the main entrance as officers surrounded the vehicle. The lawsuit alleges King, the ranking officer at the scene, and Collins, Lyons and Lesser provided no warning before shooting Jones through the driver-side door. Lesser had originally been armed with a non-lethal beanbag shotgun, according to investigative reports, but returned to his car to retrieve the AR-15 rifle he eventually fired at Jones.
The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office reviewed the case and declined to prosecute the officers. Jack Driscoll, the deputy prosecuting attorney reviewing the case, wrote that Jones presented a serious threat to officers and residents of the community because his truck could be used “as a deadly weapon.”
Jones’ family was living at the Salvation Army housing facility when the shooting took place. They filed a tort claim with the City of Spokane on Aug. 20, 2015, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit does not list an amount sought in damages.
Harris, the attorney representing the family, said Jones’ widow, Nancy, and children moved out of the Salvation Army facility shortly after the shooting. Nancy Jones lives with two of the couples’ children in Spokane.
“It’s a situation where there’s ongoing emotional pain, and grief,” Harris said.
Several creditors filed claims against Jones’ estate following his death, according to court records. Most were filed by health care providers, and the claims ranged from $26 to more than $9,000.
The lawsuit alleges Straub provided inadequate training in de-escalation techniques and non-lethal tactics. Jones’ death was one of three in 2013 at the hands of Spokane Police officers. The department subsequently adopted universal training in crisis intervention. Straub was forced to resign last year amid complaints about leadership and harassment.
The four officers who fired their guns remain employed with the department. King was named director of patrol in a round of temporary promotions approved by outgoing Law Enforcement Director Jim McDevitt earlier this summer. Collins, Lyons and Lesser are senior police officers in the department. Lesser was involved in a shooting that involved a machete-wielding man outside the downtown bar Zola in May.
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.