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Tuesday, October 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane County settles lawsuit alleging excessive force

Spokane County will pay a father $100,000 to settle a claim of excessive force used by a sheriff’s deputy as he arrested the man during a shooting investigation involving the man’s son in May 2010.

County commissioners on Tuesday voted 3-0 to approve the settlement with Wesley Kaiser, who said his head and wrists were injured during a handcuffed altercation with former Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Russell on May 2, 2010. Russell said Kaiser was drunk and combative while a colleague tried to take a statement from Kaiser’s son, who was in a hospital bed at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center with gunshot wounds to his chest and left arm.

“We believe the officer clearly used excessive force,” said Richard Wall, the attorney for Kaiser. Charges of resisting arrest and obstructing law enforcement against Kaiser were eventually dismissed in Spokane County District Court.

The county admits no wrongdoing in its settlement, which was agreed to just a week before the case was set for jury trial in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

“At the end of the day, juries are unpredictable,” said Steve Bartel, the county’s risk manager who negotiated the settlement with the Washington Counties Risk Pool, which will pay for the settlement.

The incident was captured on the hospital’s security cameras. The county successfully argued the incident had nothing to do with the training deputies received, and the county was dismissed from the lawsuit by U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush last year. Russell, who no longer works for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, was the only remaining defendant in the case, and a jury trial had been scheduled for Jan. 12.

Kaiser’s son did not sustain life-threatening injuries in the shooting and he’s since recovered, Wall said, adding the family is ready to put the incident behind them.

“He’s satisfied that the issue’s been resolved,” Wall said of his client.

But Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said the case should have been taken to trial. He expressed concern about the county settling too many cases alleging excessive force and questioned the message it sends.

“Sooner or later, they’re going to have to take one of these to trial,” Knezovich said.

Knezovich said if a jury heard the case, he is “fairly confident” Russell would have been exonerated. He added that Russell left the Sheriff’s Office on good terms.

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