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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane County prosecutor declines for a second time to file charges in Ryan Holyk case

Hundreds gather for a candlelight vigil, June 5, 2014, at the corner of Sprague and Vista to remember accident victim Ryan Holyk. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

No criminal charges will be filed against the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office deputy who is believed to have struck 15-year-old cyclist Ryan Holyk, who later died from his injuries.

The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office announced Monday that while new evidence showed there was a “high likelihood” Deputy Joe Bodman hit Holyk in his police vehicle more than two years ago, prosecutors would not charge Bodman in the death.

The decision was sharply criticized by Mike Maurer, an attorney for Holyk’s parents, who have filed a lawsuit against Bodman and the Sheriff’s Office.

“If it was a private citizen who was driving 75 miles per hour down a city street, struck a boy, admitted he struck a child … in my mind there’s a high likelihood that there would be a different result,” Maurer said.

Prosecutor Larry Haskell said the decision was made because he didn’t feel there was enough evidence to prove Bodman committed vehicular homicide beyond a reasonable doubt.

“You need more facts than I felt that we had,” he said.

He also considered a charge of negligent driving, which is a traffic infraction, and reckless driving, which is a gross misdemeanor, but the statute of limitations on both of those charges had expired by the time new evidence came to light, Haskell said.

The case was reopened in June after an independent investigator found evidence Bodman’s police vehicle hit Holyk in the head on May 23, 2014.

Several experts had previously said they did not believe that Bodman’s SUV had hit Holyk even though Holyk’s DNA was found on the bumper.

Holyk was riding his bike south on Vista Road and ran the red light as Bodman drove west on Sprague Avenue at high speed without his lights and sirens on. Holyk did not have brakes or lights on his bike and was not wearing a helmet.

According to initial accounts, Holyk attempted to stop his bike, causing him to flip over the handlebars. Three investigations determined Holyk hit his head on the pavement during the fall, causing the injuries he later died from.

Based on that evidence, prosecutors decided not to charge Bodman following the initial investigation.

According to a news release from the prosecutor’s office, Bodman was traveling about 70 miles per hour when he saw Holyk and slowed down to about 58 miles per hour before entering the intersection.

State law says law enforcement officers who don’t have lights and sirens on are required to follow the same traffic rules as everybody else. Maurer said that fact should have resulted in charges.

But Haskell said to prove vehicular homicide, he would have had to show Bodman was either intoxicated, or driving recklessly or with disregard for the safety of others, terms with specific legal definitions the evidence wasn’t strong enough to support. Bodman was drug-tested following the crash and was not under the influence, Haskell said.

Bodman was disciplined following the crash after an internal investigation determined he should have had his lights and sirens on and notified dispatch before responding to another deputy’s call for help.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said there will be no new investigations or reviews of the case.

“Once the prosecutor reviewed the new materials and came out with his decision, that pretty much ended it as far as investigations or anything else,” he said.

Maurer disputed the accuracy of several claims in the news release, which he said was framed to present the county and Sheriff’s Office in the best possible light. Though the release said witnesses to the crash were conflicted about whether Bodman hit Holyk, Maurer said all the witnesses present either saw or heard the collision.

Maurer said nobody from the county called and told Holyk’s parents charges would not be filed, leaving them to find out from the news release.

“It’s just mindboggling to me,” he said.