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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane jury’s acquittal verdict in homicide case triggers community reaction

Rev. Walter Kendricks leads a discussion about the William Poindexter shooting, in which an acquittal was announced Thursday, with concerned citizens who believe the verdict was unjust at Morning Star Baptist Church on Saturday, May 13, 2017, in north Spokane. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

People shocked by the acquittal this week of Edward Bushnell in the shooting death of William Poindexter gathered at Morning Star Baptist Church on Saturday morning to consider how to respond.

Bushnell told police he got in a fight with Poindexter while trying to stop him from assaulting his girlfriend. Witnesses said Poindexter was walking away from Bushnell when Bushnell shot him in the back from about 30 feet away, according to court documents. A jury acquitted Bushnell of all charges on Thursday and ruled that he acted in self defense.

The Rev. Walter Kendricks, minister of Morning Star Baptist and president of the Spokane Minister’s Fellowship, noted that Poindexter was black, while Bushnell and all 12 members of the jury are white.

“We know that something’s wrong,” Kendricks said. “I cannot sit silent and allow this to go unchallenged.”

Kendricks, who began the gathering with a moment of silence for Poindexter, said he and many others are filled with emotion.

“We cannot reverse the jury’s verdict,” he said. “We cannot bring back William Poindexter. We have to ask ourselves, what can we do?”

Racism still happens in Spokane, Kendricks said. He told the story of white man who mistook him for another black man last week. When Kendricks corrected him, the man said that all black people look alike. Kendricks said his companions were embarrassed, but did nothing to stand up for him.

“We have to start, honestly, looking at ourselves,” he said. “That verdict did not come in a vacuum. There were 12 people that decided it was OK.”

Attorney Rob Cossey, who represented Bushnell, said race had nothing to do with the case. “Mr. Poindexter hit (Bushnell) in the head with a baseball bat and knocked him out,” Cossey said.

The assault on Poindexter’s girlfriend was particularly violent, he said. “He was pulling her by her hair and throwing her up against a fence,” he said. “He didn’t know that Poindexter did this to her all the time.”

Cossey said he understands that people are uncertain about the case because Poindexter was walking away when he was shot. “I don’t blame people for questioning that,” he said. “I get that. My problem is that it was absolutely not racially motivated at all.”

He did not comment on the potential for a racial dimension in the jury’s decision.

Kendricks said the first step in responding to the verdict should be to obtain a transcript of the trial. The cost is expected to be more than $3,000, and a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the expense is expected to go live next week.

“We need solid information, not emotion, not outrage,” he said. “Facts.”

Kendricks said he would like to ask the Department of Justice to review the case. “We do not fault the police,” he said. “Why? Because they did their job. We do not fault the prosecutors, because they did their job.”

Most of the nearly 100 people who attended Saturday’s event, many of them white, gave their contact information so they could work together to decide how to move forward. That could include having a march or rally of some kind, Kendricks said.

“We have to have a discussion about race and it makes people uncomfortable,” he said. “There are so many people of goodwill that know something is wrong.”

Kurtis Robinson, president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, said people should be concerned about this week’s verdict even if it was a white man killing another white man.

“Yes, there is a racial component here, but there is a human component here,” he said. “Let’s do something about it, but let’s do something that means something.”

Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl attended the event. He said no one invited him, but he saw information about it on social media and wanted to come and show support for Spokane’s community of color.

“God tells us to bear each other’s burdens,” Meidl said.

Kendricks vowed to move forward in making changes and in making a difference and asked those gathered to join him. “There’s something wrong with the system,” he said. “I will not let this go.”