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Police officer cleared in December shooting of armed robbery suspect

UPDATED: Mon., March 26, 2018

FILE - Prosecutors cleared a police officer of wrongdoing in the December 2017 shooting death of robbery suspect Joshua Spottedhorse. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE - Prosecutors cleared a police officer of wrongdoing in the December 2017 shooting death of robbery suspect Joshua Spottedhorse. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A Spokane police officer who killed a robbery suspect in December was justified in using deadly force, the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office said Monday.

The shooting occurred Dec. 26 when Officer Chris LeQuire attempted to arrest Joshua P. Spottedhorse. The 36-year-old Spottedhorse was suspected of robbing the Safeway store at 1616 Northwest Blvd. and firing a gun in the store’s parking lot.

“There is no indication Officer LeQuire acted out of malice or lacked a good faith belief in the correctness of his actions,” prosecutors wrote in a news release. “Therefore, no criminal liability attaches and no criminal charges will be filed against Officer LeQuire.”

Now that prosecutors have forwarded their findings and elected not to charge the officer, an internal affairs investigation will begin, police Chief Craig Meidl said Monday.

In a news release sent Monday, prosecutors provided the first look into what happened during the moments leading up to the shooting near Sharp Avenue and Madison Street.

According to the news release, a video surveillance camera at the store showed Spottedhorse robbing a female store clerk at gunpoint. His vehicle was tracked to 1420 N. Jefferson St.

When Spottedhorse left the car and began running south on Madison, prosecutors wrote, officers shouted “a number of commands for Spottedhorse to stop and show officers his hands.”

Prosecutors say Spottedhorse then abruptly stopped, spun around and “faced squarely at SPD Officer Chris LeQuire, who was within approximately 10 feet” of the suspect. Spottedhorse placed his hand inside the front of his pants at the waistband area.

LeQuire fired his service weapon four times “out of fear that Spottedhorse intended to retrieve a gun and shoot him or other officers that were in the immediate area,” according to the news release

Spottedhorse was pronounced dead at the scene.

During their investigation, police found a 9mm shell casing in the Safeway parking lot that was apparently ejected when witnesses said the robbery suspect fired his gun into the air after stealing cash from the store.

A 9mm semi-automatic handgun was found at the residence on Jefferson Street where Spottedhorse left the car, prosecutors said.

Spottedhorse was not armed when he was shot. Police were wearing body cameras at the time of the shooting.

LeQuire, who has been with Spokane Police Department for nearly five years, was involved in a fatal officer-involved shooting in April 2016 when a homeless man, Mark Kurtz, approached him with a knife, yelling “Kill me!” outside the House of Charity.

LeQuire could be seen and heard on multiple body cameras reasoning with the man in that case, saying that he wanted to help him before firing his Taser. It failed, which is when another officer shot and killed Kurtz.

The shooting made national news and recently prompted police Ombudsman Bart Logue and Meidl to discuss sweeping changes to training within the department that could help curb future officer-involved shootings.

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