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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Family of man killed in north Spokane officer-involved shooting releases statement

Jan. 12, 2019 Updated Sat., Jan. 12, 2019 at 9:08 p.m.

A man was shot by police Monday, Jan. 7, 2019 after officers were called to the home by neighbors who believed they heard gunshots coming from the area of this home at 623 W. Montgomery Ave. (Jonathan Glover / The Spokesman-Review)
A man was shot by police Monday, Jan. 7, 2019 after officers were called to the home by neighbors who believed they heard gunshots coming from the area of this home at 623 W. Montgomery Ave. (Jonathan Glover / The Spokesman-Review)
From staff reports

The family of David M. Novak, the Spokane man killed in an officer-involved shooting on Monday, released a statement Saturday thanking the community for support and asking authorities for answers.

“The difficulties inherent in processing such a tragedy have been compounded by the lack of communication and transparency from authorities responsible for this case,” the family said in the statement.

“The Novak family welcomes the forthcoming investigation and the process of sifting the truth from the sound bites,” the statement continued. “At this time, we want and need to focus on the loss of our precious David and we need to give the proper sendoff befitting of the larger than life person that he was.”

Novak, 35, was shot and killed by one of several officers responding to reports of a man firing a gun in the vicinity of 623 W. Montgomery Ave. in north Spokane around 10:30 p.m. Upon arriving at the scene, officers “observed the suspect holding a long object, which they believed to be consistent with a rifle or shotgun,” according to a news release earlier this week from Spokane police Chief Craig Meidl.

A metal bat was recovered from the scene, as was a .223-caliber shell casing. Meidl acknowledged Tuesday that officers might have mistaken the bat for a shotgun or other long gun.

Witness accounts of the shooting and Novak’s behavior prior to the shooting differ. Jolyn Maze, who lives across the street from the house in question, said that Novak fired a shotgun “six or seven times” into the air and toward his house before Maze called 911. Maze said Novak ignored commands to drop the object he was holding before police shot him.

Maze’s nephew, Anton Wolfe, said Novak attempted to assault Maze prior to the incident and shouted racist slurs at him, Maze and a friend. He also said Novak threatened to shoot them.

Another neighbor, Tyler Gerstbrein, said Novak had been striking his own truck with a bat when officers arrived, but after being told to freeze, he “dropped the bat, put up his hands and turned to walk away” from police and toward his house, at which point Novak disappeared form sight, Gerstbrein said. Then Gerstbrein heard police fire.

The Spokesman-Review quoted Gerstbrein earlier in the week as saying Novak turned to strike the truck with the bat one more time after being told to freeze. On Thursday, Gerstbrein said he was misquoted on that point.

Novak would not have legally been allowed to own a gun. He was sentenced to 29 months in jail after a crash in 2003, in which he sped from police while drinking and driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.27, according to court records. He tried to pass three cars while going up to 80 miles per hour and crashed into another car. The driver of the other car broke her back and required surgery, and the passenger in Novak’s car broke her leg and suffered severe lacerations to her face.

Novak’s brother-in-law told The Spokesman-Review that Novak did not own a gun.

A Spokane Investigative Regional Response Team is investigating the shooting and will release body camera footage and the names of the officers involved at a future date, according to a news release from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators are asking anyone who has additional information or witnessed the shooting, and have not already been contacted by police, to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

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