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Monday, October 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Suspect in cellphone store robberies shot by Spokane police, expected to survive

UPDATED: Sat., Aug. 8, 2020

Footage from a nearby surveillance camera showed police tried Friday night to calm an armed man down after he yelled, “I want to die.” Police said they shot the man, who they expect will survive.  (Courtesy Curt Hoagland)
Footage from a nearby surveillance camera showed police tried Friday night to calm an armed man down after he yelled, “I want to die.” Police said they shot the man, who they expect will survive. (Courtesy Curt Hoagland)

A suspect in a string of recent robberies is expected to survive his injuries after being shot late Friday night by Spokane police officers, a Spokane Police Department news release said.

The release did not identify the suspect who was shot.

Officers from the police department’s Patrol Anti-Crime Team, Special Investigative Unit and SWAT team responded around 11:30 p.m. Friday to information that a suspect in a number of armed robberies at local cellphone stores was in northeast Spokane, the release said.

A pair of men are believed to have robbed three cellphone stores in two days last week, stealing a single phone at one store and an armful from another, according to Spokane police.

One of those involved was an apparently unarmed white man with blond or red hair. The other was a Black man with face and neck tattoos who was allegedly armed with a handgun and held a store employee at gunpoint during one robbery, according to previous news releases.

According to the SPD release, police found a robbery suspect, not identified in the news release, in a car with an uninvolved person at the intersection of Crestline Street and Courtland Avenue on Friday. The suspect also had a warrant for escaping community custody on an unrelated first-degree robbery conviction, the release said.

When officers moved in to detain the robbery suspect, police say they saw a firearm. The driver left the car safely, according to the release.

Officers, who were also unidentified as of Saturday morning, tried to de-escalate the situation before shooting the man, the release said.

Curt Hoagland, who lives close to where officers fired their weapons, said he watched out his window when he saw the emergency lights.

Hoagland described an “army of police cars,” a SWAT van and a white Chrysler 300 in the parking lot across from his house. In the passenger seat of the Chrysler, he saw a man with a shaved head. He said he couldn’t make out the man’s race.

“He was screaming he was going to shoot himself, he was screaming he wants to die and he’s going to pull the trigger,” Hoagland said.

Hoagland said police tried hard to de-escalate the situation. Though he was surprised by the gunshot, he said the shot seemed “perfectly justified,” as it seemed to be intended to prevent the man from shooting himself.

In a video Hoagland took of the encounter, a man who appears to be pointing a gun at his head can be heard screaming “I want to die!” and an officer can be heard addressing the man as John.

“Take a couple deep breaths and relax,” the officer said in the video. “We can’t walk up there while you have the gun.”

The man in the car yelled that he was giving officers five seconds and started loudly counting down from five. An officer stopped his count down, saying, “Calm down, dude, let’s talk. Hey, nobody wants to hurt you, man.”

After the shot sounded, the video shows the man sliding out of the driver’s side of the car onto the ground, while still speaking to officers. Police asked him to roll onto his stomach to be detained.

According to the release, after police detained him, a SWAT medic provided him with aid.

Responders brought the suspect to a local hospital. He is expected to survive, the release said.

“The police did a great job of trying to de-escalate and calm him down,” Hoagland said. “With all the stuff going on, in the midst of the environment about police, I’ve been on both sides. We’re a mixed family. We’ve had family who have experienced bad policemen. … But I think everything they did was perfectly justified.”

Police say they found a firearm in the suspect’s car.

The Spokane Independent Investigative Response ( SIIR) Team will be tasked with investigating the shooting, after processing the scene Friday night.

The SIIR Team is made up of personnel from several agencies in Eastern Washington, including the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol and the Spokane Police Department. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is the managing agency in this incident.

Spokane County sheriff’s spokesman Cpl. Mark Gregory said he expects to release more information about the SIIR Team’s investigation next week.

SPD plans to release the names of the officers involved, but the news release did not specify when that will happen.

Maggie Quinlan can be reached at (509) 459-5135 or at maggieq@ spokesman.com

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