Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 32° Partly Cloudy
News >  Spokane

100 years ago in Spokane: Inmate kills city jailer

“As we went toward the rear of the office part, Potaskey emerged from a door and came toward us,” said one of the officers. (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
“As we went toward the rear of the office part, Potaskey emerged from a door and came toward us,” said one of the officers. (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

Steve Potaskey, 35, an “insanity suspect,” somehow got out of his jail cell, seized city jailer William D. Nelson, 64, from behind and began attacking him, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported.

Officers heard screams, rushed into the jail and found Nelson in the jail office, dead on the floor, in a pool of blood.

“As we went toward the rear of the office part, Potaskey emerged from a door and came toward us,” said one of the officers. “I had a long club. Quick as a flash, he grabbed it from my hand and he began to fight the three of us. We hit him two or three times with the barrels of our revolvers before he quit fighting.”

Nobody was certain how Potaskey got free. Apparently, he had been placed in a padded cell after being arrested the night before. Somehow in the night, he got out of the padded cell and was found “running around on top of the tiers of cells.” Guards then put him in the “tank,” or “dark cell.”

Perhaps Nelson was attempting to put him back into the padded cell that morning when Potaskey attacked him, choked him and beat him, using Nelson’s own shoe.

Potaskey had been originally arrested after residents reported a “crazy man running loose” in their neighborhood.

Officers chased him through a vacant lot, and Potaskey ran inside a house. There, they found Potaskey “washing his hair.” They also found a “badly frightened woman.”

Little was known about Potaskey, beyond the fact that he was 35 years old, born in Poland, and a common laborer.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.