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

Suit claims Spokane County deputy allowed homicide by not arresting armed, drunken man angry at his neighbor

The wife of a Spokane County man killed by his neighbor in May 2019 has filed suit against Spokane County, alleging a sheriff’s deputy’s negligence allowed the killing to happen.

The lawsuit filed March 5 in Spokane County Superior Court says David Cholewinski, Benjamin Grosser’s neighbor, aimed a gun at several of Grosser’s employees after a road rage incident in May 2019.

A sheriff’s deputy, having probable cause to arrest Cholewinski for first-degree assault after the incident, “inexplicably” left without arresting Cholewinksi, enraging him further by warning that his guns could be taken away, according to the lawsuit.

Moments later, Cholewinski shot and killed 29-year-old Grosser outside his family’s home, where his wife and two children hid inside. Cholewinski then walked to his property, turned the gun and killed himself, deputies said at the time.

The incident on May 30, 2019 started when one of Grosser’s employees called 911, the lawsuit said. When deputies arrived at Grosser’s property on Bigelow Gulch Road, where Grosser also ran his business, Jammin Enterprises, they learned Cholewinski had followed a Jammin Enterprises work truck to the property. Cholewinski seemed to believe the truck had cut him off on the road, according to the lawsuit filed by Connelly Law Offices in Tacoma.

Cholewinski, “intoxicated and enraged,” had yelled at an employee, asked to speak to Grosser and aimed a gun at the employee’s head and chest, the lawsuit said. Cholewinski pointed the gun at all of the employees in the group before returning to his truck, employees told the deputy, according to the lawsuit.

The deputy moved next door to Cholewinksi’s house and noted he seemed intoxicated, with slurred speech and red eyes, the lawsuit alleges. Cholewinski admitted to aiming the gun at the employees, the lawsuit said. He then made “racist and threatening” comments, calling the employees “illegal Mexicans,” according to the suit.

Cholewinski became angrier when the deputy told him he would likely be charged with a felony and lose his right to carry firearms, the lawsuit said.

Then, the lawsuit alleges, the deputy left “without taking further action.” The suit did not name the deputy.

“A predictable horror unfolded,” the lawsuit reads. “A drunken Cholewinski, still armed and more infuriated and intoxicated than when the deputy had first arrived, walked to the Grosser property and began shooting at Benjamin Grosser.”

Grosser locked the house as he was being targeted. He bled in his wife’s arms on the porch of the family’s home, with his two children inside, the lawsuit said. Benjamin Grosser, suffering from injuries to the head and torso, died the next day, according to the GoFundMe set up for his family.

“What’s really struck me about Benjamin,” said Meaghan Driscoll, an attorney representing Benjamin’s widow, Makayla Grosser, “in his last moments alive, he was telling his wife to get the kids to a safe place. His last acts were protecting his family and trying to draw attention away from his family to himself. He was trying to move away from the house as Cholewinski’s basically hunting him down with a gun.”

Driscoll said the deputy not only failed to de-escalate the situation or arrest Cholewinski, he also aggravated the drunk man further by threatening that he would have his guns taken away.

The lawsuit’s narrative differs from initial descriptions from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

The county will not comment on pending litigation, said Mark Gregory, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday.

In May 2019, Gregory said that a deputy responded to the property around 4:15 p.m. that day and Cholewinksi was cited for unlawful display of a firearm, a gross misdemeanor. Gregory described Cholewinski and Grosser as being involved in an ongoing feud.

The first deputy to arrive said the 911 caller described Cholewinski taking the weapon from his vehicle’s center console and placing it on a seat, but not pointing it at anyone, Gregory said in 2019.

After Cholewinski fired at Grosser around 6 p.m., arriving deputies saw a man, later identified as Cholewinski, walking from Grosser’s driveway west toward Cholewinski’s residence, Gregory said at the time.

The man ignored commands to stop and walked faster. When more deputies arrived, they moved toward his home, Gregory said. It was then they heard a single gunshot coming from his back porch.

Driscoll said much of the information in the complaint filed against the county was pulled from reports written by attending deputies . She said the description of Cholewinski having a gun out but not pointed at people is, “directly contrary to witness statements taken by Spokane county sheriff’s office after the shooting.”

Driscoll said Cholewinski might have disliked Benjamin Grosser, but her office’s investigation has found no evidence of an ongoing feud.

What Makayla Grosser wants, Driscoll said, “is some accountability and justice, and to make sure the sheriff’s office is doing its job so future families don’t have to deal with the unbearable loss that she did.”

The lawsuit seeks damages for Makalya Grosser and her two children.

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