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

Video of officer shooting 70-year-old woman in Spokane jail lobby released

UPDATED: Wed., April 28, 2021

In the moments after Officer Justin White shot Nancy King in the Spokane County Jail lobby, officers flooded the building as medics knelt by her side.  (Courtesy of Spokane County)
In the moments after Officer Justin White shot Nancy King in the Spokane County Jail lobby, officers flooded the building as medics knelt by her side. (Courtesy of Spokane County)

Footage of a Spokane County Jail officer shooting 70-year-old Nancy King sheds new light on the killing, which the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office deemed justified last month.

The footage was released Monday through a public records request from The Spokesman-Review.

Spokane County Jail

Though early statements from the county indicated King had been banging on the door to the jail’s lobby, video shows her waiting outside the door and ringing the buzzer once Dec. 4, 2020. After waiting another 50 seconds, she rings the buzzer again.

After another minute, Sgt. Justin White comes to the door and opens it about a foot wide to speak with King. The two talk for 15 seconds before King lifts a knife, pointing it at White. White pulls out his weapon and backs away as she approaches. Five seconds after King raised the knife, White fires his gun and King collapses.

The Spokane County Medical Examiner found King died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Video shows that as King collapses, White falls backward over a bench in the lobby. Once he stands again, he keeps his gun held high and aims at King for about a minute before another officer pats his shoulder. When more corrections officers arrive, two appear to bend down to assess King while another pair of officers point their guns at her. Officers put their guns back in their holsters as a medic arrives.

The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office later found that about three hours before King arrived at the jail lobby, calls making bomb threats against Deaconess Hospital and the Frontier Behavioral Health building in Spokane traced back to King’s hotel room at the Ramada Inn at 923 E. Third Ave., according to a news release from Spokane County.

Earlier that day, police arrived at the hotel and King did not allow them into her room.

Suspecting a mental health issue, officers requested a designated crisis responder, provided to the city through Frontier Behavioral Health.

Officers’ request for a DCR was denied, according to a report written by Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell obtained by KREM.

Haskell’s report says officers learned a DCR would not respond because they “did not believe her threats were credible, given the multiple threats in the past and the fact that she was 70 years old and had no reasonable capacity to carry out her threats,” KREM reported.

The Spokane Police Department didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking information on what warrants a crisis response and why King didn’t meet the criteria that day.

“Under these facts and circumstances, Sgt. White was justified in his use of deadly force,” the county’s news release said. “Therefore, no criminal charges will be filed against Sgt. White in this matter.”

King led a difficult life ending in homelessness, her nephew Jack King said the week she died. He said he struggled to see how a stun gun or pepper spray couldn’t have stopped his petite aunt.

“Sure, a homeless person can seem scary, but it’s hard to picture someone that small and elderly being a threat to a corrections officer,” Jack King said at the time.

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