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Spokane police accountability activist Anwar Peace felt ‘honored as a human being’ after mediation with officer over jaywalking arrest

UPDATED: Fri., July 2, 2021

JD Leighty, right, leads a Mass Action Against Police Brutality event as Anwar Peace, left, and Debbie Novak listen at Riverfront Park in April.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
JD Leighty, right, leads a Mass Action Against Police Brutality event as Anwar Peace, left, and Debbie Novak listen at Riverfront Park in April. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

Jaywalking arrests aren’t common in the city of Spokane.

In fact, just 17 people had been cited for the misdemeanor this year, as of mid-June. So when Anwar Peace, a Spokane Human Rights Commissioner and police accountability activist, was arrested and booked into jail for the crime, it struck him as suspicious.

But Peace wasn’t the only one surprised he spent a night in jail for the misdemeanor.

Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl pushed to have the charges dropped and opened an internal affairs investigation into the incident.

“It was the chief that had those charges dropped,” Peace said. “His stance, you know, was basically that it shouldn’t have happened.”

Peace and the officer involved, Shawn Maguire, agreed to a mediation session with Police Ombudsman Bart Logue that Peace said left him feeling “honored as a human being,” despite the two men being unable to completely see eye to eye.

The arrest

The week of April 23 was busy and stressful for Peace, with speaking commitments and news of the conviction of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, for the murder of George Floyd.

He spent his lunch break and time after work doing interviews with news outlets, including the Spokesman-Review.

On Thursday night after hanging out with some friends at a bar, Peace began his walk north on Monroe Street toward his home.

As Peace neared the intersection of Frederick and Monroe, a Spokane Police department squad car drove by heading north, he said.

Peace said he yelled at the passing car: “George Floyd didn’t deserve to die!”

That’s when the car turned left suddenly, Peace said.

“Anytime I see unusual police activity in my neighborhood, I investigate,” Peace said, to be “a witness to any kind of police activity.”

Peace said he ran across the street, near a crosswalk but not inside it.

That’s when Peace saw the car go into a convenience store parking lot and the officer talk to a homeless person.

“My opinion, it looked like harassing a homeless person who I had seen there earlier charging their cellphone,” Peace said.

A short time later, the officer got back in his car and left the parking lot, Peace said. As the car drove by, Peace said he raised his hands in the air and again yelled, “George Floyd didn’t deserve to die,” before continuing on his walk.

“I did not believe that any kind of negative police contact was going to take place that night,” Peace said. “Otherwise, I would have taken out my cellphone and gone live with it.”

Instead, Peace was listening to music on his headphones. One of the officers in the car said something to him, Peace said, but he motioned that he couldn’t hear.

Moments later, a car pulled up behind him with flashing lights on.

“Once the backup arrived, I was very upset and angry because of the fact that I hadn’t done anything,” Peace said.

He experienced his first panic attack as he was detained, searched and placed under arrest.

Officers refused to tell him what he was under arrest for until he got into the car, Peace said. They then told him he was under arrest for Spokane Municipal Code 10.10.025.D, interference with pedestrian or vehicular traffic.

The police account of events confirms much of Peace’s story. Maguire saw Peace’s initial gesture and heard him yell, saying it was “disparaging,” according to an email written by Lt. Terry Preuninger that was sent to senior police department staff about 5:30 the morning of the arrest .

Maguire then drove up to Sure Save Grocery, where he suspected a man was trying to break in, according the police report. However, he quickly realized the man was just trying to charge his phone.

“Just as the officer was clearing, the male whom he had observed on Monroe came running up the street (in the middle of the road) yelling at him stating something about George Floyd,” the email reads. “The Officer tried to ignore him but the male (later identified as Anwar Peace) continued to close space yelling about George Floyd.”

In the police report, Maguire said Peace was “charging at my patrol car and appeared angry,” before crossing Monroe Street outside of the crosswalk.

That’s when Maguire said he got out of his patrol car to see what was going on with Peace, but after he yelled, “George Floyd didn’t deserve to die!” three times, Maguire wrote he realized that Peace didn’t need his help and told him to have a good night.

Maguire said he was getting back into his patrol car when off duty Officer Brett Spring pulled on scene.

That’s when Peace became “frustrated” that Spring had arrived, Maguire said.

Peace admits when he thought Maguire had called backup, he got extremely upset. Maguire wrote in his report that Peace swore at them and moved toward them “as if he were going to assault me.”

That’s when Maguire and Spring handcuffed Peace and put him under arrest.

Maguire expresses frustration multiple times in his police report, saying Peace didn’t give him a chance to explain the situation, refused to answer questions and talked back continually after he was placed in handcuffs.

Maguire had his body camera on during the incident.

Peace said his night in jail was frustrating. While dealing with the aftermath of his first panic attack, none of his calls to friends went through, and he worried about catching COVID.

At his first court appearance the next day, Peace was released on his own recognizance. Not long after, Meidl had forwarded the email to multiple city council members, and the chair of the Human Rights Commission, Lance Kissler, also received a copy.

The aftermath

Shortly after his release, Peace received a call from Logue, who informed Peace that leadership at the police department had filed a complaint against Maguire and that his charge would likely be dropped.

A few days later, Logue, Peace and Meidl met for lunch.

Peace said he felt like the arrest and him spending a night in jail only happened because Maguire knew who Peace was. Maguire searched Peace, who said he had his business cards that indicate he is a human rights commissioner in his wallet.

“I directly do feel I was targeted because of my role as a police accountability activist and as a human rights commissioner,” Peace said.

While he admits to jaywalking, Peace said it’s rare to arrest someone for the misdemeanor, and often officers just write a citation.

However, Peace said he has been pleased with how the police department, specifically Meidl, responded after their lunch.

Meidl was unavailable for an interview for this story, according to police spokesperson Julie Humphreys.

Assistant Chief Justin Lundgren wrote in an email that after Meidl learned of the incident, he “had questions about what led to the arrest of Mr. Peace and the appropriateness of the Pedestrian Interference charge under the circumstances.”

Peace agreed to mediation with Maguire through the ombudsman’s office, his second time entering mediation with a Spokane Police Officer. In January 2020, police thought Peace, who was on his break from the car wash where he worked at the time, was a suspect who allegedly held his estranged wife against her will with a machete for more than a day. Police were really looking for Vincent Gardner, a 49-year-old white man.

While police eventually let Peace go, Officer Chris Johnson complained about Peace to his boss. Johnson and Peace entered mediation a short time later.

A positive sign of police accountability

Logue said Meidl directing an investigation into the incident is a positive sign.

“That’s the accountability that people, I think, want and expect from their police department,” Logue said.

The police department also thought mediation was a good fit.

“Many complaints stem from a lack of understanding between a community member and an officer. Mediation offers an opportunity for two people to sit down in a neutral environment and discuss what happened from their own unique perspectives,” Lundgren wrote in an email. “The clear advantage to mediation is the insight that each gains into how they were perceived by the other. The goal isn’t to necessarily reach consensus, but to provide an opportunity for mutual understanding to occur between those involved.”

Peace said his mediation session on June 10 with Maguire cleared things up but also made Peace feel as though mediation with Spring could have been more effective, noting Spring didn’t have his body camera on and was supposed to be off duty after working a long shift. Both Maguire and Spring declined to be interviewed for this story.

Peace said that while he now knows Maguire didn’t call for backup, in the moment he felt like the officer escalated the situation.

“Number one, the officer maintained that he was not trying to arrest me that night,” Peace said.

Peace did not mention Maguire by name, per an agreement with the officer to only speak about the incident in general terms.

When Peace asked Maguire why he booked him into jail rather than just writing him a citation, Maguire said the arrest was due to officer safety concerns, according to Peace.

While Peace acknowledged the two men didn’t come out of the meeting in complete agreement, he felt respected and heard. Maguire offered multiple times to have a casual coffee with Peace one on one, an invitation Peace said he plans to accept.

Peace said he felt “honored as a human being to be able to sit down with another human being who I had conflict with and attempt to see eye to eye together.”

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