For years, friends and fellow law enforcement officers raised red flags about what they deemed inappropriate and perhaps violent behavior of former Spokane police Officer Nathan Nash.
But it wasn’t until he was accused 18 months ago of sexually assaulting a domestic violence victim that he was fired from the police department.
His case has since been swept into a slow-moving court system affected by the pandemic, and last week his trial was postponed again.
Asking for help but getting hurt
According to records obtained by The Spokesman-Review, Nash thought a woman who called 9-1-1 in October 2019 to report that her boyfriend choked her during an argument and stole her car was the assailant, despite extensive evidence to the contrary, according to investigative documents.
That was after Nash examined faint marks on the victim’s neck and was told she had vomited, a symptom of being choked.
Nash also asked why the ex-boyfriend didn’t call the police if he was being assaulted.
“What would the motivation be for you to not give us a call?” Nash asked, according to a transcript of body-worn camera footage.
It is unclear whether Nash did a quick background check of the ex-boyfriend’s name during some two hours at the scene, but he “certainly” should have, a sheriff’s detective wrote. The check would have shown prior accusations of assaulting his mother, his 2-year-old child and two other children he cared for at BreakThrough, a treatment center that serves children who have needs preventing them from success in the foster care system.
Although choking is considered an alarming indicator of future homicidal violence, Nash said he considered making a dual arrest because the victim admitted to hitting and biting her ex-boyfriend. But he knew that practice was frowned upon by department supervisors.
Eight days later – after Nash said he had “almost completely forgotten about the call” – the domestic violence victim reported Nash had put his fingers inside her vagina while supposedly examining darkened bruising on her arms, hips and rear.
The woman told detectives Nash left her apartment without taking photos or notes.
Prior complaints abound
Investigative records claim this incident wasn’t the first time Nash’s handling of a domestic violence call was documented by supervisors for unusual or inappropriate behavior. It was his third within a year, with the first documented during his probationary field training period in October 2018.
In that case, a lieutenant counseled Nash and two other officers after they failed to interview a domestic violence victim following a fight outside of a bar. One of the other officers is now suspected of vehicular assault after crashing into a car at twice the speed limit while on duty.
Another lieutenant raised concerns about Nash not arresting a domestic violence suspect in possession of a significant amount of cocaine in June 2019, and giving the female victim his personal cell phone number, according to the sheriff’s office investigation.
That was one of the incidents underpinning the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office finding that Nash developed a “common practice” of giving out his personal phone number to crime victims.
After Nash’s arrest on rape charges was reported, two other women came forward to report inappropriate interactions with Nash: a police department volunteer and another domestic violence victim who said she stayed in contact with Nash to get information about her case.
Personal accusations hastily investigated
Months before either of those alleged interactions, Nash was investigated by Spokane police Internal Affairs for spousal abuse.
Investigators determined the allegation from a 2017 incident in Tri-Cities was unfounded after interviewing Nash and his wife separately, according to Internal Affairs records.
However, the woman who lodged that complaint, Becky Bond, stood by her account in an interview with The Spokesman-Review. She said Spokane police never contacted her with the results of the investigation.
In a court hearing to determine whether investigative records should be released before trial, Nash’s attorney, Rocky Treppiedi, dismissed the allegation as hearsay.
The account of the alleged abuse came from Bond, a former family friend from Nash’s time with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford Patrol, according to police documents.
“I had noticed that she had a mark on her arm and I had asked her what happened, and she said that her and her husband, Nathan, were going through a divorce and that he was leaving her,” Bond told a Spokane police Internal Affairs sergeant. Nash’s wife would not say what happened but “you could tell that she was crying and she was upset.”
Bond told The Spokesman-Review she was chatting with an acquaintance on the Hanford Patrol when he mentioned he had worked with Nash.
When the Hanford Patrol officer learned about the domestic violence allegation, he was concerned and asked a relative in the Spokane Police Department for guidance, according to police documents. That officer passed the information on to Internal Affairs.
The Hanford officer, who spoke to Spokane police on condition of anonymity, said others with the Hanford Patrol had issues with Nash and at least two had knowledge of his desire to sell his house without his wife’s knowledge.
Nash “immediately looked relieved” when he learned what the allegations were after being called into Internal Affairs, according to investigative documents. About 20 minutes after Nash’s interview, his wife also denied he’d ever hit her but said they had maybe had a “screaming match.”
Police officials spoke with Nash and his wife for fewer than 15 minutes combined and did not document whether they were allowed to communicate between interviews.
Bond stood by her account of the abuse during an interview with The Spokesman-Review, dismissing Nash and his wife’s speculation that unfriending her on Facebook or an argument about a hockey team’s performance motivated her to file a false report. She said she knew of at least one other occasion where Nash had allegedly abused his wife.
“It’s really sad,” Bond said. “It really is sad.”
Though the internal investigation found the accusation of domestic abuse baseless, details about extramarital affairs and separations shared by Bond with investigators appeared to be corroborated by text messages that Nash sent to a Spokane C.O.P.S. volunteer.
The volunteer said she had multiple uncomfortable interactions with Nash, including when the former officer touched her lower back in a way that appeared to shield his actions from the view of another officer nearby, according to investigative documents.
Nash wrote his personal phone number on a victim information card and slipped it under the volunteer’s elbow while she was typing later that day.
They exchanged nearly 400 messages – a number of them sexual in nature – for about two weeks, but she blocked him and reported their interactions after learning of the sexual assault accusation against him, according to investigative documents. The volunteer said she did not know Nash was married with children until he revealed he and his wife were separated but still living together.
One message from Nash said he would give her coffee or a “pat on the butt” to boost her mood, according to investigative documents. Other messages suggested he wanted to give her “a naked back rub.”
“I just say it, exactly what is on my mind, unless I’m on the body camera,” one message from Nash said. “If I am, then I always pretend the things I will say will later end up on Fox News or CNN.”
Despite all the documented incidents in Nash’s professional conduct and personal life, he was never put on leave and continued to respond to domestic violence calls.
Nash’s trial is scheduled for Aug. 30.
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