Body camera footage of the two police shootings involving Spokane officers in this year show both suspects fired their guns shortly after being confronted by police.
The Spokane Police Department released footage of the two incidents thus far in 2021 where officers fired their weapons and detailed the cases at a news conference Tuesday.
Shawn McCoy, who had been a suspect in a pending homicide investigation, was shot and killed Jan. 5 by six Spokane Police officers after a traffic stop.
Vadim Grishchuk, 38, died by suicide outside of the Cannon Street Shelter on April 17. Police believed Grishchuk was shooting at them and Officer Brandon Roy returned fire. An investigation determined Grishchuk shot himself.
In both incidents, the Spokane Independent Investigative Response Team investigated the use of deadly force. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office was the lead agency on both cases.
All three investigations were then turned over to Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Haskell for review. Haskell found the officers were justified in using deadly force in each incident.
The Spokane County prosecutor’s office has not found issue with any deadly use of force in the county in the last 21 years. Last year, there were eight police shootings in Spokane County.
After the prosecutor clears the officers, the Spokane Police Department routinely releases the body camera footage in what it says is an effort to be transparent with the community.
Here’s a look at what happened leading up to both incidents.
Suspect stop gone wrong
In late December, Joseph “Sabastian” Buskirk, 41, was shot and killed outside of his home on South Madelia Street near East Sprague Avenue.
Buskirk and McCoy had an ongoing feud over the fact that Buskirk shot one of McCoy’s friends in self-defense years prior.
Police believe that McCoy killed Buskirk in revenge.
That’s why, on Jan. 5, police were following McCoy. Investigators say they learned that McCoy was preparing for a confrontation with police. The department issued an officer safety bulletin containing McCoy’s photo and information on him, including the fact that he had 13 prior felonies.
When McCoy left his house alone in his car, officers followed him for about 30 minutes. All the while, McCoy attempted to detect whether police were surveilling him.
He tried to pass the undercover police car in front of him, and police boxed him in near Queen Avenue and Ash Street.
On the body camera footage, officers can be seen getting out of their cars, taking cover behind their doors.
McCoy stayed in the car for about 30 seconds before he opened his driver side door and fired at police.
Six officers – Sgt. Brent Austin, Cpl. Anthony Guzzo, Officer Kyle Heuett, Officer Winston Brooks, Officer Brandon Lynch and Officer Brandon Fabian – fired back.
Those officers fired 29 rounds, hitting McCoy at least seven times.
Moments after the burst of gunfire, Austin told another officer “That went right above my head,” in reference to a bullet from McCoy’s gun.
Another officer said “We’re all good.” Multiple officers yelled they could see McCoy’s feet and the gun lying on the ground, but not his hands.
Austin and Heuett checked with each other to make sure they have their body cameras on, both affirming they did.
Unable to get a response from McCoy, officers sent a police dog into the car to pull him out. In the process, the dog pulled the shoe off McCoy’s prosthetic leg.
Once McCoy was in view, officers swarmed, providing first aid. McCoy was later declared dead by medical personnel.
The ensuing investigation found McCoy fired at least one shot at officers. Ballistics matched the gun used to shoot at police to the gun used to kill Buskirk.
In August, the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file criminal charges against any of the officers who fired their weapons.
In the early morning hours of April 17, a car owner reported they had found a prowler, Grishchuk, in their vehicle. Police responded, but the car owner didn’t want to press charges, so officers dropped Grishchuk off at the Cannon Street Shelter.
A shelter employee called 911 an hour later to report that Grishchuk was in his car armed with his handgun.
Officers Brandon Roy and Connor Tangeman responded.
As the officers got out of their patrol car, Tangeman said, “Spokane Police,” then, “He’s got a gun.”
Then Grishchuk fired the gun in his car. The bullet traveling left to right exited the vehicle in the officer’s direction.
Roy fired his weapon four times in response, while Tangeman ducked for cover, as seen on the body camera footage. None of Roy’s shots hit Grishchuk.
The pair ducked behind the back of the patrol car as Roy told dispatch “shots fired,” then that the officers were OK and the suspect is down.
Other officers arrived a short time later, but it was a full 12 minutes before officers advanced toward the vehicle to evaluate Grishchuk, who wasn’t visible from the officers’ position.
At the news conference Tuesday, Capt. Tom Hendrin said the delay was due to a “tactical challenge” of safely approaching the vehicle without knowing Grishchuk’s status.
Grishchuk was pronounced dead on scene. The Spokane County Medical Examiner later ruled his death a suicide.
During the course of the investigation, the car owner told deputies that Grishchuk had pulled the trigger with the gun pointed at him, but the car owner kept his gun loaded without a round chambered so a bullet didn’t fire.
The Spokane County Prosecutor declined to press charges against Roy last month.
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.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.