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

Spokane City Council votes to pay more to defend against fatal officer-involved shooting lawsuit

UPDATED: Tue., April 19, 2022

Spokane City Hall.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Spokane City Hall. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The Spokane City Council moved Monday to authorize more money to defend against a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from the police killing of David Novak in 2019.

Councilmembers voted unanimously Monday to allocate an additional $125,000 for the city’s contract with the Seattle-based law firm of Keating Bucklin & McCormack, Inc. The amendment increases the total contract amount to $374,500, according to city documents.

The case stems from Novak’s death in January 2019. Novak, who was 35, was shot and killed by Spokane police Officer Brandon Rankin when police mistook the sounds of him banging a baseball bat against a car as gunshots. Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell justified Rankin’s use of deadly force following a police investigation.

Keating Bucklin & McCormack, Inc. was first retained by the city in September 2019, according to the City Council resolution.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed in January 2021 in Spokane County Superior Court with accusations of negligence in various forms. In the initial filing last year, the city was named as a defendant along with Rankin, police Chief Craig Meidl, former Mayor David Condon, Spokane County and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

“The City Attorney’s Office is not staffed with a full litigation department,” said city spokesman Brian Coddington, “so they commonly retain outside counsel for cases that have some complexity to them or require a level of expertise – in this case, related to a public safety concern.”

Councilmembers voted Monday without comment.

Local police accountability activist Anwar Peace criticized the contract amendment during a public comment period Monday, calling for the city to seek a settlement. Coddington said he could not comment on the city’s legal strategy.

“This city needs to do the right thing and not pay any more private attorneys and settle this case with this family because this family deserves justice,” Peace said.

The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in mid-June.

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