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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

East Valley High teacher suspected of shooting at ex-wife while she was driving to work

An East Valley High School special education teacher is accused of shooting at his ex-wife’s car while she was driving to work last month near Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Benjamin Hill, 40, was charged on suspicion of first-degree assault while his ex-wife was uninjured in the incident, according to court documents.

Hill was placed on paid administrative leave because of the allegation and took a “personal day” off the day of the shooting, according to Brian Talbott, East Valley School District superintendent.

Joe Kuhlman, the defendant’s attorney, said his client was outside the area at the time of the shooting.

The ex-wife was driving around 6:30 a.m. May 18 south on Division Street, approaching Sixth Avenue, when she heard a “pop,” according to court documents. She told police she continued driving a block or two, thinking her tire was popped, and found a bullet lodged in the side of her driver’s side car door when she got to work.

Police retrieved bullet fragments from the car door and found a spent 9 mm shell casing at the northeast corner of Division Street and Sixth Avenue.

Three women who were parked at or near Division and Sixth reported hearing two shots and seeing a white heavy-set man with a dark hoodie get into a passenger seat of a dark car, possibly a Subaru Outback. The driver then drove east on Sixth Avenue, the witnesses said.

Two of the women reported the man was wearing blue latex gloves, and one of them estimated he was about 40, documents say. A Sacred Heart security guard also told police he heard two pops around that time.

The ex-wife told officers her house and vehicle had been shot at in recent months, and her vehicles’ tires had been flattened as well. She said one of her house windows was shot and her truck was shot on two occasions. All three incidents were reported to law enforcement, according to documents.

She also said air had recently been let out of her vehicles’ tires at home, church and work.

When police compared security footage, the clothing of the suspect who flattened her motorcycle and car tires on May 2 and 16 matched some of the clothes Hill was wearing on those dates at East Valley High School.

The ex-wife said she went through a bad divorce and believed her ex-husband could be retaliating, court records show. Kuhlman said he and his client refute those claims.

She told police she and Hill were married 20 years and have three children. She said Hill initiated the divorce, which was finalized more than a year ago, after meeting his now fiancée.

She said she and her ex-husband are not on good terms, but she will text him occasionally if needed, according to documents. The last time she texted him was the day before the shooting because she needed him to sign paperwork.

Recently, she talked to Hill about him being behind on child support payments and he became mad at her, she told police.

The school resource deputy at East Valley High School told police Hill drives a dark gray/bluish Subaru and he called out sick from work the day of the shooting.

Dispatch found that a gray 2013 Subaru Legacy was registered to someone, not Hill, who lives at the same Airway Heights address listed as Hill’s.

Detectives responded to Airway Heights and found the Legacy. A family member of Hill’s fiancée told police the couple left in a different car around 7 that morning for Hermiston, Oregon. The family member said the Legacy is hers and Hill drives a 2013 Subaru Outback that was parked on the street near the house. Dispatch discovered the Outback was not registered. 

Documents say the couple learned of the investigation and contacted police later that day at the Gardner Building in Spokane. The couple refused to answer questions and requested attorneys.

Detectives located three firearms in the Outback, including a 9 mm handgun, which was the same caliber as the spent casing found at the scene of the shooting, according to court records. They also found clothing, including blue latex gloves, in the car that was similar to the suspect’s clothing on the security footage.

Hill was arrested May 18 and booked into the Spokane County Jail. He has since posted bond, documents say.

Kuhlman said he is aware of other suspects that match the descriptions provided by witnesses, and that the evidence found in the Outback while Hill was out of town should raise questions for investigators.

He said his client has no criminal history and that he looks forward to trial, which is scheduled for Aug. 21 in Spokane County Superior Court.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on June 9, 2023, to correct the description of vehicles found in the investigation.