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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane City Council votes to approve $135,000 settlement with couple hit by patrol car in 2020

James and Lois Collins’ car after it was hit by police officer Michael Brunner. Brunner pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless driving.  (Claim for Damages filed with the City of Spokane)
By Emma Epperly and Emry Dinman The Spokesman-Review

A couple hit by a Spokane police officer going twice the speed limit in his patrol car will get a $135,000 settlement, after the City Council unanimously voted to approve the settlement Monday night.

The officer involved, Michael

Brunner, 31, may lose his peace officer certification as a result of the incident.

Brunner was driving 65 mph in a 30 mph zone seconds before he T-boned James and Lois Collins, who were driving to a doctor’s appointment in March 2020, according to a Washington State Patrol investigation of the crash.

The officer was heading back to the police department as his shift ended.

Brunner sped around a woman in the turn lane, according to a witness, crashing into the Collinses’ car in the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Lincoln Street.

The crash left James Collins, who was driving, with a broken collar bone and rib, along with bleeding in his right retina. Lois Collins had a cut on her head that required staples, according to WSP.

When other officers arrived to investigate the crash, they ticketed the Collinses for failing to yield. But after the WSP investigation, the couple’s ticket was dismissed and instead Brunner was charged with vehicular assault, a felony.

Brunner pleaded guilty to reckless driving in 2021 in exchange for reducing the charge to a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to a 364-day suspended jail term, which put him on unmonitored probation for a year.

An internal affairs investigation by the Spokane Police Department found Brunner violated three department policies. He was given a four-week unpaid suspension, said police spokeswoman Julie Humphreys.

Brunner has since returned to work at the police department where he currently works as a police officer, the department confirmed Monday.

As required by law, the department reported the incident to the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, which certifies all peace officers statewide.

On Sept. 19, the commission issued a statement of charges against Brunner, indicating they intend to suspend or revoke his certification.

Brunner then requested a hearing on the charges, where he can defend himself and the state must prove the allegations. A five-member panel will then make a final decision. If Brunner’s certification is revoked, he can no longer work as a police officer in Washington.

His hearing is set for April 25 and 26.

The Collinses filed a lawsuit against the city in April 2023 asking the city to cover their medical care and treatment, along with attorneys fees.