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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bonner County man arrested, again, after refusing to leave commissioner meeting

SANDPOINT – Dave Bowman, a man who has been banned from meetings of the Bonner County Board of Commissioners, was arrested again Tuesday after refusing to leave another commissioner meeting.

Luke Omodt, chair of the county commissioners, trespassed Bowman and Rick Cramer on Jan. 26 for alleged threats Bowman made in emails and previous meeting disruptions by Cramer.

At that meeting, Omodt performed a citizen’s arrest of the two men with the assistance of the Sandpoint Police Department. The men were not charged with a crime.

This time, Bowman was booked at Bonner County Jail and bonded out.

County Prosecutor Louis Marshall said in an email he has received a probable cause affidavit, and another prosecutor outside his office is reviewing the case to determine if charges should be brought.

After the first arrest, Marshall and Sheriff Darryl Wheeler said in a joint statement there was no probable cause affidavit, there had been no vote by the board to make the trespass and Omodt was acting in his individual capacity when he made the citizen’s arrest.

Marshall said in a Jan. 31 email to the county commissioners that he made the decision to release Bowman and Cramer without booking them because there was no warrant or probable cause affidavit at the time.

On Tuesday, Omodt called for a vote by the board to have Bowman trespassed.

Cramer did not attend Tuesday’s meeting in person, but he tuned in online via Zoom.

Before the commissioner meeting, Bowman sat through an hourlong “commissioner chat” hosted by Commissioner Asia Williams with Marshall as a guest speaker.

After that meeting ended, but before the regular business meeting started, Omodt approached Bowman and asked him to leave, reminding him of his trespass order.

“I have broken no laws,” Bowman told him. “I am here peacefully at a public meeting in a public space.”

Omodt left the room to call the Sandpoint Police Department.

For the next 15 minutes, Bowman sat quietly while some people in attendance stopped by to shake his hand or give words of encouragement.

One man offered to donate to his legal defense fund.

Four Sandpoint police officers arrived and waited in the lobby while Omodt started the meeting.

After a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, Omodt moved to amend the agenda to vote on trespassing Bowman.

Williams objected, saying the county does not have a clear rule for handling trespasses, so the county risks trespassing him unlawfully.

“It’s a ridiculous misuse of power,” she said. “It is a ridiculous misuse of county funds to trespass someone just because you don’t like them.”

“State law is very clear,” Omodt said. “Bonner County is a political subdivision of the State of Idaho. Trespass is a criminal offense. The safety of our employees, as I stated last week here, is an absolute priority. The safety of every member of the public who attends is an absolute priority.”

Williams asked the board’s legal counsel, Bill Wilson, to share his opinion – but Omodt would not recognize him.

Wilson had previously given the commissioners his opinion on a recent City of Sandpoint ordinance Omodt would like to adapt for the county that would clarify the trespass process. In an interview, Omodt said he can’t release the confidential opinion without a vote of the board, but the gist of it is that while the policy is legal, it would be inadvisable because Wilson worries about “ratcheting up tensions” at board meetings.

“To me, they are already ratcheted up,” Omodt said.

Omodt asked for a roll call vote while Williams continued to object. Williams did not vote, and the motion to trespass Bowman passed 2-0.

At that point, Omodt called the meeting into recess, left the room and signed citizen’s arrest paperwork.

A police officer entered the room and asked Bowman to step into the lobby. A crowd followed him out, where the officer told Bowman he was free to remain, but if he returned to the meeting room, he would be subject to arrest.

Williams chimed in and asked the officer, “If I am a commissioner and I ask him to stay, how does that not overrule what you are trying to do?”

After some back and forth, Bowman decided to return to the room and sat down again.

Omodt informed Bowman he was placing him under citizen’s arrest.

Bowman left peacefully with the officers to the parking lot, where he removed his personal effects, including a handgun on his belt.

The police did not handcuff him and sat him in the front passenger seat of a police cruiser.

Omodt said Tuesday’s trespass vote not only bans Bowman from county meetings but also from the county office building for one year.

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.