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

Police officers who fired at 35-year-old man in downtown Spokane identified

Spokane police identified its two officers who shot at a 35-year-old man threatening people with a knife Monday in downtown Spokane.

Officers Lee Barker, 37, and Seth Wolfe, 29, fired their weapons after investigators say Oscar Venegas advanced toward officers with a knife.

Venegas died from his injuries.

A Washington State Department of Corrections officer reported he was on the phone talking to Venegas, who was suicidal, shortly after noon in the area of Riverside Avenue and Post Street, according to a Spokane Independent Investigative Response Team news release.

The officer said Venegas sounded intoxicated or impaired and was threatening to kill himself or stab other people in the area, the release said.

Interim Spokane Police Chief Justin Lundgren said Venegas held the knife up to someone’s throat and tried to hurt another bystander.

A video from a witness shows Venegas with what appears to be a phone in one hand and a knife in the other walking toward a man on a sidewalk. The man is walking backward, away from Venegas, asking him to drop the knife. Four Spokane police officers then run into view yelling for Venegas to get on the ground and drop his weapon.

Officers learned Venegas made suicidal statements, including having law enforcement shoot him, in the past, according to the release.

Officers contacted Venegas in the 100 block of North Howard Street. Store security and other law enforcement personnel were also in the immediate area.

The release said officers told Venegas to stop and drop the knife. Venegas eventually complied, dropping the knife and his cellphone to the ground.

The officers gave additional commands, but Venegas did not comply, investigators say.

Venegas bent down, retrieved the knife and took steps toward the officers. Several attempts with stun guns were ineffective as Venegas continued to move toward officers, the release said.

Barker and Wolfe, who were both hired by Spokane police in 2019, fired their weapons, striking Venegas, and he fell to the ground.

Venegas was taken to the hospital where he died.

Investigators recovered a folding razor blade utility knife near Venegas, according to the release.