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Otto Zehm’s death in 2006 polarized the community and sparked calls for reform. The complex legal battle over his death that followed has brought criticism of Spokane city leaders’ handling of the case and even morale problems within police ranks. Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr.’s criminal trial is set to begin Wednesday. “The trust will come back when this case finally gets tried,” said veteran legal observer Tim Trageser, a local defense attorney. “We as citizens have to accept what those 12 jurors decide.”
A federal judge will hold another hearing this morning after attorneys objected to moving the upcoming criminal trial of Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. to Yakima. U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle said he would hold a 10 a.m. video conference after Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin and an attorney representing the family of the victim raised concerns both about logistics and the family’s ability to attend a trial some 200 miles away.
A Spokane police detective has filed a formal complaint asking the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to investigate allegations that Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and city attorneys have engaged in felony witness tampering. Detective Jay Mehring filed the complaint with the sheriff’s office Sunday, alleging that the city refused to renew a contract with the department’s longtime psychologist after she gave an opinion favorable to Mehring as part of his $3.5 million civil suit against the city. That suit alleges he was wrongfully terminated in 2007 amid reports that he threatened to harm his wife.
The case against former Spokane police Detective Jeff Harvey has essentially been dropped after a jury deadlocked Wednesday on an obstruction charge and the prosecutor said he won’t pursue a second trial. Verdicts require unanimous decisions and the jury split 5-to-1 in favor of acquittal. Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Brian O’Brien said the case is over.
The obstruction of justice trial began Monday against embattled former Spokane police detective Jeff Harvey. Harvey was fired this year after being charged with a gross misdemeanor following a confrontation with a state Department of Fish and Wildlife police officer who responded on Jan. 22 to a report of boys shooting after hunting hours on private land north of Spokane. Harvey, who was off-duty at the time, is accused of hindering the investigation, which involved his sons.
The Spokane Police Department’s top two officers are on their way out, leaving city officials to find new leadership as they struggle with the continuing legal fallout surrounding the death of Otto Zehm. Assistant Chief Jim Nicks announced Tuesday his upcoming retirement will coincide with the previously announced departure of Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.
Fired Spokane Police detective Jeff Harvey and his attorney filed a $10 million claim against the city Friday, calling his termination earlier in the week a retaliation for Harvey’s work as the vice president of the Spokane Police Guild. “I’m flabbergasted at how brazenly this particular chief is ignoring the rights of employees who work for her,” Harvey’s attorney, Bob Dunn, said. “She doesn’t believe in due process, which is absolutely amazing to me because she is supposedly a lawyer.”The city placed Harvey on paid leave in February, after a Jan. 22 incident in which Fish and Wildlife Officer Dave Spurbeck said he had to physically move Harvey away from his vehicle as Harvey tried to prevent Spurbeck from questioning youths regarding a report of shooting after hours.
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner has ordered the hiring of new police officers to fill vacant positions within the department, and is urging expansion of the force to accommodate the city's growth and aggressive annexation on the West Plains.
The Spokane Police Department announced Thursday that it is still seeking potential witnesses who may have seen or heard the encounter on Aug. 25 when Deputy Brian Hirzel shot and killed Pastor Wayne Scott Creach in Spokane Valley.
A second Spokane police officer has received a letter indicating that federal prosecutors intend to seek further charges in connection with the Otto Zehm investigation. Spokane attorney Rob Cossey said he represents three or four officers as a federal grand jury continues to gather information in the case. He confirmed that one of his clients has received what’s known as a target letter, which essentially informs the person that federal officials intend to charge him or her with a crime.
A Spokane police sergeant fired after a drunken hit and run crash filed a $4 million claim against the city of Spokane Wednesday, claiming he was wrongfully fired because he’s an alcoholic.