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Spokane Police body cameras demonstrated for media

Sept. 16, 2014 2:29 p.m. - Updated: 2:55 p.m.

The Spokane Police Department ran several members of the media through its VirTra virtual training system Friday to demonstrate the fidelity of its chest-mounted cameras currently in use by 17 officers in a pilot program.

The video below was captured by a camera worn by this reporter while completing one of several use-of-force training scenarios at the Spokane police training facility.

In the clip, four teenagers are playing with airsoft weapons when a fifth approaches, armed with a real gun, and fires on officers. The scenario is interactive and responds to voice commands from the participant.

Training instructors used the video to illustrate the imperfections of the technology.

“What these video cameras are recording, and what you're going to see, is still not what the officer sees, and what he feels, and what he hears, and what he's experiencing while he's at the scene,” Lt. Kevin King said to assembled media Friday. “It's very different.”

Police said they've stitched pockets into their jumpsuits to keep the cameras steady during lateral movement.

The body cameras are always filming. When they are switched on, 30 seconds of video prior to the camera's activation is recorded. Sound capturing begins immediately after the camera is turned on. Once the camera is on, it beeps every two minutes to alert the officer filming is taking place.

Sound begins 30 seconds into the above video. Technical issues delay the beginning of the training video, which starts around 2:20.

It should be noted: YouTube asked if I wanted to stabilize the video before uploading it because it's shaky.

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Shannon Stiltner responds to Zags tickets complaint

Sept. 15, 2014 10:26 a.m. - Updated: 10:52 a.m.

The girlfriend of convicted Ponzi scheme artist Greg Jeffreys said she's fulfilling court-ordered restitution and denied victimizing anyone in a response filed in federal court over the weekend.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for Eastern Washington filed a motion last week after it came to light Shannon Stiltner, who spent seven months in federal prison after pleading guilty to misprision of a felony for her role in Jeffreys' scams, had received a cash gift of $2,700 from her mother that she used to buy Gonzaga men's basketball tickets for the upcoming season. U.S. Assistant Attorney Sean McLaughlin called the purchase “a slap in the face” to the two named victims in court documents owed a little more than $58,000 in restitution.

In rebuttal, Stiltner's attorney John B. McEntire IV called the motion, which would require all cash gifts received by Stiltner to be given to the debtors until they've been repaid in full, “awfully aggressive.”

“Before receiving the $2,700 cash gift from her mother for the Gonzaga tickets, Ms. Stiltner contacted her supervising probation officer to explain the situation and seek advice. Ms. Stiltner’s supervising probation officer “staffed” the issue with her supervisor, who ultimately concluded that so long as Ms. Stiltner contributed 10% of this one-time cash gift ($270) towards her restitution obligation, then she would be fully compliant with the Court’s restitution order. “

- John B. McEntire IV
Response to United States' motion

McEntire said that Stiltner paid $270 of her own money in order to receive the cash gift and pay for the Zags tickets.

In support of the motion, McEntire writes that Stiltner is making restitution payments to victims of Jeffreys' scams, not her own. When pleading guilty to charges, Stiltner admitted only that she knowingly kept herself from learning that Jeffreys was involved in fraud, not that she actively participated in his schemes.

“Nowhere did Ms. Stiltner ever admit knowing that Mr. Jeffreys was engaged in a scheme to defraud investors – because she did not,” McEntire wrote.

Stiltner also argues that the government's request is not feasible, because it would require cash gifts of any amount to be turned over to the two named victims.

“Or let’s say, as another example, that Ms. Stiltner forgets her wallet and her friend offers to buy her lunch,” McEntire wrote. “Under these circumstances, Ms. Stiltner could not accept the $8 or $11-dollar gift for lunch.”

U.S. District Judge Rosanna M. Peterson will decide whether Stiltner's restitution order should be changed. No oral argument has been scheduled, and Peterson could rule as early as this week.

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Felon chucks allegedly stolen firearm in chase

Sept. 9, 2014 6 p.m.

A 26-year-old Spokane man with multiple felony convictions tossed a .45 handgun believed to have been stolen during a chase through a residential neighborhood Friday, according to court documents filed this week.

Joshua V. Fowler was booked into Spokane County Jail just after 4:30 p.m. Friday facing charges of attempting to elude police and unlawful possession of a firearm. A Spokane police officer, who said he recognized Fowler from multiple interactions, attempted to pull the 26-year-old over on suspicions he was driving with a suspended license.

“(Fowler) is as familiar with me and my Police Impala as I am with him,” the officer wrote in his report.

Fowler fled, according to the officer's statement, leading him on a car chase through an apartment complex parking lot, reaching speeds of 45 miles per hour. Fowler eventually left the car and reached for his waist, according to court documents. He was arrested nearby without incident.

The officer found the handgun and some ammunition in a bush nearby. The gun is believed to have been stolen in a residential burglary, according to court documents.

Fowler has three forgery convictions and a conviction for eluding police. Spokane Superior Court Judge Linda Tompkins set his bail at $5,000 on Monday. He remains in custody.

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Spokane man arrested for defecating on Kennewick sidewalk

Sept. 9, 2014 1:53 p.m. - Updated: 2:04 p.m.

A 71-year-old homeless man from Spokane was arrested in Kennewick this weekend for defecating on a public sidewalk.

The man, who is not named in a report from The Tri-City Herald, reportedly told the arresting officer, “When you have to go, you have to go.”

The man was waiting for a bus on the west side of town around 11:30 a.m. when he decided to drop trou, according to the Herald. Several witnesses were present, and the man was taken into custody without incident.

Donovan Simons Jr., 71, was booked into the Benton County Jail for what is described as a “municipal code violation” shortly after 12:30 p.m. Sunday, according to jail records. Simons has criminal history in Spokane County and appeared in Benton County District Court on Monday, according to state court records. He was ordered held on $1,000 bond.

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CdA police looking for person with purloined pills

Sept. 5, 2014 2:12 p.m. - Updated: 2:18 p.m.

Coeur d’Alene police are looking for a thief who stole a bottle of prescription pills sometime late Tuesday by cutting a hole in a screen window and swiping them from the sill.

The owner of the home in the 1500 block of Sixth Street called police after 8 p.m. Tuesday to report the theft. Authorities believe the thief walked up to a south-facing window that was cracked and cut a hole in the screen with a knife or other sharp object, then took the bottle of pills that is valued at $20. Police did not say what type of pills were taken, though the thief selected a specific brand of medicine and left other prescriptions on the sill alone.

The case is being investigated as a felony residential burglary. No arrests have been made.

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Spokane police chief receives another complaint

Sept. 2, 2014 3:05 p.m. - Updated: 3:54 p.m.

On the heels of last week's complaint against Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub for misrepresentation, Brian Breen, a retired police officer and frequent commenter on Spokesman-Review stories, has filed a complaint against the chief for providing “false information to members of the City Council … during a budget presentation.”

At issue is the number of domestic violence calls Spokane police get a year. At a budget meeting last month, Straub said the department gets an average of 8,000 calls per year, as we reported. Spokane's Journal of Business reported a similar number in an article, which read, “Straub says for the past five years, SPD has responded to about 8,000 domestic violence calls per year.”

Breen's issue with these statements is that they are far higher than what the police department has reported to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. Over the past five years, those annual numbers range from 2,988 domestic violence reports to 3,823 a year.

“There are two things that become blatantly obvious when reviewing the data SPD has submitted to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) in 2009 through 2013, either the statements made by Mr. Straub to those in attendance at a very important budget meeting were false, or the Spokane Police Department has not been following State Law,” Breen wrote in his complaint.

Complaints against the police chief submitted to the Police Ombudsman are forwarded to the mayor and city administrator.

Read an excerpt below:

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First Stevens Co. pot shop opens its doors

Aug. 29, 2014 2:10 p.m. - Updated: 2:53 p.m.

The first retail marijuana store in Stevens County has opened its doors for business, though employees say they're suffering from the same lack of product that has plagued other stores in the region.

Savage THC in Clayton, Washington, opened last week and is keeping regular hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, said store employee Cameron Duncan on Friday. The store is the first of six potential pot shops in the county, registered with the Liquor Control Board, to receive a license and open for business.

Duncan said the store is currently carrying strains from Farmer J's, a grower in Spokane Valley that has done business with Spokane's first recreational marijuana store, Spokane Green Leaf.

“We're working on a couple more local strains,” Duncan said. “Down the road, we should be carrying some different stuff.”

The store sells loose marijuana, rolled joints, pipes and other smoking paraphernalia, Duncan said. Prices remain at levels higher than the store would like because of supply issues, Duncan said, but the store hopes costs to consumers will fall as the market stabilizes.

The other five potential pot shops in Stevens County are listed below. They are all located in Colville, and applications are pending with the Liquor Control Board, according to public records.

CARDIAC SOLUTIONS NORTHWEST 415285 176 PONDEROSA RD   COLVILLE WA STEVENS 991142003
COLVILLE SMOKES 414681 672 S MAIN ST   COLVILLE WA STEVENS 991142506
HERBAL E SCENTS 414902 545 C HWY 395 S   COLVILLE WA STEVENS 99114
SECRET HERB SHOP 413995 272 N LINCOLN ST   COLVILLE WA STEVENS 991142340
SUPER EXPRESSIONS 415989 1040 N HWY   COLVILLE WA STEVENS 991142032

 

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WSU professor, Spokane Police featured in CNN segment on crisis intervention research

Aug. 28, 2014 10:55 a.m. - Updated: 10:55 a.m.

A Washington State University professor of criminal justice and the Spokane Police Department have been featured on CNN for their collaboration on research into the physical and emotional responses of law enforcement in crisis situations.

As part of its “AC360” program hosted by Anderson Cooper, reporter Gary Tuchman visited a police confrontations lab run by students at WSU Spokane. Volunteers, including members of the Spokane Police Department, are placed in a virtual reality situation involving dramatizations of real-life confrontations, and their heart rate, brain waves and other vital signs are monitored as they make decisions about use of force.

You can watch the segment in its entirety below:



Professor Bryan Vila says the experiments are designed to determine the effect of training on decisions to use force in real-time.

“We still don't know if there's a connection between the training we give police officers and their performance in a combat situation,” Vila says in the clip.

The CNN report was filed as part of its coverage into the shooting death of an unarmed teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Spokane police highlight their involvement in the project as part of their ongoing efforts to train officers in crisis intervention, part of a settlement reached with the department in the wake of the death of Otto Zehm at the hands of former Spokane police officer Karl Thompson in 2006. Police have also turned to the classroom to practice and evaluate their techniques of crisis de-escalation.

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Death row inmate Woods receives another look at case

Aug. 26, 2014 12:08 p.m. - Updated: Aug. 28, 8:10 a.m.

A man sentenced to death for his role in the brutal slaying of two women in a Spokane Valley trailer in 1996 has won another look at his case from a federal appeals court, though at least one judge said it's unlikely that review will change his fate.

Dwayne Anthony Woods is being held at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla following his 1997 conviction on two counts of first-degree aggravated murder in the bludgeoning deaths of Telisha Shaver and Jade Moore, along with raping Moore. A jury, made up of nine women and three men, sentenced Woods to death after two days of deliberations.

During the penalty phase of the trial, Woods told his attorneys not to offer evidence of mitigating circumstances that could have prevented him from receiving a capital sentence. After prosecutors made their case, Woods told the jury he did not object to his own execution, according to court documents.

“So I ask that each of you go back and return a vote to impose the death penalty,” Woods said in court, according to transcripts. “Thank you.”

To read the rest of this item, go inside the blog.

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Ex-Center for Justice spokesman files complaint against police chief

Aug. 25, 2014 4:49 p.m. - Updated: Aug. 26, 9:25 a.m.

Tim Connor, a longtime independent law enforcement watchdog and former spokesman for the Center for Justice, filed a complaint with the police ombudsman today against Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub for misrepresentation.

According to Connor's complaint, the chief said at a public City Council meeting in March that the Center for Justice was working with the police department in developing procedures and policies for the use of body cameras on officers. Connor, who left the Center in late 2013, said this is not true.

“Because the Chief either knew, or should have known, that these statements were untrue he either misrepresented the facts or was negligent in his misrepresentations,” Connor wrote in the complaint.

Rick Eichstaedt, the Center's chief executive director, said earlier today the Center is not involved in the complaint, even if he agreed that his group wasn't involved in development of body camera policies when Straub said they were. The police department will begin a pilot implementation of the cameras next week.

Read an excerpt from the complaint below:

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