Thompson now in Seattle federal detention

Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. is photographed following the March 18, 2006, confrontation with Otto Zehm. Thompson, according to court testimony, is holding Zehm’s paycheck that Zehm at some point had in his hand. This was one of many photos provided to the jury.

November 16, 2012 11:04 a.m. - Updated: 9:59 p.m.

Former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. is in a federal detention center in Seattle, at least temporarily.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons doesn’t yet have Thompson in its online roster of inmates, but an official at the Federal Detention Center SeaTac confirmed that Thompson had arrived there following his sentencing in Spokane Thursday.

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle sentenced Thompson to 51 months in prison for using excessive force and lying to investigators to cover up a violent confrontation with Otto Zehm. Zehm, a mentally delayed janitor, died two days after Thompson and other officers beat him with a baton and shocked him multiple times with a Taser on March 18, 2006.

It’s likely that Thompson will serve most of the sentence, U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby said Friday.

Just like the state prison system, Thompson will be able to accrue a certain number of days off his sentence for “good time.”

“You have to provide some incentive,” Ormsby said. “If Mr. Thompson qualifies, he won’t actually serve four years and three months. It could be four years and a month.”

But unlike the state system, Thompson will not be given parole or early release, Ormsby said.

Another federal official, who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity, said the SeaTac detention center serves mostly as a holding facility until officials from the Bureau of Prisons decide where Thompson will go.

The medium-security Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Ore., 90 minutes south of Portland, “is an option,” the source said. “But there are many factors they must look at.”

Among those factors are the seriousness of the crime, the threat Thompson may pose other inmates, the threats other inmates may pose Thompson or whether he requires special treatment for medical conditions.

“All those things are factored in,” the source said. “It could come down to vacancies — where they have beds. I doubt anybody knows where he will end up.”


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