Thursday, January 17, 2008


Background: Mentally disabled janitor Otto Zehm died after a confrontation with police at a North Side Zip Trip store in March 2006.

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  • Audio clip (1:35):Deputy Mayor Jack Lynch on Don Pierce's departure from Boise police
  • Audio clip (2:48): Chief Nicks interview on May 30
  • Video clip 1 (1:05): Lo-band | Hi-band
  • Video clip 2 (24:02): Lo-band | Hi-band
  • Video clip 3 (11:00): Lo-band | Hi-band
    All videos require Quicktime

  • Video clip 4 (0:34)
    (Released 8/3/06)
    Quicktime | Windows Media


  • June 21, 2006: Letter from Assistant City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi
  • June 7, 2006: Letter from Center for Justice
  • June 1, 2006: SPD investigative report
  • April 11, 2006: Police review by Officer Robert Boothe
  • March 22, 2006: Police interview with Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr.
  • March 21, 2006: Report by Officer Erin Raleigh
  • March 20, 2006: Police interview with Officer Steve Braun
  • March 18, 2006: Report by Officer Ron Voeller

  • All documents require free Adobe reader

    12 months that were anything but dull

    12/31/2006 | The year 2006 was a time of comings and goings for the Inland Northwest, in academia, sports, law enforcement and politics.

    Year in review

    12/31/2006 | January
    1: Jonathan Wade Ellington runs over and kills Vonette Larson of Athol in an apparent case of road rage that involved chases and gunfire. He is later sentenced to a minimum of 12 years in prison.

    Doug Clark: Gregoire doles out pork in re-election down payment

    12/28/2006 |

    Unlike my willpower and work ethic, the news did not lapse into hibernation during my holiday hiatus.

    Guest opinion: Transparency tossed in waste director pick

    12/28/2006 |

    So ends another rocky year in Spokane. One event after another has shaken our faith in those who are elected or hired to serve and protect us.

    Our view: Holiday blessings

    12/25/2006 | On this holiday, in this space where readers normally find The Spokesman-Review's editorial viewpoint on events of the day, the staffers who craft those commentaries pause to share these more personal observations.

    Deputy chief quits Police Department

    12/20/2006 |

    Spokane Deputy Police Chief Al Odenthal, a 26-year veteran of the force, resigned Tuesday following behind-the-scenes negotiations over his future with the department.

    November 2006

    Doug Clark: Future Spokanites, look on our works and despair

    11/7/2006 | Spokane officials are asking for suggestions on items to cram in a time capsule so that the people of the future can crack it open in 25 years and have a good laugh about what a bunch of goons we all were.

    Doug Clark: Holes in the doughnuts only, please officer

    11/5/2006 | File this under the category of pigs fly and hell freezes over. I have been asked by the Spokane Police Department to attend a sit-down with Anne Kirkpatrick, the new chief.

    Man sues Spokane County over Tasering

    11/2/2006 | Spirit Creager, a 34-year-old single father and painter of custom homes, is suing Spokane County OVER a traffic stop where he was repeatedly Tasered.

    October 2006

    Enhanced Zehm video released

    10/21/2006 | The city of Spokane released the "enhanced" surveillance video Friday in the fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm.

    Our View: Trust in cops a must

    10/6/2006 | The good news is that the decision on whether to file criminal charges against police officers in the Otto Zehm case has been postponed. The bad news is that this is the good news.

    New evidence delays Zehm decision

    10/5/2006 | The FBI has found new evidence in the fatal struggle between mentally ill janitor Otto Zehm and seven Spokane police officers, prompting Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker to again delay a decision on possible charges.
    Related story: Review of Zehm probe on hold

    Review of Zehm probe on hold

    10/5/2006 | The independent review ordered by Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession of Otto Zehm's death will have to wait, too.

    No charges in Zehm death

    10/4/2006 | None of the seven Spokane police officers involved in the March 18 fatal confrontation with mentally-ill janitor Otto Zehm will be charged unless Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker gets new evidence from federal investigators.

    September 2006

    Use of mask restricted

    9/30/2006 | Spokane firefighters are under new orders to no longer use a so-called "anti-spitting" device like the one strapped to the face of Otto Zehm, who died two days after lapsing into unconsciousness during a March 18 convenience store struggle with police.

    Mask ruled out as cause of Zehm's death

    9/22/2006 | A plastic mask with a dime-size hole apparently did not cause Otto Zehm to stop breathing during his fatal March 18 confrontation with Spokane police officers, the medical examiner has ruled.

    August 2006

    Charges in Zehm case likely to wait

    8/29/2006 | Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker probably won't decide whether to charge Spokane police officers involved in the fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm until Anne Kirkpatrick takes over as police chief next month.

    Zehm held pop bottle

    8/4/2006 | The pop bottle has appeared. A video released Thursday shows Otto Zehm had a 2-liter plastic bottle in his hands as he lay on his back in the initial stages of the fatal March 18 confrontation with Spokane police.
    View the video

    Quicktime | Windows Media

    July 2006

    Otto Zehm: a life on the margins

    7/30/2006 | Before the release of the convenience store surveillance tape, before the federal investigation and the bold headlines, before the debate over a pop bottle and missing fingerprints, Otto Zehm liked to play his guitar.

    Expert quits police probes

    7/28/2006 | The outside investigation into the Spokane Police Department's controversial handling of two high-profile cases will be conducted by a law enforcement service group from Olympia and a Kentucky-based consulting firm.

    Zehm's prints not on bottle

    7/26/2006 | Otto Zehm's fingerprints are not on the plastic soda bottle that police say he used to threaten an officer during the fatal March 18 struggle inside a Spokane convenience store, Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker confirmed Tuesday.

    Our View: Life-saving research

    7/25/2006 | Spokane County Medical Examiner Sally Aiken ruled Otto Zehm's death to be a homicide. The technical cause was "hypoxic encephalopathy due to cardio pulmonary arrest while restrained in a prone position for excited delirium."

    The Home Planet: Watching tragedy unfold proves haunting

    7/24/2006 | When I was a child, a relative – a distant cousin, or great uncle or someone like that – was killed. He was electrocuted at work.

    Our View: Outside investigation of Zehm death is needed

    7/21/2006 | It was wise of Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession to call for an outside investigation into the case of Otto Zehm, who had a fatal encounter on March 18 with seven police officers.

    Detective's report finds force justified

    7/19/2006 | The lead detective investigating the fatal encounter between seven police officers and mentally ill janitor Otto Zehm concluded that the first officer on the scene was justified in striking Zehm with his police baton "to pre-empt an anticipated assault."

    Unfazed Sheriff's Office stands by investigation

    7/18/2006 | The Spokane County Sheriff's Office apparently couldn't provide the "independent" review that Mayor Dennis Hession now believes is necessary to oversee the investigation into the death of Otto Zehm.

    Timeline recounts statements by police officials in Zehm case

    7/18/2006 | A look at the statements Acting Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks and department spokesman Cpl. Tom Lee made to The Spokesman-Review regarding the March 18 encounter with 36-year-old Otto Zehm inside a Zip Trip at 1712 N. Division.

    Mayor looks outside

    7/18/2006 | Bowing to public pressure, Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession said Monday he will hire an outside expert to examine the Police Department's handling of two recent scandals that have sparked outrage and renewed calls for civilian oversight.

    In their words

    7/17/2006 | A selection of quotations from people in recent news stories, big and small

    Doug Clark: Acting chief failed to act responsibly

    7/16/2006 | I have no control over what happens once I turn in my column and it heads off to the press room. So there's a chance that by the time you read this, Jim Nicks has submitted his resignation, admitted he's a disgrace to his blues and skulked off, never to darken our Public Safety Building again.

    Our View: Police squandered public trust after Zehm's death

    7/16/2006 | Like a charge from a stun gun, the security video of Otto Zehm's fateful struggle with cops is a searing jolt to the credibility of the Spokane Police Department and anyone who had viewed it before it was finally released to the public.

    Zehm case déjÀ vu

    7/15/2006 | A mentally ill man ends up dead after being suddenly approached by Spokane police officers who wrestle him to the ground, apply handcuffs and leave him on his stomach for several minutes.

    Past Taser use recorded

    7/15/2006 | The Spokane police officers who used their stun guns three times in a fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm on March 18 have used their Tasers 10 other times since 2003, police records show.

    Chief still backs force

    7/15/2006 | Even though police have backed away from their earlier version of how the fatal struggle with a mentally ill janitor began, acting Chief Jim Nicks said Friday he still believes officers did nothing wrong.

    Video shows Zehm backed away

    7/14/2006 | Otto Zehm's life played out violently in a grainy convenience store surveillance video kept from the public for months. The city of Spokane released copies to the media on Thursday, a day after The Spokesman-Review threatened a lawsuit and after Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker agreed to its release.

    Transcript of 911 call on Zehm released

    7/14/2006 | Editor's note: The following is a transcript of a 911 call by a young-sounding woman who reported a suspicious man as she and a female friend used a drive-up ATM at Ruby and Indiana on March 18.

    Police were initially told Zehm had stolen money

    7/14/2006 | The following is a time-compressed account of the police radio traffic on the Otto Zehm response.

    Police admit inaccurate account of fatal beating

    7/14/2006 | Acting Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks acknowledged Thursday that he gave inaccurate information while trying to defend his officers' actions during a fatal struggle with Otto Zehm, the mentally disabled janitor beaten and hogtied by police four months ago.

    Video shows Zehm beating

    7/13/2006 | Video footage of the fatal March 18 confrontation between Spokane police and Otto Zehm shows the mentally disabled janitor retreated from a baton-wielding officer before being beaten, according to documents filed by lawyers representing the dead man's mother.

    May 2006

    Friends remember 'gentle lion'

    5/9/2006 | About two dozen friends and co-workers of Otto Zehm, who died after struggling with police March 18, remembered him Monday as a "gentle lion. "Spokane police say officers shocked the 35-year-old, mentally disabled janitor twice with a Taser stun gun and struck him with a nightstick when they attempted to question him and he resisted violently.

    April 2006

    Deaths raise Taser questions

    4/17/2006 | The cause of Otto Zehm's death is still being investigated. But because the mentally disabled janitor died after a scuffle with Spokane police, the city has been thrust into an international controversy over law enforcement use of Tasers, a gunlike electronic shock device.

    'Upset' chief blocks records

    4/15/2006 | The Spokane Police Department is withholding public records requested by The Spokesman-Review because acting Police Chief Jim Nicks is angry with the newspaper's recent coverage of two high-profile cases.

    FBI not studying Zehm case

    4/7/2006 | The FBI announced Thursday it erred this week when a spokeswoman disclosed that agents were looking into the death of Otto Zehm, who died following a March 18 scuffle with Spokane Police.

    Only two officers used Tasers on Zehm

    4/6/2006 | The Spokane Police Department for the first time Wednesday said that only two of seven responding police officers used their Tasers against 36-year-old Otto Zehm during a March 18 scuffle.

    Questions linger at memorial service

    4/5/2006 | For a man who lived quietly on the margins of this city, Otto Zehm drew a surprisingly large crowd to his memorial on Tuesday. More than 100 mourners – including co-workers, family and friends, some with developmental disabilities – gathered at Mission Park in north Spokane to remember the 36-year-old janitor who died after a scuffle with police officers last month.

    Police seek man's medical records

    4/4/2006 | Nine days after Otto Zehm died after a scuffle with Spokane police, detectives told a judge they needed to seize the mentally ill man's medical records because he was under investigation for allegedly assaulting officers.

    March 2006

    Video of scuffle kept secret

    3/31/2006 | Security camera footage of a scuffle between police and a developmentally disabled janitor who died two days later will remain hidden from the public under orders from Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker.

    Officers in fight defended

    3/24/2006 | No one knows yet what killed Otto Zehm, but acting Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks insisted Thursday it wasn't his officers. "We cannot speculate on the actual cause of death; that is still being investigated by the medical examiner," Nicks said at news conference.

    Officers back on beat after fatal fight

    3/22/2006 | Otto Zehm did what he did almost every night and stopped by a Zip Trip to pick up a Diet Pepsi and fast-food for dinner.


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