Ex-police officer tried in assault case

Former Washougal cop accused of punching mentally ill man in car

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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photoClark County District Judge Sonya Langsdorf examines the inside of the patrol car Thursday, where former Washougal police Officer Robert Ritchie, right, allegedly assaulted a mentally ill man on July 1.

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A former Washougal police officer was tried Thursday in Clark County District Court on an accusation he repeatedly punched a mentally ill man restrained in the back of his patrol car in July.

Robert E. Ritchie, 53, of Washougal is charged with fourth-degree gross misdemeanor assault for allegedly punching 26-year-old Tyler Lampman.

Judge Sonya Langsdorf said she would announce her verdict at a March 20 hearing.

Lampman, who has schizophrenia, was arrested July 1 on suspicion of domestic violence against his mother and brother. His mother said he hadn't been taking his medications.

Washougal police officers placed Lampman in Ritchie's patrol car to be transported to jail. When Ritchie got into the driver's seat, Lampman began screaming and calling out for his mother. Ritchie testified he told Lampman to "shut up." That prompted Lampman to begin banging his head against the transparent thermoplastic screen between the front and back seats.

Concerned about Lampman's safety, Ritchie said, he got out of the vehicle and opened the door to the back passenger seat to try to stop Lampman from hurting himself. Then, Lampman spat on Ritchie's face. Ritchie said he responded by punching Lampman in the face. He said he punched Lampman twice to stop him from spitting at him again.

On the second strike, he said, he realized he had to stop.

Witnesses, including Lampman's brother, Boyd Peppers, and neighbor Glendon Bell said that Ritchie hit Lampman more than twice. The witnesses gave inconsistent numbers on how many times Lampman was hit. However, they ranged from four to eight times.

Defense attorney Jaime Goldberg said that Ritchie didn't intend to assault Lampman and was reacting a threatening situation.

But Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Robinson said Ritchie made a decision to retaliate against Lampman. The mentally ill man was a low-level threat, given that he was handcuffed and restrained in a seat belt, Robinson added.

Ritchie was a 29-year veteran at the Washougal Police Department when the incident happened. He was fired Sept. 12 because punching Lampman violated department policy, said Washougal police Cmdr. Allen Cook.

Ritchie also was demoted from the rank of sergeant in 2004 for shooting Olga Rybak 27 times with an electronic Taser gun in August 2003. The department determined he used excessive force while arresting the woman, who was accused of failing to comply with dog regulations.