SPOKANE — Spokane law enforcement officers have shot five people in 2022, with some families of those killed alleging police used excessive force.
Peterson Kamo, 23, was shot and killed on Jan. 24, after Spokane police responded to reports of a domestic dispute at his home. Police said Kamo held a knife to his 2-year-old nephew’s throat, refused to comply with commands and continued to threaten the toddler before they shot him, according to statement from the department.
Kamo’s family, who are Marshallese, said in a tort claim filed against the city last month, that officers didn’t take the time to fully understand the situation before rushing into the home and shooting Kamo. Kamo’s mother, who doesn’t speak English, had called 911 but due to the language barrier left dispatchers confused on the situation, something they relayed to police. Bill Gilbert, the Kamo family’s attorney, also indicated Kamo was holding his nephew when he was shot, something investigators did not tell the public.
The Kamo family plans to file a lawsuit immediately if the city does not respond to their claim. Officer Corrigan Mohondro and Cpl. Brandon Lynch were on administrative leave while the Washington State Patrol completed their investigation, which concluded in July when their findings were sent to the Spokane County Prosecutor’s office for review. The prosecutor’s office has yet to announce a ruling in the case.
Steven Haley, 56, was shot and injured by sheriff’s deputies, after they said Haley broke into his ex-girlfriend’s Liberty Lake home and took her and her teenage son hostage on March 7. The woman and her son were eventually able to escape. Haley left the home with a pistol in his hands and “engaged” the SWAT team in the backyard, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
According to deputies, Haley didn’t follow commands and Deputy Justin Palmer shot him. The shooting remains under investigation by the Washington State Patrol. Haley has since been charged with assault and burglary in Spokane County Superior Court. Mental health professionals are currently evaluating if Haley is competent to stand trial, according to court records.
Dominic Spears, 39, was shot and killed after Spokane police officers said he exchanged gunfire with them during a standoff on Aug. 3. The altercation began when officers spotted a van at Spokane Street and Second Avenue that they believed was connected to a robbery in Spokane Valley, police said in a statement. Two of the van’s three occupants exited the van and were arrested, but Spears sped away. Spears then crashed a short distance away and barricaded himself inside the van, ultimately ending in a shootout with police. Spokane police officers Jacob Siegel, Scott Lesser, Robert Riggles, and Cpl. Lynch were put on administrative leave pending an investigation into the shooting. The shooting remained under investigation by the Washington State Patrol as of Thursday.
Terry Starkweather, 36, was shot by a deputy who came to arrest him on outstanding felony warrants on Aug. 21. Starkweather died of his injuries three days later. Officers confronted Starkweather outside of a self-storage business, according to a news release from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. Starkweather ignored officer commands, got back in his truck and then reversed toward Sgt. Darin Staley, who shot him, the sheriff’s office said. Staley remains on administrative leave while the Spokane Police Department investigates the shooting.
Robert Bradley, 41, was shot and killed by police while unloading camping gear outside of his Hillyard home on Sept. 4. His neighbor, Scott Scott called police and said Bradley was walking around with an AR-15-style rifle. The neighbors had a previous dispute over the property line separating their two homes. When officers arrived they spotted Bradley at the open door and cabin area of his van. Moments later, officers advised over the radio shots had been fired.
Bradley’s girlfriend, Sarah McLaughlin, told KREM that Bradley was unloading the van after a camping trip when he was approached by police. She said police gave him barely any time to respond.
Investigators said they found three firearms in the “immediate area where the shooting occurred.”
The officers who fired their weapons, Spokane police Detective Trevor Walker and Cpl. Chris Johnson, were placed on administrative leave pending the completion of an investigation by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. Bradley’s family has said they plan to file a tort claim, the first step to filing a lawsuit, against the city, according to their attorney Rondi Thorp.
Law enforcement officers in Spokane County used deadly force four times in all of 2021, eight times in 2020, and seven times in 2019. The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office hasn’t found issue with an officer’s use of deadly force in the past 20 years.
Area law enforcement agencies have settled a handful of cases in recent years. In March, Spokane County settled a federal civil lawsuit for $1 million with the family of Ethan Murray, 25, who was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy in 2019. The deputy said Murray was armed with a knife but an investigation showed he was not.
In 2018, the city of Spokane paid $103,500 to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of Danny C. Jones, 40, who was shot and killed by police outside of a North Side transitional housing complex in 2013.
In 2013, Spokane County paid $2 million to settle a federal court lawsuit brought by the family of the Rev. Wayne Scott Creech, who was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy on his own property.
In 2012, the city of Spokane paid $1.67 million to settle with the family of Otto Zehm, a disabled man who died in 2006 after being falsely accused of robbery and who was beaten, shocked and left “hogtied” by Spokane police in a convenience store. The first responding officer, Karl Thompson, was convicted in federal court of using excessive force and lying to investigators.