All Tri-City law enforcement agencies will soon have body-worn cameras

All Tri-City law enforcement agencies plan to have body-worn cameras by the start of next year, and they’re hoping the federal government will pay for them.

Richland Police Chief John Bruce told the Richland City Council on Tuesday that state legislation requires police to record all interrogations, whether in a police car or at a station. Bruce said. The best way to comply with state law is with body cameras, Bruce said. 

However, Mayor Ryan Lukson said the Legislature didn’t add any money to the law, which mostly takes effect Jan. 1, 2022. 

Bruce said Tri-City law enforcement agencies are applying as a region for a U.S. Department of Justice grant to buy the cameras and supporting software. The grant requires matching dollars from local governments.

The agencies stand a better chance of winning money with the regional grant approach, Bruce said. 

The Richland City Council had already started discussing the purchase of both body cameras and car-mounted cameras at their March 23 meeting. Bruce estimated at that time that the 5-year cost of that program would be $1,303,951.26.

In emails to the Observer Commander Trevor White of the Kennewick Police Department confirmed to the Observer that Kennewick was participating in the discussions.

In the past Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg, who plans to retire in February 2022, has steadfastly opposed the use of cameras. 

Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond wrote the Observer that he would soon present a proposal to the Franklin County Commission outlining what it would  cost to mirror the Pasco Police Department’s body camera program. The department has had body cameras for a few years.

Lukson said the Benton County Sheriff’s Office also was also looking at body cameras for its deputies.

Richland City Councilmembers unanimously approved the grant application.

Randy’s Rundown: Richland council’s June 15 agenda explained – police body-worn cameras and the five-year transportation improvement program

Richland will apply for a federal matching fund grant to provide body-worn cameras to police officers. At the March 23 city council meeting Richland Police Chief John Bruce, who supports the use of cameras, said body-worn cameras and dashboard cameras would cost the department $1,303,951.26 for five years. The federal grant described in the information packet is only for body-worn cameras.  This discussion, Item 17, will occur near the end of the meeting.

Transportation projects planned for the next five years fill Pages 96-129. Improvements to Hwy 240 and Aaron Road remain at the top of the list. The packet includes a map on Page. 129.

The meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. Go to the agenda for information on how to watch the meeting. The agenda also has instructions on how to comment on public hearing items and during the public comment period.

Pages below correspond to the pages in the packet that are included with the agenda.

Presentations

1.Chancellor Sandra Haynes, Ph.D., will update the Council and the public on Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Public Hearing

2. Proposed Transportation Improvement Program. The city staff proposes completion of dozens of projects for the next five years.  Pg. 96-129.

3. Approval of the June 1 meeting minutes.

4. The code that addresses Critical Areas will be amended.  According to the summary in the packet, “This update is necessary to improve the review of Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas (CARAs), to improve permitting processes and procedures, to ensure compliance with state laws, and also to aid in reducing City risk.” Pg. 16-79.

5. This amends the city’s process for reviewing building variances, particularly minor variances (Pg. 83.)  Pg. 80-88.

6. An additional $1,216,530 in funds will be added to the budget to accommodate spending on the two new fire stations, broadband improvement and several other items.  Pg. 89-92.

7. Adding $240,000 to the design-build agreement with DGR Grant Construction for the two fire stations. COVID 19 material shortages, relocation of a water main and new technology for dispatching has added to the costs.

8. The five-year Transportation Improvement Program projects are listed on Pg. 96-129. Map on Pg. 129.

9. Approving the final plat of 46 residential lots for West Vineyard – Phase 2 in Badger Mountain South.  Pg. 130-166.

10. Awarding $7835 from the Business License Reserve Fund for soffit replacements on The Parkway. Pg. 167-171.

11. Authorizing $355,561 for a consultant agreement with Parametrix Inc. for closure of the 26 acres of Phase 2 at the Horn Rapids Landfill. We’re now working on filling the expansion area. Pg. 172-182

12. Setting July 6, 2021 as the date that the city council will meet with applicants about a proposed annexation (Badger Mountain Estates). Pg. 193-194.

13. The city will pay Magnum Power, LLC $2,955,520.22 for construction of an electric substation to serve the Horn Rapids Industrial Complex. Pg. 195-203

14. This authorizes $534,303 for replacement of electric conductors and 100 power poles. A map is included. Pg.204-214.

15. Authorizing $10,000 for Tri-Cities Regional Chamber of Commerce on behalf of Stevens Media Group for Live@5.

16. Checks for May.  Pg. 218-298

17. This authorizes staff to apply for a federal grant to purchase body-worn cameras and require a 1-to-1 match by the grantee. This is from the project summary: “Funds proposed, both federal and matching, may include expenses reasonably related to BWC program implementation. Besides the purchase or lease of BWCs themselves, allowable expenses include, but are not limited to, personnel to support the program, the cost of developing training on BWC use, and related technology costs such as infrastructure enhancements, redaction costs, and storage cost.” Pg. 299-300

18. This will amend the municipal code to allow dwelling units of less than 500 sq. ft. in the central business district. The council agreed to the change at the last city council meeting by a vote of 5-2. Pg. 301-348

Blah, blah, blah by interim city manager and councilmembers

End of meeting

Richland police don’t consider bicycle-truck crash newsworthy

Early Monday morning Richland Police Department (RPD) posted some suggestions for biking safely. When a couple of commenters posted that they had passed a Sunday night bicycle-truck collision at the intersection of Keene and Queensgate Roads, several people wondered why they had not read anything about it.

Sgt. Shawn Swanson, a RPD spokesperson, explained to The Observer, “The incident wasn’t newsworthy.” Similar collisions have been reported in the past. A recent car-truck crash was also reported.

According to Facebook commenter Ryan Dudley, the crash occurred at about 6:30 p.m.

Lisa Nelson wrote The Observer, “We came through around 8:30 p.m. There were about five cop cars blocking Keene, heading towards West Richland. The bicycle was still laying in the middle of the intersection.” Nelson said that they had to detour around Target.

According to Swanson, the bicyclist ran into the side of a truck and was taken to a local hospital. Swanson said that the bicycle safety post that appeared at 6:24 a.m. on Monday morning had been preplanned the week before. “It was just coincidental that it appeared after the incident,” he noted.

Swanson said Wednesday that a full report on the collision would be available this week.

Randy’s Recap: Full of surprises, March 23 Richland Council workshop

Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to include a list of the city’s ten infrastructure priorities that Interim City Manager Jon Amundson provided.

Here’s a quick summary of expected and surprise items discussed at the March 23 Richland City Council Workshop. You can watch a video of the meeting at Richland CityView.

Richland police chief supports body and dashboard cameras for officers

Richland Police Chief John Bruce supports body and dashboard cameras for his officers.“They improve behavior of officers and citizens,” he said.  He added that the cameras worked well for the department in Texas that he previously headed. According to Bruce, it could take a year to put the program in place in Richland. He estimated that for five years the program would cost $1,303,951.26.

Most of the city councilmembers agreed with Bruce except Councilmember Michael Alvarez who favored a public vote in November, a suggestion that was ridiculed by Councilmember Terry Christensen.

Guess who’s paying for American Cruise Line’s new dock

ACL will pay $45,000 for the first year of a 15-year contract to have priority docking at the Lee Street dock.

Surprise!! Mexico isn’t paying for the wall and American Cruise Line (ACL) isn’t paying for their new dock at Columbia Point. Your tax dollars will. Richland Parks and Public Facilities Director Joe Schiessl said that either the city or the Corps of Engineers would build the dock and lease it to ACL. I wonder which one it will be (-:

Council doubts promises made by developer of the Columbia River tract (promises, promises ^^^)

Councilmembers wonder whether Pacific Partners out of Eagle, Idaho will compete the project they promised on the D, E and Q tracts near the Columbia Point Golf Course or will they just build apartments and skip out of town without building the offices and retail promised for Phase 2.  Remember, ACL promised to build a new dock.

Water wars

Councilmembers ponder whether the city should make a little extra from water rights assistance to Battelle and West Richland.

The state has a pot of money for trails

The city’s sudden interest in the Island View to Vista Field bicycle and pedestrian trail stems from the Washington state’s special funding pot for such projects. The trail also branches to Meadow Springs. A preliminary package will be submitted in cooperation with Kennewick for $16 million which will include the bridge over Highway 240.

Ten “secret” priority projects

Surprise!! The city has submitted 10 “secret” priority projects to Senator Patty Murray for potential federal funding. I say “secret” because Councilmember Bob Thompson said he didn’t know what they were and added, “They might not be my priorities.” After the meeting Interim City Manager Jon Amundson provided the list below:

R240 / Aaron Drive Interchange Modifications – This project will resolve a regionally significant traffic congestion issue and enable both the City’s downtown redevelopment vision and the regional industrial economic expansion.  The total cost is $30,000,000

Fire Station 76 in Badger Mountain South – The project will enable achieving the City’s standard for response time in this rapidly growing area of the City.  The total estimated cost is $6.5 million for facility and equipment.

Downtown Connectivity Improvements – This project will modify the main streets in downtown Richland to one-way streets so that improved bicycle, pedestrian, and parking options can be provided.  This is the critical infrastructure investment the City plans to make to jump-start the remaking of central Richland into a vibrant downtown that leverages the nearby Columbia River shoreline and park system.  The total cost is $16,600,000, with the possibility of implementing it in phases.  The first phase is estimated to cost $5,000,000.

Island View to Vista Field Trail Bridge – This project will provide pedestrian and bicycle connectivity across SR240 near Columbia Center Boulevard between the  Columbia River waterfront and residential and commercial development south of SR240.  The lack of pedestrian and bicycle connectivity in this area has been identified as the highest priority obstacle in the Tri-Cities to overcome to enable non-motorized travel.  The total cost is approximately $16,000,000.

1,341 Acre Transmission Line – This is a new pair of 115kV transmission lines connecting BPA’s regional transmission system to the newly annexed north Richland properties.  The lines, three miles in length, are needed to support heavy industrial development in this area.  The total cost estimate for this project is $3,000,000.

1,341 Acre Sewer Pipeline – The City and Port of Benton are developing this land transferred from the U.S. Department of Energy to local control several years ago.  The development objective is to recruit large site industrial companies to locate in the Tri-Cities on this unique property.  The sewer pipeline will provide City sewer service to the property, thus enabling it to be near shovel ready for the right industrial development client.  The total cost is estimated at $4,000,000.

Wastewater Treatment Plant Aeration System Upgrade – The City’s 35-year-old wastewater treatment plant requires an upgrade to its aeration treatment process.  The needed upgrade will position the City to continue to support residential, commercial, and industrial development for years to come.  The total cost is estimated at $8,400,000.

Dallas Road Substation – This project will construct a new 25MVA substation on City-owned land in the Badger South area.  The substation is needed to support the rapid growth of this area.  The total estimated cost is $5,000,000

Water System Resiliency Improvements – Pursuant to the federal America’s Water Infrastructure Act, the City recently completed is required system assessment.  The assessment identified facility improvements for site security and electrical energy supply resiliency that are recommended.  The total cost of these improvements is estimated at $3,200,000.

Street Light Retrofit to LED technology – This project will retrofit approximately 5,400 existing old technology street lights to the most current energy-efficient LED technology.  The total estimated cost is $3,000,000.

Rejected – developer Greg Markel’s plan for the old city hall site

Surprise!! Developer Greg Markel submitted an “urgent” offer and proposed plan to the Richland City Council for development on the old city hall site. Nobody knew why the offer was deemed urgent, but it was quickly panned and rejected. Thompson said it looked like a strip shopping center. Lukson pointed out that the so-called, mixed-use development had a total of 11 apartments. Parking seemed to be the focus, possibly to accommodate Markel’s failed Dupus Boomer’s restaurant building on the corner of Swift and George Washington Way.

Councilmembers pay a lobbyist to do their job

Surprise!! Since at least 2009, Richland has been paying lobbyist Dave Arbaugh a retainer of first $2700 a month and now $3000 a month to lobby Olympia.  Why aren’t city councilmembers, state legislators and state senators doing their job? And, if they are, why are we paying Arbaugh??  This issue merits its own article….coming soon.

Randy’s Rundown: March 23, Richland Council Workshop Explained

Police body and dashboard cameras top the agenda.  The meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. Go to the agenda to link to Zoom. Interim City Manager Jon Amundson confirms that the meeting can also be seen on Spectrum 192. When it is shown there, a tape usually becomes available the next day on Richland City View.

1.Discussion regarding Operational and Budgetary Impacts of Body Worn and Vehicle Cameras – John Bruce, Chief of Police.  We can assume that the value to public safety of the body and dashboard cameras is undisputed because the only discussion here seems to be “operational and budgetary.” Pasco Police have used the cameras for a couple of years, and they haven’t broken the bank there. 

On February 1, 2021, Richland Police Officer Christian Jabri shoot a man on a pedestrian path along the Highway 240 bypass. The Special Investigative Unit has not submitted their report to Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller and Bruce. Without cameras it will be difficult to tell what actually happened there. The police did not file any charges against the man who was shot.

Recently Miller came out in favor of body cameras and dashboard cameras.  “For reviewing cases involving deadly force by police officers, the use of body cameras would be beneficial not only for the integrity of the investigation but also for the decedent’s family and involved police officers,” Miller wrote in an Aug. 20 letter.

A recent Herald article reported figures obtained from the local police departments on “use of force.” The Richland Police Department used forced three times more often than Pasco.  Does that have something to do with Pasco’s cameras?

The Observer asked Interim City Manager Jon Amundson and Police Chief John Bruce to confirm the Herald’s numbers since Councilmember Bob Thompson questioned them.  So far there have been no responses.

2. Update on the Proposed Development Agreement on Tracts D & E, 22 Acres of City-Owned Property located on Bradley Boulevard – Kerwin Jensen, Development Services Director.  

The city has a grandiose plan for this area that includes a million-dollar dock built by American Cruise Lines (ACL). In case you have forgotten, the city gave ACL priority right to use the Lee Street Dock for 15 years for $45,000 the first year. The contract does not require ACL to build a new dock.  The city will maintain the Lee Street dock for 15 years and the total cost to ACL will be less than the cost of permitting and constructing a new dock and maintaining it. With that deal would you build a dock?

3. Horn Rapids Water Rights Status, West Richland Wholesale Service Expansion Request, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Irrigation Service Request – Pete Rogalsky, Public Works Director

Water, water, water…. When will the Columbia River be sucked dry?  Not a meeting goes by without a discussion about more spending on Horn Rapids.

4. 2021 Legislative Transportation Advocacy Update – Additional Project Suggestion – Pete Rogalsky, Public Works Director

The state and the federal government are planning infrastructure improvement programs. We need to get our wish list in now.  When former President Trump asked each state to submit their project priorities, SeaTac was at the top of the list along with improvements to Interstate 5.  Broadband expansion was the top project on the east side.

Deputy who killed Dante Jones reprimanded for another traffic stop in 2020

Dante Jones

The Franklin County deputy who shot and killed an unarmed man during a 2019 traffic stop was reprimanded for behavior during a stop in 2020. 

Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond said Cody Quantrell’s actions during the Fourth of July stop in 2020 lacked good decision-making skills and professionalism. 

The reprimand came on the heels of a citizen complaint. Raymond concluded by saying that if Quantrell repeated the behavior, he could face more severe discipline or termination.

About five months later, Quantrell received a “meets standards” evaluation on his performance review. Raymond wrote Quantrell could improve further, having “received numerous citizen complaints concerning how he speaks and how he deals with the public.” 

Quantrell’s decision making has been called into question before. His previous boss, Toppenish Police Chief Curt Ruggles, outlined some of the same problems in a counseling memo he wrote on May 14, 2018.

Ruggles wrote that Quantrell pursued a vehicle in a reckless manner for 30 minutes for a traffic violation; pulled a gun on the wrong suspect in a motorcycle reckless driving case and then failed to report the use of force until a complaint was filed; and he damaged patrol vehicles seven times.

Quantrell joined the Franklin County Sheriff’s office two months after Ruggles wrote the counseling memo.

Quantrell repeated several of those violations during the lead up to the shooting of Dante Jones on Nov. 19, 2019.

Quantrell told Regional Special Investigation Unit (SIU) detectives that he did not stop chasing Jones when his sergeant told him to do so.

According to the May 2020 SIU report, Quantrell said he left his patrol car with his sidearm drawn and without waiting for backup.

In the counseling memo written by Ruggles, he described a similar action by Quantrell in Toppenish as “tombstone courage.”

At the time of the Jones shooting Quantrell had been with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department for one year. An Army veteran, Quantrell was a Yakama Nation police officer from 2013-16, and a Toppenish police officer from 2016-18. 

Quantrell’s father, Tim Quantrell, is the police chief of Zillah, Washington.

Quantrell has not yet faced any consequences in Jones’ shooting. Prosecutor Shawn Sant has not announced if he will file criminal charges in the case.

The Observer obtained the performance review, a copy of the reprimand as well as the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) report on the Dante Jones shooting through public record requests to Franklin County. The Observer obtained the counseling memo regarding Quantrell through a record request to the City of Toppenish.

Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller supports body cameras for police

Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller wrote last summer that he supported body cameras for police. The opinion, part of a seven-page letter about his choice to not charge Kennewick police in the shooting of Gordon Whitaker, received little attention.

“For reviewing cases involving deadly force by police officers, the use of body cameras would be beneficial not only for the integrity of the investigation but also for the decedent’s family and involved police officers,” Miller wrote in the Aug. 20 letter.

The Pasco Police Department is the only agency in the Tri-Cities to use body and dashboard cameras. The department began using the cameras in 2019.

Miller also wrote about compliance problems with the new state police investigation law, WAC 139-12, that went into effect on Jan. 5, 2020. Miller mentioned the contribution of newly appointed community representatives during the Whitaker investigation. 

Read the letter here:

Randy’s Rundown: Richland City Council Feb. 23 Workshop Explained

This meeting will not be on television, nor will it be taped.  You can join the party at 6:00 p.m. by going to the agenda and clicking on Zoom.

  1. Police Chief John Bruce will explain the process for investigating the recent Richland police shooting.  To get a head start on this discussion read WAC 139-12, the new state law governing the police investing police investigations.
  • City Attorney Heather Kintzley and Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky will discuss the use of wheeled all terrain vehicles on city streets.  An all-terrain vehicle ( ATV ), also known as a quad, quad bike, three-wheeler, four-track, four-wheeler or quadricycle as defined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a vehicle that travels on low-pressure tires, with a seat that is straddled by the operator, along with handlebars. It is NOT a snowmobile or a golf cart (darn). Pg. 3-9
  • Director of Parks and Public Facilities Joe Schiessl will discuss speed limits on city shared-use paths.  Electric bicycles and scooters and scooter sharing programs have inspired this discussion Pg. 9

On police shootings, local prosecutors united in their conclusions but divided in their process

Feb.21,2021

Benton and Franklin county prosecutors have never concluded that a police officer needed to face charges over a shooting. 

That doesn’t mean they see such shootings the same way, or even process them. 

Lately, Benton’s Andy Miller and Franklin’s Shawn Sant have taken very different paths when considering these cases. 

Two Black men shot and killed by police in the past couple years demonstrate some of the differences.

Miller closed the 2020 shooting of Gordon Whitaker a short time after the Regional Special Investigative Unit (SIU) completed its report. 

On the other hand, Sant hasn’t moved on the 2019 shooting of Dante Jones. Sant got SIU’s report of that shooting nine months ago.

Jones case

The unarmed Jones was shot by Franklin County sheriff’s deputy Cody Quantrell on November 18, 2019 after an on-again, off-again car chase through rural Franklin County.

Sant received the SIU report in May 2020 and the Observer obtained it a couple of weeks later.  In response to a question about the status of the case, Sant wrote in a June 23 email to The Observer:

“I am still awaiting evidence to be evaluated and returned from the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory. I will not be able to complete my findings until I have ALL available evidence for review and consideration. These are serious cases of public importance. Every time a life is lost, we will look closely at those cases, especially when law enforcement officers use deadly force. I continue to review this case and anticipate completion only after all reports and any additional follow up information we may request, is provided.”

On July 23, 2020, more evidence did become available. 

The Observer obtained Police Chief Curt Ruggles May 14, 2018 “counseling” memo regarding Quantrell’s record as a police officer in Toppenish, Washington. In the memo, Ruggles criticized Quantrell for some of the same actions that he took the night he shot Jones, including being overly aggressive during car chases. 

The report was not included in the SIU report, and Sant did not indicate whether he had obtained it. Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond hired Quantrell later in 2018.

On September 23, 2020, Sant wrote that he was still talking to relatives and friends of Jones.

Whitaker Case

In contrast to Sant’s long deliberation, Miller announced his decision on Whitaker’s February 9, 2020 shooting a few weeks after receiving the SIU report. On August 20, 2020, in a seven-page letter, he explained why he had not charged any of the police involved.

At that time, Miller released a 420-page first installment of the 2,888-page report. The Observer obtained the report in five installments received between September 2020 and November 2020.

Only the investigation team and the prosecutor had seen the evidence when Miller cleared the officers. 

SIU has two Benton County cases that have not been completed. 

One involves a man who died in a police car on December 15, 2020 and the other, the wounding of a man on a pedestrian path in Richland on February 1, 2021.

Investigators Frustrated

Kennewick Police Commander Randy Maynard, who leads the SIU,, expressed concern about how long it was taking Franklin County to close some cases. 

He explained that investigators spend months carefully going over all aspects of a case and writing a report. He said the lack of closure frustrates everybody involved.

Franklin County open cases

Sant has five unresolved cases; two are older than the Jones case. 

  • Werner Anderson died in the back of an ambulance while in Pasco Police custody on August 10, 2018. Sant received the investigation report around August 28, 2019.
  • December 14, 2019, a man was shot and killed December 14, 2019, after stabbing two Pasco Police officers. Sant received that report about March 28, 2020.

Two unresolved cases happened after the Jones case.

  • A man died in a gunfight with Pasco police on May 17, 2020. The SIU submitted their report on that case September 21, 2020.
  • On July 30, 2020, a man sitting next to a small child in the back of a car was shot by police after allegedly pulling a gun. The SIU for that case was submitted on November 13, 2020. 

Deadline for closure

The Observer contacted Sant on February 4, 2021 and asked for an update on the five open cases. He did not respond Miller explained to The Observer, “I don’t know that there is a time requirement imposed by law for prosecutors to make a decision. I try to make decisions in a timely manner while also making sure that the decedent’s family has plenty of time and opportunity to provide input.”

Richland shooting witness wonders if police consider bystanders

Police marks on the trail where Charles Suarez was shot by Richland Police. Photo by Andrea Cameron

When Andrea Cameron went for an evening run on Feb.1, she didn’t expect to find herself within yards of a police shooting. Just a short time after she reached Duportail Road running north, Richland Police Officer Christian Jabri shot Charles Suarez on the trail ahead of her..

 “Do police consider the safety of others?” Cameron asked. “I was on a very well-used pedestrian trail. It’s hard to stop thinking about it. In just a few seconds I could have been in the line of fire.”

Cameron described running at around 7 p.m. with headphones and a headlight to see her path in the dark. When she saw a police car with lights flashing, she realized people were running just ahead of her.  She said, “I panicked and froze when I realized that it was some kind of chase.”

Cameron said that she had no idea how many shots were fired, probably because of her headphones.

She stayed at the scene as more and more police cars came. When she was sure it was safe to leave, she went home.

Cameron learned from newspaper accounts the next day that Suarez had wrecked his car, left the scene, and run from police.  She said, “Unless he pulled a gun or killed somebody, I can’t imagine why the police would shoot at him on a pedestrian trail adjacent to a residential neighborhood.”

She responded to the request for witnesses to contact police that was at the end of the newspaper story.

Police Interview

She told the police interviewer, Detective Ryan Sauve of the Washington State Patrol, she was shocked at how easily she inadvertently ran into danger.

He responded, “You didn’t match the description.”

She said she wondered, “Did the police presence increase my safety that night or put me more at risk?”

She added that in the future she would leave her headphones at home when she runs.

Cameron recalls that he asked if she would feel threatened seeing someone running toward her on the path. She replied, “I see others running and walking on the path with me regularly.”

The Tri-City Herald reported that after treatment at a hospital, Suarez was released without charges.

Independent team will investigate

Kennewick Commander Randy Maynard is the incident commander for the Independent Investigation Team made up of local officers who are not connected to the involved agency. The team will investigate the shooting and provide their report to County Prosecutor Andy Miller and the Richland Police Department.  

Miller will decide whether there is a basis for filing charges against the police officers involved. Based on the investigations that were completed in 2020, the process could take three to six months.

A new police reform law that went into effect January 5, 2020 also requires two community representatives. The police chiefs picked the representatives for their jurisdictions. In a telephone conversation that The Observer had with Maynard, he declined to say which community representatives had been chosen.

Numbers on the pavement

Cameron returned to the path the day after the shooting. She saw nine numbered marks on the pavement in two clusters, one on each path. While she wasn’t sure what the marks meant, she did know that one cluster with numbers 7, 8 and 9 was exactly where she would have been had she not frozen on the side of the road when she did.

Handpicked community representatives on police investigations have no power. Does their presence make any difference?

Since January 5, 2020, when a new police reform law went into effect in Washington, five community representatives have served on Tri-City police investigation teams. Each was handpicked by the chief of the involved agency.

The state Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) that provided the rules for the law directs police independent investigation teams (IIT) to be “completely independent of any involved agency.”

The relationships between police chiefs and their appointed community reps  might jeopardize the integrity of the investigations. But with poorly described responsibilities and no training, it’s difficult to see what difference that makes.

The CJTC’s factsheet says community representatives will participate in the selection of police investigators, be present at briefings, have access to the completed investigation files, and be provided copies of news releases and communications prior to release. Aside from the briefings, which are not defined, this only puts representatives one step ahead of the public in receiving information.

Leo Perales became the first person picked to be a community representative on an investigation. He was added to the IIT for the February 9, 2020 shooting death of Gordon Whitaker by Kennewick police. Perales  said that during the Whitaker case, “I didn’t know what we were there for.” He explained that he wondered how much authority he had.

The factsheet instructs law enforcement in the state to “solicit” at least two non-law enforcement community representatives from the death’s impacted community. Franklin County law enforcement agencies only choose two for the entire county.  Walla Walla County did the same thing, but chose three. Only Benton County has two from each of the law enforcement agencies within its borders. 

The Observer obtained the police investigation report for the Whitaker case that included emails about the selection of the representatives. According to Kennewick Police Commander Trevor White, “We tried to hastily come into compliance with the new law.”

The “solicit” part seems to have been a sticking point with Kennewick Police Chief Hohenberg and Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller.

In a March 2 email to Hohenberg, Miller says “You can interpret ‘solicit’ in different ways and that could include soliciting specific people to see if they would be interested. And that process could arguably be transparent as required by the rule.”

Miller suggested in a follow-up email that Benton County select two to four people, then join the other two counties in the investigation unit – Franklin and Walla Walla — in creating a roster of names.

Following that advice, area law enforcement agencies created a list of 13 names. The Observer spoke to 6 of them.

Of the 13, the two chosen by Pasco Police Chief Ken Roske have been serving simultaneously on two investigations of Pasco police. Two of the three representatives chosen by the Kennewick Police Chief have served on two investigations of Kennewick police.

Perales received an email on Feb. 11 from Hohenberg asking him to serve on the Whitaker case. Perales said that he had known the chief since he took a class from him years ago.

Hohenberg also suggested Othene Bell Wade for the Whitaker case. He then put her and Perales on the roster.

Chelsan Simpson had attended the Richland Police Department Citizen Academy and had met the Police Chief John Bruce there. A representative from the department asked if he would be willing to volunteer.

Simpson said that when he agreed to serve, he was told that he could be asked to be on an investigation in another jurisdiction. No one else indicated that they received that information.

Prosser had a slightly different process. Police Chief Pat McCullough advertised that he was looking for volunteers. People who responded received a questionnaire that they completed and returned. He then picked two representatives.

Brandi Thornbrugh of Prosser responded to McCullough because she explained, “Volunteering was one way to be involved in the community.”

Other jurisdictions have taken a similar approach. Pierce County, the Washington State Patrol, and the cities of Yelm and Shoreline have advertised for volunteers to apply to be non-law enforcement community representatives.

The appointees that The Observer spoke with lamented that they had had no training. An in-person training session planned for November by the police departments was cancelled due to COVID restrictions.

Perales believes that to protect the independence of the representatives, someone other than the chiefs — possibly the city councils — should pick appointees. He also questioned whether the police departments should be conducting the training.

Representatives sign a confidentiality agreement that’s required, but not described, by the CTJC. The document outlines penalties if representatives disclose confidential information before the “prosecutor of jurisdiction either declines to file charges or the criminal case is concluded.” They can be prosecuted for obstructing a law enforcement officer, perjury, or violation of the Criminal Records Privacy Act.

Understandably, this made Hector Cruz hesitant about answering any of The Observer’s questions because he is currently volunteering for two investigations in Pasco. All he would say was that he had been chosen to be a representative by the Pasco Police Department because he had worked with the department in the past.

Two cases that occurred before the new law went into effect have not been closed by Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant. Werner Anderson died August 10, 2018  in the back of an ambulance while in Pasco police custody. A Franklin County deputy shot Dante Jones on a rural Franklin County road on November 18, 2019. If community representatives had been on those cases, they would have been unable to talk about them for months, even years. 

Washington lawmakers will be considering police reform measures during the 2021 legislative session.

Police shooting reports include hundreds of Facebook posts

After a police shooting, detectives spend several weeks taking screenshots of Facebook posts documenting people’s reactions to the event.  The sources include the Facebook pages of the police departments, the Tri-City Herald, and local television and radio stations.

Witnesses

According to Lt. Drew Florence, Richland Police Department crime scene supervisor, detectives read the posts looking for witnesses and other people who might have information important to the investigation.

“Some people are comfortable talking on Facebook but not to police,” Florence said.

According to Florence, the Facebook posts on public sites can be copied without a legal process to obtain them.

Special Investigative Unit

Officers from police departments in the area that are not involved in the case compose a Special Investigative Unit (SIU). The SIU investigates officer-involved incidents that result in death or serious injury and write a report.

The 1895-page SIU report on the Nov. 18, 2019, shooting of Dante Redmond Jones by Franklin County Sheriff Deputy Cody Quantrell, includes almost 200 pages of Facebook posts (pg. 722-920).

The 2,888-page report on the Feb. 9, 2020, shooting of Gordon Whitaker has 100 pages of Facebook posts. (page. 528-628 of the fourth installment).

Categories

The SIU reports list some posts by categories: Present During Event, Activity Leading up to Event, Unknown Presence, Knows Suspect, Unknown Category. Each comment under the categories includes the media outlet where the post appeared.

The Jones report differs from the Whitaker report in that after the category listing, it provides posts from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office as well as posts from seven media outlets. The Whitaker Report only provides the posts from the Kennewick Police Department, possibly accounting for the difference in the number of pages of posts, 200 in the Jones report but only 100 in the Whitaker report.

Commenters Surprised

Via a Facebook personal message, the Observer contacted people who had posted to ask if they knew that the SIU reports included their comments.  A few responded.

Not surprisingly posts from former Franklin County Deputy Jereme James Ekiert defended both Sheriff Jim Raymond and the deputies involved in the Jones shooting. His comments appeared on the KEPR Action News Report. 

When one person asked where the body camera pictures were, Ekiert responded, “Being reviewed by investigators. This isn’t a 60 minute episode of blue bloods.”

The Franklin County Sheriff’s deputies do not have body cameras or dashboard cameras. In the Tri-Cities only the Pasco Police Department uses camera equipment.

Melissa Ruelas expressed surprise that her comments including, “It’s suspicious to me,” appeared on the KEPR Facebook page. Ruelas wrote to the Observer that her husband knew Jones well.

When Ruelas learned that Prosecutor Shawn Sant had not made public a decision as to whether he considered the shooting justified, Ruelas responded, “I thought this case was swept under the rug a long time ago.”

Sarese Kirk who commented on the Gordon Whitaker shooting said she was surprised her posts were part of the record.  She noted, “I didn’t think that that was necessary especially when I spoke out of anger and emotion….”

 She knew Whitaker and her posts are listed under the “Knows Suspect” category for a comment on the Kennewick Police Department Facebook page as well as “unknown Category” for another post on the KEPR Facebook page.

Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller declared in August that no charges would be filed in the Whitaker case because the officer who killed Whitaker, had a “good faith belief” that he was preventing death or injury to another officer.

After the Whitaker shooting, Francesca Maier posted on the Kennewick Police Department page: “What was the probable cause for contacting the men?”

When asked if she knew her comment would become a part of the police report, she said, No, I didn’t know that, but I don’t believe we have a right to privacy when posting on a public website, particularly not on the page of a public agency.”

Richland Police Chief asks Council for Three More Officers, Says Eighty Percent of Calls have a Mental Health Aspect

September 22, 2020

At the Sept 8 budget meeting, Richland Police Chief John Bruce told the Richland City Council that he would like to add three more officers to his department.  The city currently budgets for 65.

But Mayor Ryan Lukson had another question — “Why wouldn’t you add more mental health training?” 

The concern stemmed from another fact Bruce laid out. Eighty percent of calls to Richland police involve a mental health aspect, the chief said.

Bruce told the council that the department already provides de-escalation and mental health training for its officers. 

What the department needs, he said, are more bodies. Having more officers per shift means more time to respond to an incident, knowing backup is close by.

“Officers need time to just slow down,” Bruce said. “Officers who rush in may have a deadly force incident. Wait for your back up. Survey the scene. Re-evaluate the decision.”

Bruce also said that he would like officers to be able to allocate 40 percent of their time in the community visiting businesses, schools and Parent Teacher Associations.

The department has mental health crisis workers who ride along with officers, Bruce said. Lourdes Outpatient Services has a grant for more than $1 million that provides these professionals to Tri-Cities police departments.

The Observer talked to Richland Police Capt. Chris Lee and Director of Lourdes’ Outpatient Services Cameron Fordmeir, who administers the grant.

Lee said each jurisdiction has a mobile outreach team that includes a mental outreach professional called a “designated crisis responder.” That person decides whether someone poses enough of danger to themselves or others that they require 72-hour detention for drug abuse or psychiatric evaluation.

The team may also include a mental outreach counselor who provides contacts for follow-up support services or counseling, and peer specialists who work behind the scenes to make sure the paperwork doesn’t fall between the cracks.

“Sometimes the Richland police drive their team member to other jurisdictions which need them,” Lee said. 

Fordmeir added that the program currently has six designated crisis responders, two mental outreach counselors and three peer specialists to cover all of Benton and Franklin counties.

“Since the program began in 2018, the teams have had 4,163 contacts and 87 psychiatric hospitalizations,” Fordmeir said.

The current grant expires June 2021. Fordmeir plans to reapply for the grant as well as look for funding from the cities and other sources so that the program can continue.

What Killed Werner Anderson While He was in Pasco Police Custody?

Werner Anderson had a heart attack and died while in Pasco Police custody moments after medics injected Anderson with the sedative ketamine while one police officer knelt on his back and another held his feet. 

The Observer submitted a public records request and obtained the 537-page Special Investigative Unit report, which Franklin County prosecutor Shawn Sant received over a year ago, on August 28, 2019. 

In addition, the Observer obtained the 2019 Schedule Drug Report from the Pasco Fire Department about the use of ketamine by medics. The Observer also had telephone conversations with Dr. Kevin Hodges, medical program director of Benton-Franklin Counties and Franklin County Coroner Curtis McGary.

On August 10, 2018, Pasco Police Officer Andrew Corral1 responded to a call from the area near Chinese Gardens Restaurant in Pasco. Neighbors reported that a man was knocking on doors, yelling and “acting like he was on drugs.”

In a statement, Corral reported that “the male was cooperative, gave his name as Werner Anderson, and gave his date of birth.”

Corral said that Warner refused to go voluntarily to Lourdes Hospital or detox and instead asked to be taken to the men’s shelter at the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission.

Minutes after officers dropped Warner off at the shelter, though, Ruben Ochoa, director of the men’s shelter, called police to report that “he saw a man flopping on the ground like a fish” and “slapping the ground really hard with his hand.” He reported that Anderson had also swung at one person and hit a second person with a grazing blow.

When Officer Adam Wright2 and Officer Alexander Busch and Corral responded to the call, they handcuffed Anderson and helped him into the shade. An ambulance arrived with Medic James McGrath and Busch and Wright walked Anderson to it. Both Ochoa and Mission Director Debra Biondolillo described Anderson as walking with assistance.

According to Busch, when Anderson sat in the medic’s chair, Busch said to him, “Hey, you know, you can’t sit there. You gotta sit on the stretcher. So he got up from there. I helped guide him up and he stepped between the, uh, bench area and the stretcher.”

To extricate Anderson, the stretcher was removed from the ambulance. Busch and Wright attempted to get Anderson to his feet, but he resisted. After a struggle, Busch held Anderson’s feet while Wright, according to his statement, knelt on “his back area, his shoulders.”

Officer James B. Vaugh, who arrived about the time of the struggle in the ambulance, said in a statement, “Officer Wright was in the ambulance and had a knee on the subject holding him down. The subject was handcuffed, face down, and screaming at the top of his lungs.”

Dr. Lawrence Heiskell, an emergency physician and a veteran reserve police officer with the Palm Springs (California) Police Department, writing in “Police Magazine,” describes the dangers of placing body weight on detainees in a prone position.

According to McGrath “the decision was made to apply chemical restraints.”  In his statement Michael Maier of the Pasco Fire Department also said, “It was determined that ketamine would be used.” Maier stated that he drew up the sedative and handed it to McGrath.

Moments after McGrath injected 250 milligrams (mg) of ketamine into Anderson’s shoulder, Anderson’s heart stopped. McGrath began CPR and other rescue methods and the ambulance left for Kadlec, the closest hospital with a Level 1 cardiac unit. Anderson was declared dead at Kadlec. 

Recently the dangers of ketamine as well as the practice of kneeling on the backs of detainees has received new scrutiny.

A young Black man died in Aurora, Colorado in 2019 after being held in a chokehold and then injected with a large dose of ketamine. Colorado and Minnesota have both reported sharp increases in the use of the drug by medics despite medical warnings about side-effects.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, injected ketamine can cause “difficult or troubled breathing” and “fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat.”

The American Society of Anesthesiologists released a statement on July 15, 2020,  that said it “firmly opposes the use of ketamine or any other sedative/hypnotic agent to chemically incapacitate someone for a law enforcement purpose and not for a legitimate medical reason.

The Observer spoke by telephone with Dr. Kevin Hodges, medical program director of Benton-Franklin Counties. When asked who “determines” when to use ketamine, Hodges said, “It is the sole responsibility of the medic as to when to use drugs in an emergency.” 

Hodges added, “Ketamine is the safest, most efficient drug available for sedation of agitated patients.”

In a document signed by Hodges on June 1, 2016 and included in the SIU report, “Protocol Title: Behavioral Emergencies” there is another option for “dangerous agitation/combativeness” — “4-point soft restraints.”

When the medics chose to use ketamine, at least four people from the Pasco Fire Department were at the scene: medics Maier and McGrath; ambulance driver, Captain Seth Rhoer; and ride along Andrew Kimball.  Four Pasco police officers were also there: Wright, Busch, Corral and Vaugh.

Hodges pointed out that “Ketamine is primarily used by medics for pain relief.”

In Pasco, the 2019 Schedule Drug Report for Ketamine lists 34 times that medics used primarily small amounts, around 15 mg for pain.  On 23 other occasions, larger doses of up to 200 mg to 500 mg were injected for conditions that included alcohol abuse, psychiatric disorders and altered mental status.

According to the toxicology report in the SIU report, in addition to the ketamine, Anderson had THC, amphetamine and methamphetamine in his blood.  

In a telephone conversation with the Franklin County Coroner Curtis McGary, the Observer learned that the coroner’s office listed “drug overdose” as the cause of death.

After over a year with the SIU report, Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant has yet to announce whether any charges will be brought in the case.

1 Another SIU investigation was created on July 30, 2020 to investigate Corral after he shot Santiago Ayala-Pineda for allegedly refusing to drop a handgun.

2Wright was one of the three Pasco police officers who shot rock thrower Antonio Zambrano-Montes in 2015.

Richland City Councilmember Bob Thompson Pleads Guilty to Reckless Driving

After months of hearings and conferences regarding his charge of driving under the influence, Richland City Councilmember Bob Thompson pleaded guilty on July 21, 2020 to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

Washington State Patrolman James Stairet stopped Thompson for speeding at midnight on June 29, 2019, when Thompson was Richland’s mayor. Thompson’s eyes were “watery and bloodshot,” and Thompson held the driver’s side door for balance as he got out of his car, Stairet wrote in his report of the stop. Thompson declined to take a field sobriety test and said he wouldn’t complete a breath test, wrote Stairet, who then arrested Thompson.

Thompson, a lawyer, regularly defends clients who have been charged with DUI.

In a telephone conversation, Thompson likened his case to others. “As many as 75% of first offenders accept a plea agreement,” he said.

Thompson said he will lose his license for 30 days. “Probably September,” he said. 

But he’s not required to have an ignition interlock device, and a reckless driving conviction won’t prevent him from travelling to Canada, where he sometimes attends conferences to represent the city’s support for the Hanford cleanup.

According to the court docket, Thompson paid a $1,233.97 fine and completed both a victim impact panel and Alcohol Drug Information School. 

Thompson’s two-year, unmonitored probation requires that he not possess or consume alcoholic beverages, marijuana or controlled substances or drive without a valid license and proof of insurance.

He acknowledged a second incident could bring stiffer penalties. “If you’re dumb enough to have another similar incident, you’re in big trouble,” he said.