Franklin County Commission continues to grapple with mask issue — guest report from Leona Hassing*

Franklin County Courthouse

Commissioners meeting on Tuesday 8/31/21:

Didier wore no mask. Shawn Sant, Franklin Co. prosecuting attorney, again gave the rationale for wearing the masks. Didier argued back and forth with him.

Peck suggested and made a motion to move the meeting to ZOOM in 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, the meeting resumed with Didier and Mullen in the meeting room and Peck in his office. There were several audience members who had to sit and wait during the 30-minute break. .

At the end of the meeting, audience members commented.  Didier had his followers there to comment using the standard talking points.  Franklin Co. Democratic Chair Jeffrey Robinson commented on how embarrassing it was to have this kind of leadership in Franklin Co.  There was also one phone-in caller.  

There is no meeting next week, due to nothing important on the agenda. The following meeting is a night meeting on September 14.

*Leona Hassing, formerly a resident of Richland who now lives in Pasco, closely follows a number of Tri-Cities government agencies.

Plan for police cameras, allocation of millions in federal funding, Richland council’s Aug. 24 workshop, Randy’s Roundup

Back to Zoom

Correction: a typographical error has been corrected on the price for police cameras, $247,952.80

Richland City Council will meet in a virtual workshop on Tuesday to discuss the budget, the plan for police cameras and the allocation of millions from the American Rescue Plant Act.

Instructions for watching the meeting are at the top of the agenda.

Richland city staff wants guidance from the council on how to spend over $7 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). At the top of the list is $1.5 million to pay utilities for residents and businesses in Richland who have been impacted by COVID-19.

Staff recommends $2.6 million to beef up broadband infrastructure, $250,000 for small business assistance. Also on the list is $3 million for a sewer extension to North Horn Rapids to enhance industrial development.

The money has to be allocated by 2022 and spent by 2024.

The Washington State Legislature passed bills during the 2021 session to require electronic recording of custodial interrogations. The police need cameras to accomplish that.

Richland Police Chief Bruce proposes 68 body worn cameras, 27 dashboard cameras and 5 interview rooms plus back office tools and storage. The “subtotal” for all of these is $247,951.80. This isn’t the first time that the use of the word “subtotal” has been confusing. Hopefully, the workshop discussion will provide more information.

The amount is approximately the amount that the city will receive in a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The council will also hear a mid-year financial report that will include a comparison of revenue and expenditures.

Commander Jon Law picked to replace recalled Benton Sheriff Jerry Hatcher — guest report from Mike Lowery

Correction: The number of openings in the sheriff’s department has been corrected

The Benton County Commission has chosen Commander Jon Law, currently second in command of the Benton County Sheriff’s office, as an interim replacement for recalled Sheriff Jerry Hatcher. Law will be sheriff until the commission choses from a three-person list provided by the Benton County Republican Party. Hatcher was elected as a Republican.

The Benton County Republican Party said that they will present three names to the commission by the first week of September. The commission will choose one of those three to be sheriff until a new one is voted for in the November 2022 election.

According to Commissioner Shon Small, the department has lost 26 employees since 2018 and currently has 14 openings. A job list online shows seven openings in the sheriff’s office.

Not counting the 40-minute executive session, the meeting only lasted 11 minutes. The commissioners said it was a tough decision, apparently addressing the people in the audience who had applied for the job.

“Robbing Peter to pay Paul without a plan,” the Richland Council votes no on transit tax referendum, Randy’s Recap August 9

Richland City councilmembers agreed last night that without a more detailed plan, they were unwilling to reduce the Ben Franklin Transit sales tax funding to pay for a mental health facility. As Councilmember Bob Thompson put it, he was against “Robbing Peter to pay Paul with no plan.” Councilmember Terry Christensen did not attend the special meeting.

Benton and Franklin County commissions have pushed for the referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot that would ask voters to divert .1% of the .6% transit sales tax to fund a mental health facility. Thompson complained that the counties collect money that they don’t spend.

Councilmember Phil Lemley, who represents the city on the Ben Franklin board had asked the council at their Aug. 2 meeting for instructions on how to vote at the Aug. 12 Ben Franklin Board meeting. A resolution on the agenda would DECLINE to support a referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Lemley pointed out that voters had approved the .6% sales tax for Ben Franklin in a vote almost 20 years ago.

At last night’s meeting councilmembers said that it was too late to put a referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot. The referendum would have to be in February instead.

Mayor Ryan Lukson said that he thought there was a plan in place for the mental health facility, but it had not been shared with the community.

Councilmember Sandra Kent wondered, “What did they select this funding mechanism and try to ram it through?”

The Council voted to direct Lemley to vote against the referendum plan during the Ben Franklin Aug. 12 board meeting.

Lukson said, “We need a meeting to hear concrete plans.”

Thirty-three seconds, five shots in the dark, two stories, Richland police release investigation report for February 1 shooting

Thirty-three seconds after Richland Police Officer Christian Jabri spotted the unarmed Charlie Suarez on the pedestrian trail between Cottonwood Drive and the SR 240 bypass highway, he shot at him five times. Two of the bullets hit Suarez in the left knee and right thigh. Three missed and haven’t been found. 

Suarez had rolled his vehicle on the I-182 Wellsian Way exit near Fred Meyer and ran from the scene. Jabri and other Richland police officers looked for him in the wintertime darkness. 

The two people involved have different stories about what happened during their brief contact. Richland police officers do not have body cameras, but the process is underway to provide them by next year.

The following is information from the 5,319-page Special Investigative Unit (SIU) report1 that the Observer obtained via a public record request made to the City of Richland.

The rollover

On Feb. 1, 2021, Suarez had the day off from his 12-hour shifts at the Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) plant in Wallula, WA. He stopped by the Pasco home of Eloisa Ramirez, the mother of two of his children. He wanted to take the children to Chuck E Cheese in Kennewick.

According to Ramirez, Suarez pounded on her house and they argued. She told investigators that Suarez tried to hit her with his car.

Suarez drove away from Ramirez’s home. He told investigators that he was trying to decide whether to drive to Chelan to see his mother. He knew he needed gas for the three-hour trip, so he got off I-182 at Wellsian Way. He admitted later that he was driving too fast when he rolled his white 2002 GMC Denali at the curve.

The first thing he remembered was feeling like he was in a fishbowl looking at the windows and seeing people peering in at him. He climbed out of the passenger side door and started running up Thayer Drive. He said he ran because he didn’t have a driver’s license.

Police respond

According to Southeast Communications Center (SECOMM) records, a call came in at 6:58 p.m. that there had been a rollover. Several more calls followed. The reporting caller originally said that the accident was behind Walmart but called again to say it was behind Fred Meyer.

At the time of the accident, Jabri was at the police station on George Washington Way. He was preparing to respond to a call about an “unwanted person” at WinCo on Columbia Point Drive.

Jabri heard dispatch call out that a driver of a rolled vehicle had fled and realized that the location near Wellsian Way was in his patrol area. He told dispatch he was going to help find  the fleeing driver.

By 7:05 p.m. — seven minutes after the first call — five patrol units had been assigned to the search. Jabri followed another patrol car south on Thayer Drive from Lee Street, then turned and drove west on Cottonwood Drive searching that area.

Dispatch records show that by about 7:06 p.m., police had the license plate number for Suarez’s Denali SUV.  SIU records don’t show whether dispatch ran the numbers and told police about the owner.

The SIU report indicates Richland police didn’t know the name of the fleeing man until after he was shot. Jabri said in his statement that he didn’t learn Suarez’s name until the next day and he had never heard of him.

A memo in the SIU report also notes that Richland police didn’t know about the incident in Pasco.

Officers found one empty bottle of beer in Suarez’s car.  A blood sample taken within two hours after his accident showed his blood alcohol level at .058, under the .08 legal limit. The only other drug in his system was the opioid pain reliever that Richland Fire Department medics gave him in the ambulance.

Contact

As Suarez ran up the trail behind Cottonwood Drive, he sent threatening text messages to Ramirez. He also called his mother in Chelan and told her that he had had an accident and was probably going to jail.

SECOMM records show that at 7:12 p.m. — 14 minutes into the call —  Jabri radioed that he was checking the walking trail in his car. He bumped over the curb and started driving down the trail with his headlights on and shining a spotlight to illuminate the area.

Jabri spotted Suarez at about 36 seconds later and told the dispatcher to send a backup. 

Nineteen seconds after that, Jabri started chasing Suarez on foot.

According to Jabri, Suarez didn’t obey commands to get on the ground, made threatening gestures and kept reaching into his waistband as if going for a gun.

Suarez said that when Jabri shined this spotlight on him, he just gave up. 

“I can’t really run and all of my stuff’s in the car,” he said in his statement.

Suarez said he responded to Jabri’s commands and had his hands over his head. 

Jabri drew his weapon, which had a mounted flashlight, but said he reholstered it when he didn’t see a gun in Suarez’s hand.

At that moment, according to Jabri, Suarez turned and yelled and cursed at him while reaching into his waistband.

When Suarez started running toward him, Jabri believed that he had a gun and said, “I believed I could not see the gun because it might have been a black weapon.”  

At 7:13 p.m., 33 seconds after spotting Suarez on the trail, Jabri shot at Suarez five times.

One minute and seven seconds after Jabri called for a backup unit, it arrived at 7:13:46 p.m. — 34 seconds after he shot Suarez.

Suarez said he didn’t rush Jabri, that he instead tried to put his hands on the ground. That’s when he heard gunshots and was hit.

After the shooting

Police found five shell casings from Jabri’s sidearm at the scene. Investigators never located three of the bullets, believing the rounds landed in a berm next to a homeowner’s fence, too deep in the dirt to be located by their metal detector.

A jogger using a headlamp on the trail at that time wondered if police considered bystanders.

She said that in just a few seconds she could have been in the line of fire.

Police Officer Kevon Skinner arrived at the trail area shortly after the shooting. In the transcript of his statement, he described how dark the area was.

“I remember thinking there could be 100 people walking down there and I would never know until I get right up on them,” Skinner said.

In his statement Jabri said, “I yelled at the suspect to ‘get down’ multiple times. I did not have any option for cover, and I was completely exposed. My patrol vehicle was far from my location. Directly behind me and to the sides of me were open areas with no cover.”

Jabri didn’t explain why he chose to chase Suarez on foot in the dark in such a vulnerable area instead of waiting for backup units that he knew were nearby.

What next?

The SIU  turned its report over to Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller at the end of June.

Officers from departments in the region that are not involved in the case under investigation are chosen for the SIU. Commander Randy Maynard of the Kennewick Police Department headed this investigation.

The SIU assistant commanders were Cpt. Jeff Harpster of the Pasco Police Department and Lt. Aaron Clem of the Kennewick Police Department. Eleven other officers from Pasco, Kennewick and Walla Walla police departments and the Washington State Police participated in the investigation.

Miller will decide if the officer should be charged in the case. Any policy violations are left to the police department. Miller can take as long as he wants to make his decision.

Franklin Prosecutor Shawn Sant waited until July 2, 2021, over a year after receiving the SIU report on the fatal shooting of unarmed Dante Jones in November 2019, before announcing that there would be no charges in the case. Franklin County Deputy Cody Quantrell shot Jones during a traffic stop.

On July 1, 2021, Miller emailed the Observer that he had given the report to an outside panel of five elected state prosecutors for review. It is only the second case that has been submitted for this process. 

The first panel took almost three months to review the case that they received. The panel determined that the shooting of Jenoah Donald, a black motorist killed by a Clark County deputy, was justified.


1The SIU report includes 3000 pages from Suarez’s Instagram account and 500 pages of redacted medical records.

Richland Councilmember Christensen wants to bring back pre-meetings, Randy’s recap Aug. 2 council meeting

Richland Councilmember Terry Christensen

Richland City Councilmember Terry Christensen announced at the Tuesday night council meeting that he wants to bring back the pre-meetings.  

The pre-meetings weren’t televised and produced no minutes and no recordings or videos. The councilmembers talked about, well, whatever.

Until about two years ago, the pre-meetings occurred about 30 minutes before the regular meeting. It was noted at the top of the regular meeting agenda with sometimes a couple of items listed under it.

At one pre-meeting that the Observer attended the councilmembers talked about how they were going to deep-six a petition for a referendum on selling marijuana in Richland. Not even the petitioners were aware that the matter would be discussed.

Residents interested in a particular city issue never knew when it might be the subject of a pre-meeting.

After Ryan Lukson became mayor two years ago, the pre-meetings ended. Councilmember Sandra Kent said that City Attorney Heather Kintzley was responsible for ending the pre-meetings.

Christensen claimed that Kintzley was “comfortable” although perhaps not happy about resuming them.

Christensen may have missed the 10 minutes in the pre-meetings devoted to discussing the regular agenda items. Councilmembers often demonstrate during the meetings that they haven’t read the packet of information given to them several days before the meetings.

Christensen suggested that the newly resurrected pre-meetings start at 5:30 p.m. He said that since he’s retired that’s not a problem for him.

Washington State open meeting laws are among the most lax in the country. A meeting of a majority of councilmembers must be public; requirements beyond that are few.

Before the council and staff moved into the new city hall, they held the pre-meeting in a small room with a few chairs for any residents who came in.  Many thought the meetings were private.

After the city moved into the new council chamber, pre-meetings continued in the new location but council meeting attendees would often wait outside assuming the meeting was closed. The council never went out of the way to indicate otherwise.

The council decided to put this discussion on the next meeting’s agenda.

Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller has asked an outside panel to review the investigation of Richland police shooting

Police marks on the trail where Richland Police Officer Christian Jabri shot Charlie J. Suarez. Photo by Andrea Cameron

An outside panel of five elected state prosecutors is reviewing the Feb. 1 Richland police shooting of Charlie J. Suarez.

It’s the first time a Tri-Cities police shooting is being reviewed under a pilot program created by the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, according to the association’s president.  

Under the program, a local prosecutor can request an outside panel of prosecutors to review a police shooting case. WAPA president and Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller is the second prosecutor to ask for a panel.

Richland police officer Christian Jabri shot Suarez twice on the bike path along the bypass highway after Suarez flipped his car near Wellsian Way and allegedly ran from police. Details about why Jabri shot Suarez have not yet been released. Suarez was treated and released without charges.

Prosecutors in Washington determine if lethal force was justified using reports from independent investigation teams. The teams are comprised of police officers from agencies not involved in the shooting being investigated. 

The Tri-Cities team is the Regional Special Investigations Unit. Kennewick police Commander Randy Maynard headed the Suarez shooting investigation, which was completed and submitted to Miller at the end of June.

In an email to the Observer, Miller explained that because of legislative proposals and community concerns, WAPA had discussed the outside review program many times in the past two years.  

“It is completely discretionary on the part of the involved prosecutor whether or not to use that process,” Miller said.

Meyer confirmed the program is optional, adding that it represents an informal power of law enforcement and prosecutors. 

“Prosecutors already have the ability to bounce off ideas and opinions with each other,” Meyer told the Observer.

Meyer said that he would serve on the panel along with elected prosecutors from Thurston, Spokane, Clark, and Pend Oreille counties.

Meyer said that his goal was to have an odd number on the panels, and not restrict them to elected prosecutors.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law this year that created an Office of Independent Investigation, a state-level agency that can select cases to investigate. 

A similar bill that would have created an Office of Independent Prosecution did not pass in the Legislature.

Meyer said the program will be reviewed as it progresses.

Randy’s Roundup, June 1 Richland Council Agenda Explained – Juneteenth Proclamation tops the agenda, small apartments considered

Forty-six states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or observance.

Instructions on how to comment on public hearings and during the public comment period as well as the various ways to watch the meeting are on the agenda. Page numbers below correspond to the pages in the packet information included with the agenda.

1.Apparently, at least four city councilmembers believe that the Juneteeth Celebration on June 19th deserves a Proclamation because it tops the agenda. At the May 25 council workshop only Councilmember Sandra Kent said that she supported the proclamation. Pg. 4-5.

Public hearing: You have three minutes to comment on a hearing item.

2. The city is considering eliminating the 500 sq. ft. minimum for apartments in the central business district. A developer wants to convert the Days Inn Hotel on Jadwin into apartments. The Park Place Apartments on George Washington Way, about a block from the Days Inn on Jadwin, has studio apartments smaller than 500 sq. ft. The builder of Park Place received a variance. Pg. 92-139

3. This approves additional $1,076,530 in appropriations for two new fire stations, traffic signal improvements, fiber infrastructure and to prepare surplus property for sale.  Pg. 17-20.

Public Comments: You have 2 minutes to talk about anything.

Consent Calendar – These will receive no discussion and one vote.

4. Approval of the May 18, 2021, City Council regular meeting minutes and the May 25, 2021 City Council Workshop meeting minutes. The three-hour council workshop on May 25 is summed up in two and a half pages. If you want the real story, go to Richland City View and watch it. Pg. 8-16

5. The council will vote on the additional appropriations that were the subject of the public hearing in item 3. Pg. 17-20.

6. The council will authorize an amended and restated Tri-Cities HOME consortium agreement to add Tenant-based rental assistance (TBRA). HOME is a U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Program.  Pg. 21-33      

7. This approves the sale of a 3-acre lot at the entrance of the Horn Rapids development at Kingsgate to AK’s Investments, LLC for $436,621. The developer will build a gas station, convenience store, coffee stand and car wash on the property. The developer has 18 months to get the development described underway or the property reverts to the city. Pg. 34-50.

8. Five property owners wish to have their property’s zoning changed. This item establishes a schedule for considering those changes. The final vote by the council on these changes would be in September.  Pg. 51-55, the schedule is on Pg. 55.

9. The City of Richland had been the operating agency for the Hanford Communities but the city has turned it over to Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC). The purpose of Hanford Communities is to review, evaluate and monitor conditions at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and the policies, programs and operations of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and others in regard to Hanford. Benton and Franklin and the cities of Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and West Richland (the “Participating Jurisdictions”). This authorizes Richland to be the pass-through agency for the $100,000 provided to it by the Washington Department of Ecology. Pg. 55-68

10. Area law enforcement agencies cooperate on sharing records. The summary in the agenda packet includes this information: “The records management system relied upon for many years, I/Leads, is being sunsetted in favor of a Tyler Technologies product, which will launch in the near future. At this time, the counties of Benton and Franklin and the cities of Connell, Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, West Richland, and Prosser, through their respective law enforcement departments, desire to jointly utilize this upgraded and expanded law enforcement records management system which will be operated by the City of Kennewick’s Information Technology Division.”  Richland pays a base fee of $10,000 with the rest of the cost based on useage. Pg. 69-85

11. ESF Development LLC of Walla Walla doing business as ESF Solutions was the low bidder for the construction of the Thayer/Van Giesen Roundabout. ESF will be awarded the contract for $639,311.82. Pg.  86-91

Items of Business – This item will receive discussion and a vote.

12. Reducing the allowed dwelling size in the central business district. See Item 2 above.

City manager and councilmembers now blah, blah, blah.

The council will adjourn into secret executive session to discuss potential litigation with the city attorney.

Randy’s Recap, May 18 Richland council: utility pre-payment plan aimed at troubled accounts, National Night Out to become a neighborhood event, secret meeting

The Richland City Council approved a contract with Exceleron for use of their software program, MyUsagePrePay at their May 18 meeting. The program aims at reducing delinquent utility accounts by giving consumers a pay-as-you-go-plan.

At the April 27 council meeting, Administrative Services Director Cathleen Koch said that in 2019, 400 consumers had delinquent accounts amounting to approximately $200,000. The contract that has been approved is for 500 consumers.

My UsagePrePay will cost at least $41,000 a year. The city has signed a three-year contract and will pay $15,000 for configuration and a minimum fee of $3000 a month to use the program with service provided by Exceleron.

Councilmember Marianne Boring asked to pull the utility pre-payment plan off the consent calendar for discussion and a separate vote.

Borings first concern was the termination part of the agreement which requires the city to pay all of fees for the rest of the contract should it wish to cancel.

Energy Services Director Clint Whitney said that Exceleron had been great to work with and he really saw no downside to the contract.

Boring also pointed out the houses without utilities were considered uninhabitable.

Whitney responded that electricity was usually the first utility cut off and that customers usually paid their bills before water and sewer were disconnected as well. Whitney referred to it as an “escalation process.”

Whitney did not provide any figures to indicate how many customers were disconnected from electricity in 2019 and how many were disconnected from all utilities. Due to COVID there has been a disconnection moratorium since early 2020 and 4000 accounts are now delinquent for a total of $2 million.

Whitney noted that the plan would work well not only for people who wanted to pay as they used the electricity but also for people who could not afford deposits.

National Night Out

Police Chief John Bruce wants the National Night Out to be held in the neighborhoods rather that at John Dam Plaza. According to the Night Out organization, the yearly event, held on the first Tuesday in August, is to promote police and community partnerships.  The council agreed to have their August 4 meeting on another day so they could participate in the neighborhood programs.

Secret Meeting

Richland City Council secret meetings (also known as Executive Sessions) have become more secret. The one held Tuesday was not even listed on the agenda. Interim City Manager Jon Amundson announced at the end of the Tuesday night city council meeting that there would be a “closed session” after the public meeting to discuss labor negotiations.

Escape Covid with a tiny town tour

“Wild Life” sculpture by Tom Otterness

Although Covid may have dashed your dreams of a cruise or some other bucket-list trip you had planned, you can still travel. In less than an hour, you can be in Connell.

The Observer highly recommends a walking tour of this tiny town of about 5,600.

In a telephone conversation Connell City Administrator Maria Pena told the Observer, “We are proud of Connell and particularly the art that you will find on our streets and trails.” She recommended the map from the town’s website.

So, grab your map and take highway 395 to northern Franklin County. 

You can stop at Country Mercantile about midway. The Mercantile has produce, both fresh and preserved, as well as a public restroom.

Exit at State Route 260, turn right at Columbia Ave., Connell’s main street. Start your tour at Franklin St. and N. Columbia Ave. 

In addition to the art, Columbia Ave. has a mix of historic, brick buildings constructed after a fire destroyed most of the town in 1905 and newer, mid-century buildings.

Four of Tom Otterness’s six bronze and cast concrete sculptures, “Wild Life” sit along the two blocks between Franklin St. and Borah St. As you walk, you will also see murals depicting local history painted by Pat Boyer.

An Otterness “Wild Life” sculpture. The duck has an ace behind his back.

One of Connell’s largest employers, the Washington Department of Corrections Coyote Ridge Corrections Center working with the State Arts Commission funded the statutes. Local businesses contributed to the Boyer murals.

Coyote Ridge, north of Connell, houses 2100 inmates and employs many of the local residents.

For lunch, both the Pizza Station at 238 N. Columbia Ave. and Papa Ray’s across the street at 245 N. Columbia have carry-out. 

Husband Bob and I enjoyed a delicious hamburger and fries from Papa Ray’s at the table with the Otterness train sculpture next to Connell City Hall and Police Department. According to Pena, “The table and sculpture sit just outside my office window.”

Pena encouraged visitors to have lunch at any of the tables with the sculptures.

Walk about five blocks south on Columbia Ave. to see the other two Otterness sculptures between Elm St. and Gum St.  

On the way to the sculptures, take a short side trip up W. Adams St. to see the 1904 Presbyterian Church which now houses the Connell Heritage Museum. Unfortunately, the museum is currently closed.

Pena pointed out that along Highway 395, the city has installed a one-mile walking path that connects Gum Street and Clark Street. Tall steel flowers by Jean Whitesavage and Nick Lyle sit along the path. Coyote Ridge and the State Arts Commission also funded these.

Connell’s impressive public school complex fills several blocks on W. Clark.

Connell grew from sheep and cattle country to a railroad town after the golden spike joined the western branch of the Northern Pacific Railroad with the eastern branch at Gold Creek, Montana in 1883. Former President Ulysses S. Grant and other luminaries traveled to Montana to celebrate the achievement.

Wells provided the town with water but growth has always strained the supply. Dry land wheat has been the most important product through most of Connell’s history. 

My Hat is in the Ring

I am pleased to announce that I have applied to fill the vacancy on the Richland City Council, where, if appointed, I would focus on improving residents’ access to the Council. We need more opportunity for people to have their questions answered and their opinions heard. If you agree, please contact the Richland City Council to support my appointment: citycouncil@ci.richland.wa.us

As you know, I ran for Richland City Council in 2019 and received 7126 votes, 48%. Councilmember Brad Anderson recently resigned leaving an opening that the six remaining members of the council will vote to fill.  

The council intends to appoint someone to the job by October 6.  If appointed, my plan would be to put the TriCities Observer on hiatus to minimize distractions and focus on the council.  Rest assured, I would be doing my part to keep you all informed of what the city is doing, whether it is on this blog or not. 

Last year, the Tri-City Herald as well as the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Laborers’ Local 348, the UA Local 598 Plumbers and Steamfitters and the Teamsters Local 839 endorsed me.

In the city’s 60+ year history only 13 out of 72 city council members have been women. Only one serves now. I would work hard to bring the change that the city council needs.

In the meantime, for all blog posts related to the city of Richland until the selection is made, I will include a reference to my status as having applied for the council job, for purpose of full disclosure.

An Update on the Dante Jones Shooting Investigation from Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant

Email below received on June 23, 2020

Thank you for your correspondence. 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. 

Please follow up with me in about 3-4 weeks to see where we are in the process.

Thank you,

Shawn

Shawn P. Sant, Prosecutor

Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office

1016 N. 4th Ave.

Pasco, WA 99301

(509) 545-3543

ssant@co.franklin.wa.us

Dante Jones, One More Unarmed Black Man Shot Dead by Police

Dante Redmond Jones traveling 82 mph down a Franklin County back road was pursued by three Franklin County Deputies who shot and killed the unarmed Jones.

The Special Investigative Units (cops investigating cops) Summary follows:

Event — On 11/18/19 at 0308hrs, a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed passed Sgt Thomasson. As the vehicle passed Sgt Thomasson, it honked at him. Sgt Thomasson was able to get a radar reading on the vehicle showing that the car was speeding at 82MPH. Sgt Thomasson called Deputy Quantrell on the radio and asked him if he saw the same vehicle. Deputy Quantrell said that he did see the vehicle and that it honked at him as they passed as well. Sgt Thomasson then began to try to catch up to the vehicle, but Sgt Thomasson stated that he could not see the vehicle anymore due to the speed of the vehicle and the fog. Deputy Quantrell and Deputy Gardner began heading toward Sgt Thomasson’s location to assist him. At this point Sgt Thomasson did not activate his emergency lights because he was not sure where the vehicle was. Sgt Thomasson knew that there was a T intersection at Taylor Flats and Ringold so at this point he thought that it was a good possibility that the driver might not be able to navigate the 0004 Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Investigation Summary FCSO 19-05347 Page 4 of 10 intersection at the speeds he was driving. As Sgt Thomasson approached the intersection, he saw that the vehicle had slowed down and appeared to be waiting for the police vehicle to catch up to him. As Sgt Thomasson approached and when both vehicles were within view of each other the suspect vehicle took off again, heading west on Ringold. Sgt Thomasson followed the vehicle, still not activating his emergency lights because of the distance between their vehicles. He estimated that the closest he was able to get to the vehicle was about 200 yards and at times would pull away to 400-500 yards. When Sgt Thomasson passed R-170 and Davis Lane, he could see Deputy Quantrell and Deputy Gardner’s vehicle lights behind him. At one point, Sgt Thomasson said on the radio, “He just went dark”. I took this to mean that the driver of the suspect vehicle turned his vehicle lights off, although Sgt Thomasson did not mention this in his interview. At 0313hrs, Sgt Thomasson advised Dispatch that he was trying to catch a vehicle that was driving 80+ miles per hour in the fog and that so far he had been unable to catch up to the vehicle. He asked Dispatch to advise Adams County. He also advised Dispatch that he was not in pursuit because so far he was unable to get close enough to the vehicle to even turn on his emergency lights. Deputy Quantrell advised that he and Deputy Gardner were also trying to catch up to the vehicle. According to Sgt Thomasson, at about the intersection of R-170 and Sheffield he told them that their vehicles were faster than his vehicle and he told them to pass him so that they could get closer to the suspect vehicle. This happened at 0318hrs according to the radio call records. At 0319hrs, Deputy Quantrell advised Dispatch of the suspect vehicle’s plate number and stated that the driver was failing to yield. According to Deputy Quantrell during his interview, just prior to this radio transmission, he was able to catch up to the vehicle because it had stopped in the road at an intersection and was waiting for him (Deputy Quantrell) to catch up. Deputy Quantrell stated that after calling out the plate, the vehicle took off. Deputy Quantrell stated that his lights were on and after the vehicle took off from the stop, he turned his siren on as well and pursued the vehicle. According to Deputy Gardner’s statement, he was right behind Deputy Quantrell and saw the suspect vehicle stopped in the middle of an intersection waiting for them to catch up. DeputyGardner said that he and Deputy Quantrell came up behind the vehicle and actually came to a stop behind the vehicle prior to it leaving the scene of the attempted stop, at a high rate of speed. Deputy Gardner said that prior to the vehicle taking off he activated his emergency lights as if he was attempting to make a traffic stop. At 0319hrs, Deputy Quantrell advised Dispatch that the driver of the vehicle had tried to brake check him. In their interviews, Deputy Quantrell described this as the driver of the vehicle slammed on his brakes hard and that when he had done that Deputy Quantrell almost rearended the suspect’s vehicle. Deputy Quantrell said that the only way that he was able to avoid hitting the suspect’s vehicle was because he steered his vehicle into the opposite lane of travel, thus avoiding the collision. Deputy Gardner described the incident similarly and stated that he believed that the suspect was trying to initiate a collision between their vehicles and his. 0005 Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Investigation Summary FCSO 19-05347 Page 5 of 10 Deputy Gardner only described one near collision due to a brake check type incident in his statement until the terminate pursuit command was given by Sgt Thomasson. Deputy Quantrell talked about two near collisions prior to the terminate pursuit command in his statement, but they seem to describe the second near collision the same and it would appear that one of them is confused about the timeline of events. During this second event, both Deputies say that when Deputy Quantrell narrowly avoided colliding with the suspect vehicle he had to veer to the right of the suspect’s vehicle. When Deputy Quantrell did this, the suspect intentionally steered his vehicle to the right as well, in what appeared to be an attempt to ram or collide with the Deputy’s vehicle. At 0323hrs, a Deputy (the Deputy does not identify himself by a call sign, but it sounds like Deputy Quantrell) tells Dispatch that the suspect had just tried to hit his car and that he had an Assault 1. He then stated, “Frank 10 just be advised he’s trying to hit us at this point”. Deputy Quantrell in his interview goes on to describe what happened next in the following manner; He stated that after the terminate pursuit command was given by Sgt Thomasson, they both (Deputy Quantrell and Deputy Gardner) turned their emergency lights off and he (Deputy Quantrell) could see that the vehicle had again come to a stop in the middle of the road. He is again approaching the vehicle as he continued driving after turning his emergency lights off. As he got close to the car, Deputy Quantrell stated that he saw the suspect vehicle’s reverse light come on. The vehicle then began backing at a high rate of speed towards Deputy Quantrell’s patrol car. Deputy Quantrell stated that the suspect was in the middle of the road at this point and that the suspect backed up until he was just parallel to the driver’s side of Deputy Quantrell’s patrol car and came to a stop. Deputy Quantrell stated that after the vehicle backed up next to him and came to a stop he (Deputy Quantrell) exited his vehicle and drew his weapon. Because of where the vehicles were positioned, the suspect’s passenger door was right where Deputy Quantrell was standing as he exited his patrol vehicle. He said that he tried the door handle of the front passenger door and it was unlocked. He opened the vehicle door and started giving commands to the driver. Deputy Quantrell described these commands as “let me see your hands” and “you’re under arrest”. Deputy Quantrell said that the driver looked at him but did not say anything. As this was happening, Deputy Quantrell said that he started to move into the car with the intention of using his left hand to grab the key and turn the car off. Deputy Quantrell was halfway into the car when he (the driver) looked at him and shifted the gearshift into drive and began accelerating with Deputy Quantrell halfway in the car. When the car began to accelerate, Deputy Quantrell said that the passenger door closed on him and he became pinned between the seat and the car door. Deputy Quantrell said that when the driver accelerated and he became pinned half in and half out of the car, he feared that he would be drug under the car or ran over. Fearing that he would be gravely injured or killed, he discharged his handgun at the driver in an attempt to stop him. Deputy Quantrell stated that he then fell out of the car and landed face down on the pavement as the car continued to accelerate and drive off. Deputy Gardner describes the event as follows. He was behind Deputy Quantrell and the suspect vehicle when the suspect vehicle came to a stop parallel to Deputy Quantrell’s vehicle.

Deputy Gardner said that he was about 75 feet behind their vehicles. Deputy Gardner said that by the time he had exited his vehicle, he observed that Deputy Quantrell was already inside the suspect’s vehicle. Deputy Gardner said that he heard Deputy Quantrell giving verbal commands to the suspect. He said that he could not hear everything Deputy Quantrell was saying but remembered hearing “Franklin County” and “hands”. Deputy Gardner described Deputy Quantrell as having his entire torso in the suspect’s car. Deputy Gardner said that the vehicle then recklessly continued northbound with Deputy Quantrell still inside the vehicle. He stated that he saw Deputy Quantrell being dragged while half his body was still inside and he then heard gunshots and saw flashes coming from inside the car. At that point, he did not know who was shooting. Deputy Quantrell then fell out of the car as it continued northbound. Deputy Gardner said that he ran up to Deputy Quantrell to find out if he was okay. When Deputy Quantrell stated that he was okay, he ran back to his patrol vehicle and continued the pursuit. According to the radio traffic, the above descriptions of the incident happened in a very short amount of time as illustrated below by the radio traffic: 03:22:43AM – Deputy Quantrell states, “copy, do you care if we still follow from a distance, he’s stopping in the road now at this point” 03:23:16AM – Deputy Quantrell states, “he just tried to hit my car, I have assault 1”. 03:23:24AM – Deputy Quantrell states, “F10 just be advised, he’s trying to hit us at this point” 03:23:55AM – Deputy Quantrell states, F37 dispatch, shots fired, suspects been hit. He’s still continuing northbound. After Deputy Quantrell fell out of the suspect vehicle, Sgt Thomasson, Deputy Gardner and Deputy Quantrell continued their pursuit of the suspect. The suspect drove approximately 1.5 more miles before veering off the road into a field of tree saplings. Sgt Thomasson, who was the first vehicle behind the suspect, paralleled the suspect while remaining on the road as it went into the field. As the vehicle slowed, Sgt Thomasson drove into the field down a row that separated the fields and did not contain metal T-Posts. He was able to intercept the suspect vehicle as it slowed and came to a stop. Sgt Thomasson drove his vehicle up and pinned the passenger side door with the front of his vehicle, preventing anyone from being able to open or exit the vehicle from that side. Deputy Gardner and Deputy Quantrell were close behind and approached the vehicle around the front while Sgt Thomasson covered the vehicle from the rear passenger side. In order to get a better visual inside the car Sgt Thomasson broke the back passenger window out of the car. Deputy Gardner and Deputy Quantrell approached the driver’s door and opened the door. The driver, later identified as Dante Jones, was conscious but was not responding to any of the officer’s commands. They extricated him from the vehicle and placed him in handcuffs. They then began looking for gunshot wounds and providing first aid. Jones remained conscious but non-verbal until the ambulance arrived at around 0415hrs. Once the ambulance arrived, they loaded him and shortly after loading him, he stopped breathing and they started CPR. Around 0420hrs, the volunteer ambulance met a Pasco Fire Ambulance so that he could be transferred to their care for the remainder of the trip. At that 0007 Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Investigation Summary FCSO 19-05347 Page 7 of 10 point Pasco Fire Medics called the hospital and spoke to a doctor who told gave them permission to “call it”. They stopped all care at that point and notified Dispatch. The Ambulance moved to a nearby fire station and Captain Huber with FCSO responded to where the Ambulance was and stood by with the body until SIU arrived.

Videos Demonstrate that Law Enforcement is Not the Answer to Every Problem

Recently, Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond spoke to the Franklin County Commission and the Pasco City Council promoting the idea of re-purposing the former Kennewick Hospital into an in-patient treatment and recovery center. 

Sheriff Raymond pointed out that the jails should not be used as a warehouse for mentally ill people, drug addicts, and the homeless. The Tri-Cities is the only major metropolitan area in Eastern Washington with no de-tox center

 Who can forget the video of the horrible treatment of Marc A. Moreno who died in the Benton County jail in 2016.     Moreno was bi-polar and schizophrenic.

While Benton County Commissioners quickly approved funds for a feasibility study for the proposed project, only Commissioner Clint Didier voted to approve the Franklin County share, $12,500.   However, funding was found and the study has commenced.

In 2017, I filmed this video  of police responding to an apparent drug overdose case.  As several friends and I left a city council meeting that fall, we found a lightly dressed young man who appeared to be in drug crisis lying on the steps muttering and obviously hallucinating.  He made no threatening gestures but was obviously a danger to himself if he either ran into the street or remained outside without adequate clothing.  For lack of anywhere else to turn, someone called the police who were just next door.  Within minutes six police appeared on the scene.  The situation quickly escalated.  Four of the police surrounded the man.  As the he struggled, police commanded “Calm down” and “You are resisting arrest.” Needless to say, this had no effect.  Then two paramedics arrive.   After a few minutes in the grass with the man’s head held down, four of the police managed to place him in the patrol car and he could be heard kicking and screaming inside.  I was never able to determine where they took the man but I assumed to jail.  If he was treated like Moreno there, at least he survived it. 

Much has been made about calls to “defund” police, but what we really need to do is “reorganize” police and re-think their job.   Hopefully, our counties will move swiftly in that direction.

Killed by Police — Dante Redmond Jones

In case you think that our area is immune from questionable police shootings of black men, please spend some time reading about the November, 2019 case of former Marine Dante Redmond Jones.     The Franklin County deputies who killed Jones took several questionable actions and you can only wonder if the incident would have ended the same way had Dante been white.  There are no witnesses and no videos.

I have been notified by the Franklin County Prosecutors Office via a Public Record Request that they have the Special Investigation Units (SIU) report on the shooting of Dante Redmond Jones.  Members of the Richland Police Department ran the investigation. However, the Prosecutor, Shawn Sant, doesn’t plan to release the report until it has 45 days of redaction.  What are they redacting? 

“We estimate a response in 45 days to allow time to compile the documents and make the required statutory redactions. Please advise if you are also requesting any CD’s. If so, please be advised there will be a $10 charge per CD. We will let you know how many CDs are releasable and the charge before you have to make a final decision.

Very truly yours,

Civil Division”

I have requested all of the material and I will keep you informed.  Meanwhile, another case involving the shooting of a black man is also being investigated.  Gordon Whitaker was killed in February by Kennewick Police under odd circumstances.  Again, there were no witnesses and no videos