Join us Thursday for a community discussion on the Otto Zehm saga and what it means for Spokane.
Perhaps nothing in Spokane history changed the relationship between city government and the people of Spokane more than the tragic death of Otto Zehm in March 2006. In the space of a few seconds an innocent and vulnerable man went from being a person of interest in what should have been a routine police contact to being the victim of a violent homicide at the hands of Spokane police.
Otto’s death was stunning enough. But what would elicit the most outrage from the community would be the systematic effort by the police and city officials to falsely portray Otto as a violent suspect who provoked the deadly force used to subdue him.
At the behest of the Zehm family, the Center for Justice was involved, almost immediately, in the legal push-back on the bogus story about Otto’s death. Ultimately, both the Center and federal prosecutors would bring federal lawsuits in early 2009. The federal lawsuit would result in the conviction of a Spokane police officer, Karl Thompson, Jr., in late 2011, while the Center’s civil lawsuit on behalf of the Zehm family would be settled via mediation in May 2012.
Although much of the Center’s time and efforts have gone into the litigation that was settled last month, we’ve also worked in parallel and with several public interest allies in trying to reform the Spokane Police Department. Those efforts are continuing, now, with a new Mayor and City Council but it’s too soon to tell what reforms will be implemented and whether they will go deep enough to begin to restore public confidence in the Spokane Police Department.
To discuss the Zehm litigation and what the future for reform looks like, please join us Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the Community Building lobby, 35 W. Main Avenue.
Our panel discussion will feature former Center for Justice attorneys Terri Sloyer and Breean Beggs; attorney Jeffry Finer, and Tim Connor, the Center’s lead public advocate for police accountability.