Just a day after a story in the March 25 Inlander concluded that Spokane's new Ombudsman, Tim Burns, was still untested because he had yet to deal with a critical incident, Burns was called to the scene of a fatal officer-involved shooting early today.
Spokane police had been called out to a report of an armed man possibly intending harm to his family at a south side house at about 6:25 this morning. The man, identified by the Spokane County Sheriff's Office as 46-year-old Todd Ely White, opened fire on police and was mortally wounded in an exchange of gunfire.
"At 6:58 I was in the shower and my cell phone rang from police communications," Burns says. "I didn't hear it, because I was in the shower, but when I got out there was a message of a critical incident, an officer-involved shooting, and where it was. I received a follow-up call about 10 minutes later from Internal Affairs Sgt. Dave McCabe." ---
Burns was on the scene of the shooting, in the 4100 block of E. 36th by 7:30, he says. After investigators from Spokane police, the Sheriff's Office and Washington State Patrol cleared the crime scene, Burns was able to spend an hour walking the ground with detectives and Internal Affairs Lt. Craig Meidl, he says.
The ombudsman's role is somewhat peripheral. The primary investigation into the shooting will focus on whether the officers' fire was justified. Next, Spokane Police Internal Affairs will review the shooting to see if the events followed proper protocols. Burns will monitor this phase, he says.
"In theory, my role is to insure the Internal Affairs investigation is timely, thorough and objective. And in the bigger picture, look at the department's policies and procedures to make sure they are the best practices," Burns says.
A sheriff's press release said police were called to the neighborhood by a man who said White, the shooting victim, was his brother-in-law and that White had previously threatened him in a property dispute over firearms.