Friday, November 18, 2016

Text messages are revealing of the months leading up to a teen informant's death

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 4:37 PM

  • Courtesy of Courtney McKinnie

It's impossible to capture 19 years of life in a single article, even in 4,300 words. As a journalist, I pick and chose moments that can, ideally, give the most accurate picture of a person. Inevitably, some of the most powerful details are left out.

Such is the case with this week's cover story about Isaiah Wall — the 19-year-old from Coeur d'Alene who was pressured into buying drugs for the Idaho State Police. Eleven days after he started working as a confidential informant, Isaiah was found dead of a single gunshot wound to the head.

You should read the entire article, but then come back and read a little more of what didn't make it into the story — a fuller picture of a young man who loved and was loved, who took care of those he cared about before himself, and who, though at times struggled with depression, had begun to look forward.

January/February 2016:

The police are looking for Marcus Wall. Isaiah's dad has cycled in and out of prison throughout his entire life, which put a strain on the family. Courtney McKinnie, Isaiah's mom, did her best to provide for her three kids. Isaiah, it appears, tried to help out as best he could.

Below are the conversations Isaiah had with his father before Marcus Wall's felony arrest in February and with with McKinnie via text afterward. Marcus Wall is identified as "Big Poppa," in Isaiah's phone:

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President of nation's largest teachers union: "We have every reason to fear" Trump

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 11:22 AM

NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia celebrating American Education Week at Rogers High School on Wednesday - PHOTO COURTESY OF NEA PUBLIC RELATIONS
  • Photo courtesy of NEA public relations
  • NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia celebrating American Education Week at Rogers High School on Wednesday

On Wednesday, the head of the National Education Association, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, visited Spokane for the first time.

The NEA is the nation's largest teachers union. Garcia, a former Utah teacher of the year, has been NEA president since 2014. She came to Spokane Wednesday for an event at Rogers that honored cafeteria workers who call themselves the "Lunch Bunch." By the end of the school day, seemingly half the Rogers students were cheering the Lunch Bunch on as the workers stepped into giant limousine.

I caught up with Garcia while this was going on and asked her some questions about national and local education issues. She weighed in on the charter school debate, what makes Roger High School special, and why she's fearful of what a Donald Trump presidency will mean for public education.

Read some of the highlights from the conversation below. The Inlander  edited her responses for length.

Inlander: So this is your first time in Spokane?
It is! I actually went to Queen Anne High School in Seattle, so I know Washington. But I've never actually been to Spokane.

This school happens to be the school that an [education support professional] named Debby Chandler works at. Debby Chandler works here in the office, and she was elected nationally to be the president of the council of ESPs. So you have a national leader at this school, and she brags about this school all the time. She brags that, you know, five years or so ago, the graduation rate at Rogers was 47 percent, and last year it was 84 percent.

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Beware fake news, triple-homicide trial, Trump's cabinet and morning headlines

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 9:35 AM


(fake) NEWS: Made-up news stories played a role in the presidential election: who is to blame?

Arts & Culture: a new play at Gonzaga pulls from The Simpsons for a reflection on the notion of stories.

Health: a new study on the benefits of weed, Americans' access to healthcare and more.


• Details continue to trickle out of the triple murder trial of Roy Murry as firefighters testify about their search for three victims engulfed in smoke and flames: A firefighter's empty helmet and flesh fused to the carpet. (Spokesman-Review)

• Coeur d'Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer and Coeur d'Alene Resort GM Bill Reagan are named in the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a 73-year-old woman. Margie Saunders died of hypothermia in 2014 because her apartment was too cold, according to the lawsuit. (Coeur d'Alene Press)

• Trump's picks: Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a conservative who has spoken critically of the Voting Right Act and has made other racist comments throughout his career — specifically during his time as U.S. attorney in Alabama — could be the next attorney general.

Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo will head up the CIA, and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn could be the next national security advisor. The New York Times calls Flynn an "anti-Islamist" who "believes Islamist militancy poses an existential threat."

• Police accountability advocates, public officials and leaders of local police unions met this week to discuss the Spokane Police Department's soon-to-expire union contracts. A good chunk of the forum focused on the investigative authority of police ombudsman Bart Logue. (Spokesman-Review)
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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Where to go for help if you or someone you know is suicidal

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 10:23 AM

  • Courtesy of Courtney McKinnie
  • Isaiah Wall

On this week's cover is the story of a 19-year-old kid from Coeur d'Alene who worked as a confidential informant, buying drugs for the Idaho State Police.

Just 11 days after ISP signed him up as a drug informant, Wall was found dead from a single gunshot to the head. The police investigation into his death is still ongoing, and though some of the evidence is suspicious (you'll have to read the story for more on that), it is also possible that Wall died by suicide.

Indeed, Wall's mom, Courtney McKinnie says her son struggled with depression throughout his teen years.

In the six months since her son's death, McKinnie has been frantically searching for answers, though she has found few. In conversations with police, the coroner, funeral home employees and with Isaiah's friends, the truth of Wall's death remains elusive.

Regardless, McKinnie says it has become her mission to protect others like her son.

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A teenage drug informant, hateful graffiti in Spokane and other headlines

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 9:25 AM


• Isaiah Wall was trying to get his life on track when the Idaho State Police pressured him to become a confidential drug informant. The 19-year-old from Coeur d'Alene died 11 days later.

• With a spike in alcohol-related incidents at Eastern Washington University and elsewhere this year, the debate continues over how alcohol factors into sexual assault and other crimes.

• The advent of live streaming and what it says about voyeurism and the value of a media filter in the age of social media: The Live Wire


• Apparently we're now entering the Post-Truth era. Oxford Dictionaries has officially named "post-truth" as its 2016 international word of the year. Its usage skyrocketed 2,000 percent in 2016 compared to last year. You can thank Brexit and Donald Trump for that. (BBC)

• One day after some insidious soul spray painted the N-word on the MLK Center in Spokane, came the news of more hate-filled graffiti. This time the words "Cant Stump the Trump, Mexicano" accompanied by a swastika was scrawled in white paint on the side of a Mexican family's home. (Spokesman-Review)

• U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), it appears, said some pretty racist stuff back in the day. He is one of the candidates for a position in Donald Trump's cabinet. (New York Times)

• The Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile is charged with second-degree manslaughter. Castile's girlfriend live streamed the encounter, which shows Castile's final breaths. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Racial slur at MLK center, local immigrants worry about Trump, and other news of the day

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 9:37 AM

Gabriela Alvarez, an unauthorized immigrant who came to the United States at age 11, spoke with the Inlander in 2013 - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
  • Young Kwak photo
  • Gabriela Alvarez, an unauthorized immigrant who came to the United States at age 11, spoke with the Inlander in 2013


Fiiiiiiiive Golden Rings!
Jewelry designers prepare for the flood of holiday shoppers, which is like Christmas for jewelry designers.

Grouplove brings group-faith and group-hope

The band is coming in April.


Painting Over Hate
Yesterday, the n-word was found written on the local Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center. So far we don't know who did it, or if the culprit had any motive other than the obvious one. But the community quickly came together, not just to condemn the racial slur and apparent attempt to terrorize local minorities, but to paint over the slur, symbolizing their commitment to keep fighting for racial unity and against injustice. Shawn Vestal explores the power, and the limits, of such an act. (Spokesman-Review)

In the Shadow of The Wall
A crowd gathers at Eastern Washington University — which has about 200 unauthorized immigrant students — to worry about what happens if Trump repeals the Dream Act. (Spokesman-Review)

The Trial of Roy Murry
The trial of Roy Murry — a triple-murder suspect who was once on the slate of candidates the local GOP picked to replace Sen. Bob McCaslin — begins today. (Spokesman-Review)


That's going to be a, you know, a fascinating transition...
Trump assures us his transition is going smoothly, as everything seems to be collapsing and exploding behind him. (New York Times)

Crap Map

That map lining up Obama votes and crime rates is bogus. (Washington Post)

You may remember him from such presidential campaign moments as "The top 1 percent!" and "Feel the Bern!" "Bern, Bernie, Bern!" and "Bern me Bernie one more time!"
Bernie Sanders, who wasn't even a Democrat until recently, joins the Democratic party leadership. (Washington Post)

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Dakota Access pipeline put on hold, Trump protests continue and morning news

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2016 at 9:11 AM



NEWS: Meet the women who made history in the 2016 election


Norovirus outbreak at homeless shelter

The number of people sickened by norovirus at the House of Charity is now up to 64, but officials say the situation is stabilizing. (KXLY)

Many people are saying
Remember how last week state Sen. Michael Baumgartner promised to hold professors at Washington State University accountable for canceling classes after the election, without offering evidence any classes had been canceled? Well, WSU is saying that's because, in fact, no classes were canceled to protest the election. (Spokesman-Review)

Child from Spokane hospitalized with rare disease

An outbreak of a polio-like disease in Washington may have reached Spokane. The state's department of health reports one child from Spokane is being evaluated for possible acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). (KHQ)

Not over yet
The Army Corps of Engineers said Monday that it wants more tribal input before deciding whether to allow the Dakota Access pipeline to be built along its planned route. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been protesting the pipeline, saying it threatens drinking water and cultural sites. The pipeline developer is not happy with the decision.

Sanctuary cities

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has joined mayors of other major cities in announcing plans to protect undocumented residents from deportation under a Donald Trump presidency.

Skipping class
High school students from the Seattle-area staged a walkout Monday in protest of Trump's presidency. Check out what they have to say in this Seattle Times video:

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Meet the women who made history in the 2016 election

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 2:15 PM

Although many with hopes of seeing the first female president chosen feel disheartened after Hillary Clinton's loss to Donald Trump — and by the possible setbacks his election could have on social progress — there are many uplifting stories of women who made history on Election Day. Meet them below:
Nicole Gaines–Phelps became the first African American women elected as a Superior Court Judge in Washington State.

Ilhan Omar became the first Somali American Muslim woman elected to public office, to the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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Norovirus, Seahawks, Trump and John Oliver: news you need to start your week

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 8:02 AM


Rock-star physicist, lots of live tunes and more
• CULTURE: Spokane Arts names Get Lit! Director Melissa Huggins as new leader
• EDUCATION: Why are so many first-graders being suspended in Spokane Public Schools?


Norovirus outbreak among Spokane's homeless
At least 40 people were being quarantined, though the illness is not uncommon and is not typically life-threatening. Symptoms of the virus include stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, fever, headaches and body aches. (KREM)

Local sports fans welcome distraction, have something to cheer about
The Seahawks win, beating villainous Patriots. The Cougs win and the Huskies lose. And the Zags crush it in home opener.

Trump hints at agenda in 60 Minutes interview on Sunday 

Some takeaways from Trump: The Wall might just be a fence, put up in key places. He will appoint a pro-life judge to the Supreme Court. And he's still thinking about whether he'll go after Hillary Clinton and "lock her up." Find the interview here.

Also Sunday: John Oliver signs off for 2016
Reminds viewers: "This is not normal." Watch full episode below:

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Why are so many first-graders being suspended in Spokane Public Schools?

Posted By on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 at 2:21 PM

Suspensions by grade through the first 35 days of the school year in Spokane Public Schools - SPOKANE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
  • Spokane Public Schools
  • Suspensions by grade through the first 35 days of the school year in Spokane Public Schools

Two things stand out when looking at the data recently released by Spokane Public Schools on student discipline.

For one, the total suspensions rate seems to have dropped significantly, which is good news for advocates who have pushed the district to cut down on exclusionary discipline like suspensions and expulsions.

But the second takeaway? First-graders in the first 35 days of the school year have been suspended more than students in any other grade, including middle school and high school.

A total of 61 first-graders have been suspended in the first part of this school year, according to district data. The grade with the next highest number of suspensions is eighth grade, with 50. After that, it's kindergarteners who have the third-highest amount, with 49 suspensions.

This is troubling, says Vanessa Hernandez, ACLU of Washington youth policy director. In her view, it should be "incredibly rare" to suspend first-graders.

"That doesn't teach a first-grader anything," she says.

Still, Hernandez was encouraged with the apparent overall reduction in suspensions in Spokane Public Schools through the first 35 days. Compared to this point last year, suspensions in elementary, middle and high schools have been reduced overall. Through the first 35 days of the 2015-16 school year, there were a total of 712 suspensions in the district. After 35 days this year, there were 391 — a significant drop.

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