Friday, September 16, 2016

Nearly two months later, Pullman police make arrests in brawl involving WSU football players

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 5:48 PM

Mike Leach made headlines this week when he accused police of targeting his players when making arrests - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Mike Leach made headlines this week when he accused police of targeting his players when making arrests

Earlier this week, Washington State University head football coach Mike Leach accused the police and media of targeting his team following two arrests of his players. 

"Unless we are supposed to believe that these football players fought themselves, then there are numerous other guilty parties. That is clearly the case. If any of these allegations are true, I have not read anyone else's name in the newspaper," Leach said, calling it a "double standard" to only focus on football players, "then drag their name through the newspaper with a bunch of irresponsible comments." 

Today, Pullman police announced that they'd be recommending charges against four people involved in a brawl at a party in July; two of those people are football players. Lineman Robert Barber and defensive end Toso Fehoko were arrested on suspicion of second-degree assault, a felony, and then released today. Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said the police were recommending charges of disorderly conduct for two other people involved; Dylan Rollins and Pedro Diaz. 

But it wasn't the police, nor the football team, who first handed down discipline following this fight. It was WSU's Office of Student Conduct earlier this week, making the decision to expel Barber. The Spokesman-Review has reported that Barber will continue to practice while he appeals the expulsion. 

Jenkins says police interviewed more than 60 witnesses before making the arrests. More than 20 of those were football players, though not all were at the party during the altercation. 

We wrote about this brawl, and how victims wanted the players held accountable, weeks after it happened. Alex Rodriguez, who suffered a broken jaw during the fight, said that the fight started when he tried to kick everyone out — between 80 and 100 people — after a group of football players kept lighting fireworks. Rodriguez says he saw his roommate, Jackson Raney, get knocked down by a man with a sleeve tattoo, red shorts and a black sleeveless shirt. That was captured on cellphone video used by police in their investigation.

Raney briefly went unconscious and awoke with EMTs standing over him. Police say Barber was the one who hit him. Diaz saw this as well, and told the Inlander in August that he fought back as people were "throwing fists everywhere." Police say Diaz and Rollins provoked the fight. 

Meanwhile, Rodriguez was punched in the head by Fehoko, police say, knocking Rodriguez to the ground. Rodriguez was then hit by "unknown subjects" while on the ground, according to police. Rodriguez had to have wires in his jaw for weeks, and will have metal plates keeping it together for the rest of his life. 

In August, Leach said the whole situation was "overblown," that the stories coming out were "ridiculously inaccurate reflections of the events that night," and asserted that "nobody does a better job of addressing, taking care of players and using team discipline than our staff."

Leach accused police of targeting football players earlier this week following the arrests of linebacker Logan Tago, on suspicion of robbery and assault, and safety Shalom Luani, who was arrested on suspicion of felony assault.

It set off a national debate: Do Pullman police target football players?

Many who closely followed WSU football say it's been an issue for years. TV reporters who have covered the team say coaches have previously complained about it off the record, and that Leach is just the first to go public.

A KXLY reporter claimed that "people in Eastern Washington who have been here a long time or went to WSU are not really disagreeing with what he said." She posed the question to local sports personality Dennis Patchin, who said "there's a feeling on that campus that the police are looking for things that are involving college students at Washington State University." A KIRO TV reporter in Seattle said "no one close to WSU football program will deny the overbearing, sometimes unfair, nature of Pullman Police on team." The controversy has made headlines in USA Today, FOX Sports, and others. It's been a talking point on ESPN and ESPN's Outside The Lines program. 

Athletic Director Bill Moos, WSU President Kirk Schulz and Pullman Police Chief Jenkins met yesterday to discuss the tension. Driving the controversy is a statistic that 31 football players had been arrested in the last five years, the most of any college football program.

At the bottom of a story yesterday, the Seattle Times said a website called "breaks down the facts behind WSU's 31 arrests in the last five years." The Seattle Times wrote that the number looks worse than it really is.

The post on began by stating that of the arrests, "nearly 50 percent (14 of 31) were for broken tail lights, snow balls and the like" — a statement that is, at best, misleading. In fact, nobody was arrested for a broken tail light, according to our review of the arrests. A broken tail light may have been why a player was pulled over before being handed charges of DUI, MIP, or giving false information, which are all actual charges police arrested players on.

The post is correct, however, in stating that it appears none of the arrests — including several for felony assault — resulted in a felony conviction. 

Jenkins, in a press conference Friday, says that since the arrival of Leach in 2012, he has "seen improvment in athlete behavior in the community." 

"I applaud them for the work they have done," Jenkins says. 

Moos says he does not think police were targeting football players. 

"We expect them to behave in a manner representative of the uniform they wear," Moos says. 

The athletic department's policy is that any student athlete charged with a felony cannot represent WSU in competition until it's been resolved in court. So far, none of the four players arrested in recent weeks have been charged by prosecutors. Moos said all players should be considered innocent until proven guilty. As for whether they'll play in the game against the University of Idaho on Saturday, Moos says he'll leave that to Leach. 

"We're talking about a couple people out of a pretty large population of student athletes," Moos says. "We've got fabulous coaches who are disciplinarians, and I think we have good character for the most part." 
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THIS WEEKEND IN MUSIC: Blink-182, PorchFest and more

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 1:59 PM


You may have seen Coeur d'Alene singer-songwriter Ron Greene out and about at many restaurants and live music spaces across the region, including Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, playing a mix of covers and his own tunes. But tonight, the artist releases a new album, In Honor Of A Critic, full of his own original works at the Bartlett. Openers include Shelby McKinnon and Justin Brache. The show starts at 8 pm and is $10 at the door.

Blink-182, the band you grew up with rocking out to 
Blink-182's new lineup now includes Alkaline Trio guitarist/vocalist Matt Skiba.
  • Blink-182's new lineup now includes Alkaline Trio guitarist/vocalist Matt Skiba.
“All the Small Things,” “The Rock Show” and “What’s My Age Again?,” has returned to the spotlight with a new record aptly called California, which went No. 1 when it was released in July. They'll play the Spokane Arena tonight showing off their new lineup, along with other emo/punk acts A Day to Remember and All-American Rejects. The show starts at 7 pm and tickets start at $25. While the trio is sure to play the hits, their new stuff will certainly be on display as well (see below). 


Head to Spokane's West Central neighborhood Saturday afternoon to hear 20 musicians and poets perform on 17 various porches, all you have to do is walk around to hear a new sound. That's right, PorchFest is back to help promote community building in the economically diverse neighborhood. The performances are all free and run from 3-7pm. 

“We’re gonna need a big space,” thought local pop auteur Nick Swoboda after his little sister asked him to perform at her Sweet 16 celebration, reports Connor Dinnison. She’ll get her wish: the Knitting Factory will host Emma’s Birthday Bash this Saturday, featuring a headline performance by her brother along with many others. Swoboda’s intricately crafted, genre-bending productions, nimble wordplay and confidence behind the mic are the results of hard work; he writes, produces, engineers, records and runs a mixing/mastering service out of his home studio, even doing audio/visual work on commercials for clients like STCU. The show starts at 8 pm and is $10 at the door.

Also, the Spokane Symphony kicks off its season this Saturday with its first classics concert.
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Tour of Gymnastics Champs kicks off in Spokane, and the Olympic men's team steals the show

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 11:36 AM

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, seen center left in blue, was naturally a crowd favorite.
  • Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, seen center left in blue, was naturally a crowd favorite.

After tumbling their way to greatness last month in Rio, Team USA's gymnastics legends headed to Spokane last night to kick off the two-month Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions at the Spokane Arena.

The mostly full Arena audience, which largely consisted of moms and their young gymnast daughters, were treated to appearances by gold medal-winning team members and fan favorites Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Gabby Douglas. The team's uneven bars specialist and silver medalist Madison Kocian was not present last night, and as the tour continues for 35 more stops across the U.S., the performance roster is expected to change from city to city.

Joining the 2016 women's team members were all five athletes on the men's Olympic team, along with twin sisters on the U.S.'s rhythmic gymnastics team, Jennifer and Monica Rokhman, the acrobatic gymnastics duo of Tiffani Williams and Axel Osbourne, and world championship medalists on the men's and women's sides. 2016 Olympic trampoline gymnasts Nicole Ahsinger and Logan Dooley were also in the cast of performers, as were past Olympic gold medalists Jordan Wieber, Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin.

While the audience was undoubtedly ecstatic to see live performances by women's team favorites Biles, Raisman, Douglas and Hernandez — evident by the ear-splitting roar when they appeared on the arena floor — the perhaps unexpected stars of the night were the dozen or so male gymnasts, including the five-man Olympic team.
The five-member men's Olympic team gave some of the show's most entertaining performances.
  • The five-member men's Olympic team gave some of the show's most entertaining performances.

In the show's first half, both Biles and Hernandez donned their red, white and blue team leotards to each perform solo their crowd-pleasing floor exercise routines, albeit with vastly toned down or non-existent tumbling passes. The choice to not have these world class athletes perform the high-flying flips and twists that made their skills-packed routines medal winning for Team USA may have been disappointing to the audience, but was understandable as these women will be touring the country for the next two months, performing nearly every other night in a sport that is often physically unforgiving. Let's also not forget the fact that they spent the better part of the past year or more pushing their bodies to the limit in preparation for the Rio Games. 

Fans were also treated to some abbreviated routines and acrobatic skills on the balance beam by the trio of Biles, Douglas and Raisman, and all the women gymnasts in the show displayed their strength and prowess on the uneven bars.

The male gymnasts proved that not only can they defy gravity with their acrobatic skills — they can also dance.
  • The male gymnasts proved that not only can they defy gravity with their acrobatic skills — they can also dance.

Yet the crowd pleasers of the show turned out to be the upbeat and fun-themed performances of the men's team, who showed off their high-flying feats on the high bar during multiple intervals, and also tumbled, flipped and danced quite ably across the floor to various bass-heavy tracks, "Uptown Funk" being one. Throughout its two-hour run, all the lightheartedness of the exhibition style show — and the most impressive acrobatic skills — came from these incredibly fit and handsome 20-something men, much to the benefit of the predominantly female audience. During one segment, the men even invited some of the moms in the crowd out onto the floor to dance with them.

Other noteworthy moments of the Tour of Gymnastics Champions included the carefully balanced acro skills of the male-female duo Tiffani Williams and Axel Osbourne. Much like one might see during a Cirque du Soleil show, Osbourne tossed and balanced his tiny and insanely flexible partner Williams high above the floor with stunning precision and grace. While acrobatic gymnastics is not currently an Olympic sport, the duo won the pairs silver medal during the 2016 World Championships.

Even if we didn't get to see Biles perform her signature tumbling move "the Biles" on the Spokane Arena's floor, it was obvious that just about everyone who attended last night's tour kick off were beyond star-struck. By night's end, the inspired mindset of hundreds of local gymnasts — feeling renewed motivation to work toward their own high-achieving gymnastics dreams — was palpable.
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Idaho teens party, Trump admits Obama is American and morning headlines

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 9:18 AM


Bonnie Raitt gives Spokane something to talk about

Spokane housing market heating up 
The Lilac City is seeing an increased interest in its real estate market, shedding a lingering effect of the Great Recession. (Spokesman-Review)

CDA schools warn of teenage booze parties
The Coeur d'Alene Public Schools has sent out a notice to parents alerting them that teenagers are holding massive parties in the woods that draws hundred of kids from as far away as Oregon and Montana and involve "sanctioned fights." (KHQ)

Bad for business
Downtown businesses say they are suffering because of the massive amount of construction underway. (KXLY)


Born in the USA
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has stated that President Obama was born in the United States. Previously, Trump was a leader in the "birther" movement that claimed the president was born in Kenya. 

A congressional panel issued a blistering report regarding former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed sensitive information about U.S. intelligence-gathering operations. Supporters of Snowden say he should be given a pardon and allowed to return from Russia, where he is avoiding extradition to the U.S. But the report states that Snowden "caused tremendous damage" to national security. 

Hot new phone
U.S. regulators have announced a recall of one million Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones after reports that the devices overheat and cause fires. 
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Thursday, September 15, 2016

CONCERT REVIEW: Bonnie Raitt gives Spokane something to talk about

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 10:53 AM

Bonnie Raitt's voice and guitar-playing skills gave Spokane something to talk about last night.
  • Bonnie Raitt's voice and guitar-playing skills gave Spokane something to talk about last night.

The emotions ran wild last night. One woman in front of me burst into tears right before diva extraordinaire Bonnie Raitt left the INB Performing Arts Center stage for the first time. She pulled her husband in for a hug and sobbed into his chest. Another older man in the audience kept waving his arms around. He yelled at folks surrounding him when they weren't showing as much passion as he was. 

But the person who took the cake? Allen Stone. 

Yes, Chewelah's own bluesman Allen Stone, who's currently signed to Capitol Records, sat directly in the middle of the packed-in INB auditorium (all three tiers were mostly filled in) and danced his heart out to a few of Raitt's upbeat numbers, like "Something to Talk About" and the Zimbabwean hymn "Hear Me Lord." He motioned to the audience to stand with him. Many followed. 

Last night, the mostly older audience — Raitt is 66 after all — was treated to one of the most talented guitar players of all time along with her incredible band. Raitt's slide-guitar prowess was on full display, shredding up every guitar she was given, which was essentially a new one for each song. When she brought out opener Richard Thompson, the two rocked out on the acoustic guitar together for the heartfelt "Dimming of the Day," which was written by Thompson.

Continue reading »

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North Idaho grapples with racist history, Jay-Z says drug war a failure and other headlines

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 9:26 AM


NEWS: On Spokane's efforts to create a nonprofit dedicated to turning foreclosures and vacant lots into thriving neighborhoods.

MUSIC: Dolly Parton: an unexpected feminist?

• CULTURE: North Idaho's ugly history with the Aryan Nations and white supremacy is on display through the end of this month at Coeur d'Alene's Human Rights Educational Institute, as a reminder of the area's triumph over hate.


• The murder trial for an alleged Spokane serial killer will be delayed after ethical violations in the Spokane County Public Defender's Office caused three defense attorneys to withdraw from the case. The delay will likely cost Spokane County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Spokesman-Review)

• An investigation into hazing culture within the United States Marine Corps, specifically actions at a training center in South Carolina, could result in punishment for at least 20 Marines. Three officers have already been relieved of their command. (New York Times)

• Yesterday, WSU football coach Mike Leach suggested that Pullman police were unfairly targeting his players in the aftermath of an alleged assault and robbery and a brawl during an off-campus party. Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins denied any bias on the part of his officers. Read John Blanchette's take on Leach's whining about "discrimination against the poor, us-against-the-world college football player." (Spokesman-Review)

• A 13-year-old boy was shot and killed by police in Columbus, Ohio. The boy pulled what ended up being a BB gun from his waistband, according to police. (Washington Post)

• A hitman testified today that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered or presided over assassinations of more than 1,000 people while he was mayor of Davao City. (Reuters)

• Jay-Z says the war on drugs is an "epic fail."

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Spokane authors dominate the Washington State Book Awards' fiction category

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 4:58 PM

Sharma Shields
  • Sharma Shields

The Washington Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library today announced the finalists for the 2016 Washington State Book Awards, and three of the five in the running for fiction awards are from Spokane. 

Sharma Shields (The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac), Shann Ray (American Copper) and S.M. Hulse (Black River) are all among the nominees in the Fiction category, along with Ann Pancake and Stephanie Kallos of Seattle. 

Shann Ray
  • Shann Ray
Spokane's Jack Nisbet is nominated in the History/General Nonfiction category for Ancient Places: People and Landscape in the Emerging Northwest

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony Oct. 8 in Seattle. Winners receive a $500 honorarium, and the judges for the non-children's books are Linda Andrews of Walla Walla Community College, Lisa Bitney of Tacoma Public Library, Pam Cady, of University Book Store, Lisa Gresham of the Whatcom County Library System and Paul Hanson of Village Books.
S.M. Hulse
  • S.M. Hulse

While you wait to hear who won, you can reacquaint yourselves with Spokane's nominated writers with Inlander profiles done in the past year or so: 

Sharma Shields, Monsters & Demons
Shann Ray, Renaissance Man
S.M. Hulse, A Good Year
Jack Nisbet, Kicking Rocks

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Construction begins on new Kendall Yards grocery store, My Fresh Market

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 4:28 PM

A rendering of what the new Kendall Yards' grocer will look like.
  • A rendering of what the new Kendall Yards' grocer will look like.

Construction in the Kendall Yards area of West Central Spokane is booming, with multiple projects underway and many more still to come in the growing urban community. 

One of the latest developments to break ground in the past week is work to construct a long-anticipated grocery store — called My Fresh Market — that will serve residents of the downtown-adjacent neighborhood, which lacks an easily accessible place to shop for food.

As told to the Inlander earlier this summer, Greenstone Homes CEO Jim Frank says the store, which the Kendall Yards development company will own and operate, is envisioned to be something between a high-end and a discount grocery store — more along the lines of Huckleberry's and the Portland chain New Seasons.

Located on the visible northwest corner of Monroe and Summit Parkway, just north of the Monroe Street Bridge, My Fresh Market is tentatively set to open just before the Bloomsday race, in late April of 2017.

The 25,000-square-foot store building is designed with a dining area mezzanine that overlooks the Spokane River, and will offer a variety of grab-n-go and prepared items that can be eaten on site in a cafe-like setting. Other planned features include a beer, cider and kombucha growler station, organic and locally-sourced produce, a bakery, deli and space for in-store events and entertainment.

Meanwhile, another project is underway on the west side of Kendall Yards that's being referred to as the Nettleton retail cluster. The two-building project, to be completed sometime in spring or summer of next year, is located just west of the development's Olmsted Green park, with nearby access from the Centennial Trail.  

Construction also continues on a new, three-story medical office suite just south of the Spokane Regional Health District building. Work to erect new residential units in a vacant lot near the corner of Cedar Street and College Avenue is also in the early phase.
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Slate article says shadowy corporate group influenced Idaho governor

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 4:22 PM

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter
  • Idaho Gov. Butch Otter

Slate, an online magazine, recently published a story looking at the efforts by a shadowy corporate group to keep city and county governments from enacting protections for workers and the environment. That influence, according to Slate, extends to Idaho.

The article examines the work of the American City County Exchange. It’s an offshoot of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, an organization that’s been scrutinized for producing model legislation that critics say is written on behalf of corporate interests. The ACCE, according to the article, has a similar mission that’s aimed at reducing the reach of local governments, which in recent years have been more willing to pass progressive laws, much to the chagrin of Republican-dominated statehouses.

According to the article, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter was influenced by this group when he was considering an ALEC-modeled bill that would ban local governments from passing bans on plastic bags (Slate writes that no local jurisdiction in Idaho was considering such a ban). Citing Jon Russell, the head of the ACCE, the article states that Otter was hesitant to support the bill until he saw a white paper from the group and signed it into law.

The Inlander reached out to Otter’s office for comment. In an email, Mark Warbis, spokesman for the governor, states that the Slate article got it wrong in stating that no local jurisdiction had considered a ban and pointed to an article in the Mountain Express newspaper that reported that Ketchum had voted for a limited plastic bag ban.

As for further response on the influence of ACCE, Warbis writes, “We have no comment on the plastic bag issue.”
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Prosecutors: Spokane PD officers justified in use of deadly force after encounter with man near homeless shelter

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 11:25 AM

Screen grab of surveillance video seconds before Kurtz was shot.
  • Screen grab of surveillance video seconds before Kurtz was shot.

Spokane police released a trove of body camera video, surveillance footage and reports yesterday, giving the public a look into the tragic shooting earlier this year near the House of Charity homeless shelter.

Three Spokane Police officers initially responded April 28 to a man holding a large knife to his chest, saying he wanted to die. Within less than 90 seconds of officers arriving, Michael Kurtz was shot and would be pronounced dead at the scene.

This police shooting was one of three involving Spokane Police officers in the span of less than a week. The other two men shot by police are still alive. One of those men, Aaron Johnson, survived police gunfire once before in 2014.

Two of the three officers who responded to Kurtz's 911 call, Office Ryan Atkins and Officer Brandon Lynch, fired a total of three rounds. The third, Officer Chris LeQuire, fired a Taser in an attempt to disable Kurtz as he approached. The use of deadly force has been ruled justified and neither officer will face criminal charges, according to a decision by Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell in June.

"Under these circumstances, the evidence shows that Kurtz confronted officers while holding a large knife and threatened to harm himself and the officers," Haskell wrote in a statement. "He ignored repeated commands to drop the knife, back up and let the officers help him. An attempt to stop Kurtz with a Taser failed and he continued to move within the safe distance for officer safety. Under these circumstances, it was reasonable for the officers to respond with deadly force. Further it is clear that the officers acted without malice or evil intent. Therefore, criminal charges will not be pursued."

Spokane Police are still conducting internal reviews of this incident. All three officers have returned to duty after serving mandatory paid administrative leave.

We've embedded two body camera videos from this shooting at the end of this post, but a caution to our readers: They contain profanity and show graphic images of a man being gunned down.

As officers arrived at the West Pacific Avenue and State Street, LeQuire began asking Kurtz to drop the knife and let police help him.

"Hey partner, my name's Chris, man. What's going on with you?" LeQuire says. 

"I just want to die," Kurtz wails. 

"We just want to help you, man," LeQuire says. 

"Kill me!"

"No we don't want to do that."

"Kill me that's how you'll help me!" Kurtz yells.

LeQuire and the other two officers continue to talk to Kurtz as he approaches, still holding the eight-inch blade to his chest. He screams repeatedly: "Kill me! kill me!"

LeQuire fires a Taser, but it has no effect on Kurtz. As Kurtz moves beyond the far edge of LeQuire's patrol car, the officer says: "Take it," and three shots ring out — two from Lynch's rifle, one from Atkins' handgun.

During a press conference yesterday, law enforcement officials called attention to multiple aspects of the shooting and aftermath, including officers' attempts to talk to Kurtz and the importance of body camera footage.

"This is a good example of why our body cameras are such a good tool," says Tracie Meidl, captain of investigations, identified here by her first and last name because her husband, Craig Meidl is SPD's acting police chief.

Asked why the officers decided to shoot when they did — as Kurtz rounded the back edge of a patrol car — instead of waiting or trying the Taser again, Tracie Meidl says officers faced a decision to fire or flee.

"The taser had proven ineffective, so what we have here is the distance being closed in by Mr. Kurtz," Meidl said. "And the officers not having the cover of their patrol car and essentially would have been in the position of being chased by Mr. Kurtz." 

Lieutenant Steve Wohl, who supervises SPD's Major Crimes Unit, says none of the three officers had access to less-lethal bean bag rounds during this incident. Not every SPD car carries bean bag rounds, Wohl says.

Officers begin helping Kurtz immediately after he falls to the ground as witnesses to the shooting approach the scene. One man, Arlo Morrow, started yelling at officers as they tended to Kurtz, saying they shot Kurtz "in cold blood." Officers asked him repeatedly to back up, but Marrow continued. Murrow and another woman were eventually arrested. 

"This is a very traumatic event, not only for the officers involved but for witnesses,"Wohl says. "So emotions get going. We get a lot of wins in that we respond to suicidal calls like this on a regular basis, many times a day. Most of the time we can get them the help that they need, which is what we want."

[Editor's Note: this post has been updated to more accurately reflect Capt. Tracie Meidl's position as captain in charge of investigations.]

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