Tuesday, May 15, 2012

City settles with Zehm family, vows to train police and name a pavilion in Zehm's honor

Posted on Tue, May 15, 2012 at 4:29 PM

A tentative settlement between the family of Otto Zehm and the City of Spokane will include the naming of a pavilion after Zehm, training to show police officers how to deal with mentally ill people, and money for the Use of Force Commission to hire a consultant to implement its recommendations, it was announced at a press conference this afternoon.

All that in addition to $1.67 million in cash to the relatives of Zehm, who died in 2006 following a confrontation with Spokane police.

"Today, we not only have finality for the citizens, but also for Ms. Zehm," said Mayor David Condon. Under the terms of the tentative settlement, Condon will write a letter of apology to Otto Zehm's mother, Anne Zehm.

It took two days of mediation to end a case that had gone on for three years since the initial suit was filed in 2009. Spokane City Attorney Nancy Isserlis was involved in the mediation, as was Condon.

Michael J. Hogan, a federal judge from Oregon, served as the mediator.

Under the terms, the mayor will propose to the parks board the naming of a park pavilion after Zehm.

Money will be allocated to pay for all first-responders in the police department to receive crisis intervention training, says police Chief Scott Stephens.

The cost of the settlement will be split between the city and its insurance company, says Breaan Beggs (pictured above, on the right), attorney for the Zehm family. 

While the civil suit is now over, much remains undetermined in the Zehm matter.

Karl Thompson, the Spokane police officer who was convicted last year of using excessive force and lying to investigators about Zehm's death, has yet to be sentenced. Meanwhile, federal investigators sent letters in March to two other officers, telling them that they would soon faces charges of obstruction of justice. 

But if the City Council approves today's tentative settlement (Council President Ben Stuckart, who was in attendance with the majority of the council, says he is hopeful they will), the civil case against the city will essentially be closed.

"It really is over," Beggs says.

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