Wednesday, June 26, 2013

SPD denies selling Stephens firearm, full statements detail department fears

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:32 AM

As additional details emerge on the misconduct investigation against former Assistant Spokane Police Chief Scott Stephens, the department has denied reports its SWAT Team sold Stephens a used MP-5 submachine gun.  

Newly released officer statements make it clear the Spokane Police Department command staff felt extremely threatened by statements Stephens allegedly made during an emotional conversation about being demoted in late December.

Stephens reportedly told a co-worker he would "go home and get a rifle" on Dec. 19. He has since denied making any such alleged threat.

As word spread of the alleged comments, Craig Meidl, who replaced Stephens as assistant chief, voiced concern regarding Stephens access to several personal firearms. Written statements from police officials detail intense debate about how dangerous Stephens might be and whether they should confiscate his weapons.

"[Stephens] owns several guns (he recently bought a used MP-5 from the Spokane Police SWAT Team)," Meidl's statement says.

SPD spokeswoman Monique Cotton issued a statement this morning disputing Meidl's assertion.

"Former Assistant Chief Stephens did not purchase any firearms from the Spokane Police Department," she wrote. "Police officers, like any member of the community, can privately purchase firearms in accordance with state and federal firearm regulations."

Cotton notes Stephens was allowed to keep his duty sidearm, a .40-caliber Glock, upon his retirement in April. She states the department has traditionally allowed retiring officers to keep their sidearms with the approval of the police chief.

Today's SPD statement does not clear up whether Stephens actually owns an MP-5. The SWAT Team uses fully automatic MP-5s, which would typically require a federal firearms license to legal possess.

Stephens' attorney, Bob Dunn, has strongly condemned the allegations against his client, saying Stephens unequivocally denies the department's version of what happened.

"They're all bullshit," Dunn says of the allegations.

The records include many alarmed statements from the SPD command staff regarding Stephens' perceived mental state in the hours after his disputed comments and whether they could ever comfortably work with him again.

"Chief [Frank] Straub and I discussed whether we should send officers to [Stephens'] residence to retrieve his weapons," Meidl wrote, adding, "It was decided the best course of action, and safest for officers, would be to wait until the morning to address this issue with [Stephens]."

Newly promoted Commanders Brad Arleth and Joe Walker both reportedly stated they would have trouble working with Stephens in the future, according to Meidl's statement. Walker reportedly stated he was "not going to let this go."

One SPD official reported his wife was so upset by the alleged threat that she had their children stay at another person's house the next day so they would not be home alone while she ran errands.

The following day, Straub and Meidl confronted Stephens about the reported comments. Meidl reports Stephens denied the statements, but later allowed he "may have" made similar comments while stressing he had no intention of carrying out any threat.

Straub then placed Stephens on administrative leave and ordered him to surrender his badge and sidearm while an internal investigation was conducted.

"Chief Straub had [Stephens] remove his holster with the firearm in it," Meidl notes — an apparent safety precaution.

Dunn argues Stephens has not had an opportunity to challenge the statements included in the investigative records. The attorney called the release of the officers' statements a breach of the city's settlement with Stephens

The full statements from Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, Capt. David Richards and Assistant Chief Craig Meidl — as well as the final investigative report from retired Judge Michael Hogan — can be read below:

Spokane Police Stephens Statements

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About The Author

Jacob Jones

Staff writer Jacob Jones covers criminal justice, natural resources, military issues and organized labor for the Inlander.