Friday, June 17, 2016

How the Ryan Holyk video expert apparently led an investigation down the wrong path — again

Posted By on Fri, Jun 17, 2016 at 4:23 PM

Of all the video analysis experts, few have as much infamy in Spokane as Grant Fredericks, the man hired by the Spokane Police Department to analyze grainy video surveillance footage of the collision between Ryan Holyk and Spokane Valley Deputy Joe Bodman.

Fredericks also analyzed video footage in the death of mentally-disabled janitor Otto Zehm, who died after a violent confrontation with former Officer Karl Thompson.

In that case, Fredericks' initial report in 2006 concluded in part: "[Officer Thompson] appears to be struggling with Zehm on the ground for approximately one minute and thirteen seconds, before he uses his baton." 

But this analysis was incorrect.

According to a brief filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office in 2009, "The above finding reached by Mr. Fredericks in his September 2006 report directly conflicted with Officer Thompson's own statement that he did deploy several, immediate and successive baton strikes to Mr. Zehm during the first 1:13 minutes after reportedly 'perceiving' the victim Mr. Zehm to be verbally and physically noncompliant, aggressive with the plastic pop bottle..."

By 2007, Fredericks revised his report. A brief filed in 2012 by the U.S. Attorneys Office notes

"Fredericks' 2007 descriptions, including that [Karl Thompson] removed his baton from his duty belt upon entering the store and moved the baton in a forward motion towards Zehm after firing the taser, are inconsistent with his 2006 report, which asserts that the video did not reflect the defendant's 'use' of his baton for the first minute and 13 seconds of the confrontation."  

According to federal prosecutors, Fredericks also lied about how he got involved in the Zehm case in the first place. Originally, Fredericks, a former Vancouver, B.C. cop, said it was the police who first approached him. But grand jury testimony from SPD Officer John McGregor later showed it was Fredericks who called the department offering his services. 

SPD decided to go with Fredericks again in the 2014 investigation into the collision between sheriff's Deputy Joe Bodman's police SUV and 15-year-old Ryan Holyk. Bodman was traveling about 70 mph without lights or a siren

Despite initial concerns with Fredericks' credibility, his report had a significant influence on SDP lead investigator, Sgt. Michael Carr. 

An email thread between Fredericks and SPD leadership indicates there were some reservations about Fredericks' conclusions. In a deposition, Carr says he was told by former assistant Chief Selby Smith to vet other video analysts, citing concerns about Fredericks' credibility given allegedly impeached testimony in another case — a decision Carr says he thought was "ludicrous." 

After a search for another video analyst failed, SPD decided to stick with Fredericks, who concluded that Holyk fell down before Bodman's SUV passed through the intersection, and the vehicle missed the teenager by about two feet.

But it was Fredericks' analysis — that Holyk remained on the ground after he dumped his bike — that contributed to Carr's decision to disregard two pieces of evidence: Holyk's DNA found on the SUV's bumper and the fact that his hat was found with a broken band in the middle of the intersection.

Holyk's DNA and an imprint of his snapback hat on the deputy's bumper are the two pieces of evidence that experts now say indicate the deputy hit Holyk.

Fredericks didn't return several messages on Friday. However, you can read Fredericks' report below: 

Fredericks Holyk Report_1

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About The Author

Mitch Ryals

Mitch covers cops, crime and courts for the Inlander. He moved to Spokane in 2015 from his hometown of St. Louis, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri. He likes bikes, beer and baseball. And coffee. He dislikes lemon candy, close-mindedness and liars. And temperatures below 40 degrees.