Wednesday, March 1, 2017

As Spokane County works on settling Ryan Holyk case for $1 million, family attorney accuses sheriff of misleading the public

Posted By on Wed, Mar 1, 2017 at 5:10 PM

The family of Ryan Holyk, the 15-year-old cyclist killed after a collision with a speeding police SUV, has reached a tentative settlement agreement with Spokane County, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says.

Just days before the wrongful death case was set to go to trial, the two sides agreed to a $1 million settlement.

The lawsuit, which originally named Spokane County, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office and Deputy Joe Bodman, was settled after dismissing Bodman.

Mike Maurer, the attorney for the Holyk family, says he decided to dismiss Bodman from the lawsuit after meeting privately with the deputy and his lawyer. Bodman "provided helpful information and confirmed important information," Maurer says, but would not elaborate on the details.

During a news conference announcing the settlement, Knezovich praised the law enforcement investigations into the accident.

"Every ounce of evidence that was used on either side of this issue came from those investigations," he says, referring to those completed by the Spokane Police Department and the Washington State Patrol. "It was very thorough, very detailed. ... I believe that is what ultimately led to this case being resolved rather than it going to trial. The evidence consistently showed that Joe Bodman was not the causal effect."

Maurer does not agree.

"Sheriff Knezovich has attempted to distort the truth and mislead the public about Ryan's death and the police investigations from the start, and it's clear he will do so to the very end," Maurer says. "There is absolutely no credibility for anybody to assert that the truth came out because of law enforcement's investigations. The truth came out because my clients had the fortitude to litigate this case and shed light on the facts."

Leading up to the settlement, police investigators either downplayed or missed crucial details, and ultimately concluded that Bodman's SUV missed hitting Holyk by about a foot. Months later, a closer look from an independent forensic investigator revealed that conclusion was likely wrong.

On the night in question, Bodman was driving at least 70 mph without emergency light or a siren. It was dark, around 10:30 pm.

Holyk was riding his bike with a friend and crossed into the intersection at Sprague Avenue and Vista Road in the Spokane Valley. He was not wearing a helmet and crossed against the light.

The deputy swerved as he entered the intersection. What happened next has been the subject of debate since the accident.

Records indicate that after driving through the intersection, Bodman immediately radioed to dispatch: "I hit a pedestrian."

Two police investigations, one by the Spokane Police Department, the other by the Washington State Patrol, concluded that Bodman did not hit Holyk. Another analysis of grainy surveillance video by forensic video analyst Grant Fredericks came to similar conclusions.

SPD's investigation disregarded the fact that Holyk's DNA was found on the SUV's front bumper, based in part on Frederick's conclusions. The WSP investigation specifically stated that "No DNA or fabric was found."

Then last year, forensic analyst Jarrod Carter seemed to contradict law enforcement's conclusions, pointing to an imprint of a snapback hat on the deputy's bumper matching the one Holyk wore that night.

The imprint, coupled with the Holyk's DNA found in the same spot, indicates the vehicle struck the teenager, Carter concluded.

Bodman was given a letter of reprimand for not using his lights and siren. Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell declined to file criminal charges.

Knezovich, for his part, says would have preferred to go to trial for the wrongful death suit.

"That's the only way the facts come out in totality," he says, adding "I hope this brings resolution and gives everybody a chance to heal."

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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.