You Got Frenched!

Al French scuttles Todd Mielke's bid for county CEO; plus, a shoplifting death in Coeur d'Alene

Spokane County Commissioner Al French halted Todd Mielke's march toward the position of County CEO.
Spokane County Commissioner Al French halted Todd Mielke's march toward the position of County CEO.

Is there a second?

Few people in Spokane have more negative things to say about County Commissioner Al French than former County Commissioner Bonnie Mager. French narrowly defeated Mager in an ugly 2010 election battle, and Mager unsuccessfully challenged him in last year's primary.

But lately, Mager has been publicly campaigning against the process for choosing a new county CEO — a process Mager believed was scripted to select current County Commissioner TODD MIELKE.

Ultimately, it was French who shredded the script. On Monday, Commissioner Shelly O'Quinn moved to select Mielke, the only remaining candidate, as the new CEO. Her motion hung in the air, waiting for a second from French. French did not give one.

"I don't think it's fair to Todd, or fair to the county, that we end up with him by default and not by design," French said, according to the Spokesman-Review. French suggested restarting the CEO search using a headhunting firm.

French's recent decision won him some rare, if backhanded, praise from Mager. "Al read the political tea leaves and did the right thing for himself, as always," Mager says in a text message. "It just happened it is the best thing for Spokane County as well."

Mielke had not returned requests for comment as of press time, but has previously said he does not plan to apply for CEO again with the current board makeup. (DANIEL WALTERS)

'Any action, civil or criminal'

Andrew M. Dearmin was high on meth when he decided to shoplift from Super 1 Foods in Coeur d'Alene on June 17, his female companion tells police. When Dearmin exited the grocery store, a loss prevention officer gave chase, crossing the street and tackling the 35-year-old Sandpoint man in front of a neighboring used car dealership. A scuffle ensued and witnesses called the Coeur d'Alene Police Department to report two men fighting. When the police showed up at 10:35 pm, Dearmin had been subdued and was unresponsive. He was transported to the Kootenai Health, where he was PRONOUNCED DEAD at 11:13 pm.

The Inlander spoke with several Super 1 Foods employees, but none were aware of a corporate policy for handling shoplifting. Idaho's shoplifting law explicitly protects merchants who detain suspected shoplifters in the "immediate vicinity of the premises" from "any action, civil or criminal." It is unclear how much force is justifiable in such a detention. "[The Super 1 employee] would not be charged; it wasn't due to him," says CdA Police Department Records Specialist Kristie Kiley. (LAEL HENTERLY)

Under fire

One of the three Pasco police officers who shot and killed a Mexican farmworker RESIGNED LAST WEEK.

Ryan Flanagan, a nine-year veteran of the department, handed in his two-weeks notice June 18. Flanagan and the other two officers, Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz, have been on paid leave since the Feb. 10 shooting. The three officers fired 17 times at 35-year-old Antonio Zambrano-Montes, killing him.

Flanagan's attorney, Scott Johnson, told the Tri-Cities Herald that Flanagan is leaving to pursue another job opportunity in the "local building industry."

Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant is in the process of reviewing an investigation by the Tri-City Special Investigations Unit. It will be months before he will decide whether to file criminal charges against the officers. Flanagan's resignation does not impact the possible charges, Sant says.

A cellphone video of the shooting spread quickly on social media and sparked protests throughout the city. The deadly police shooting was the fourth in a six-month period, according to reports in the Tri-City Herald. The video shows three officers chasing Zambrano-Montes across a street, with his hands in the air. When he turns to face the officers, they open fire, and he falls to the ground. Before the shooting, Zambrano-Montes had been throwing rocks at cars, and disobeyed police orders to stop. (MITCH RYALS)

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About The Authors

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.

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters is the Inlander's senior investigative reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...