Sheriff defends deputies' use of deadly force in recent shootings


by Marissa Bagg and

Posted on November 4, 2010 at 5:56 PM

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Spokane County Sheriff's deputies are entangled in three of the last four local shootings involving deputies, so on Thursday the Sheriff’s Office demonstrated for KREM 2 News and other local media why they’re relying more on their weapons.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich defended his deputies for firing their weapons.  He said they had to respond to a deadly situation with deadly force.

Then he demonstrated several ways he would react in a similar situation.

When he simulated what he called a routine example of a deputy questioning a suspect, the attacker got to him in half a second.

“Did I have a chance to get my nightstick or think about a taser?” said Knezovich.  “Would I even think about those things when he's coming at me like that? No.”

The sheriff said that's a potentially dangerous situation his deputies face on patrol.

In fact, deputies encountered a similar situation last week  A suspect, Quentin Dodd, threatened and lunged at a deputy with a knife.

Deputies who train cadets said that in certain situations pepper spray or a taser aren't safe options.

“Persons who show up with a firearm, what’s the only realistic response?” said Rick Johnson of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.  “I have to go to a firearm as well or I'm not going home that night.”

Knezovich said over the last six years deputies have responded to more than 500,000 incidents.  He said deputies have only used force in less than one percent of those cases and used lethal force only seven times.

Since August, deputies shot their weapons three times, killing two people.

Knezovich said his deputies tried to avoid using their firearms in most of those encounters.

“You'll notice in almost each and every one those officers tried to de-escalate that before force was ever used,” said Knezovich.

FBI statistics show there have been more assaults on deputies in Spokane County than the national average for a force of 200 officers.  Knezovich called that an alarming trend.