SPOKANE, Wash. -- Court documents released on Thursday show what led to a second Spokane police officer being charged in connection with the Otto Zehm investigation.
The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office charged Officer Timothy Moses on Wednesday with making a false statement to a public servant. Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker filed the charges one day before the statute of limitations was going to expire.
Federal investigators said Moses changed his story more than once to protect his friend, former Officer Karl Thompson.
The former officer is serving about four years in federal prison. A judge sentenced Thompson in 2012 for lying to federal investigators and using excessive force in the beating of Zehm in 2006. Zehm died after a confrontation with police at a North Spokane Zip Trip.
A lawyer for Zehm’s family, Breean Beggs, told KREM 2 News on Thursday that the additional charges are bringing closure to the case.
“They have always wanted closure so every time we get closer to that, they're happy about that,” said Beggs.
“What's disturbing, the fear and suspicion they always had that it wasn't just officer Thompson,” said Beggs, “there were actually members of the police department that were conspiring to keep the truth from the public.”
Federal investigators said Moses was one of those members. Court documents showed that Moses changes his story about where Thompson told him he struck Zehm with his baton. Moses originally told first responders that Thompson hit Zehm in the head and neck. Moses also testified to that according to investigators.
Years later, investigators said that Moses described what happened differently and said Thompson hit Zehm in the legs. Court documents alleged further dishonesty. Moses recalled Thompson using the word “lunge” to describe the aggressive advance of Zehm toward Thompson according to court records. The records then indicated that Moses told a federal writer that the word “lunge” was his word and not Thompson’s word.
Court records also described what happened when Moses was questioned by investigators about the discrepancies. Investigators claimed that Moses said he was told by agents that it was unacceptable if his answers were “I don’t know” or “I don’t recall,”
Beggs calls charges against Moses a sad ending to an even sadder case.
“It's hard knowing sworn officers would admit to lying in a really important investigation. Probably the most important our city has ever had,” said Beggs.
The Spokane Police Chief released a statement about the matter on Thursday.
“When I was appointed as Chief of Police, I promised the community and the Department that I would work to resolve and bring closure to the investigation into the death of Otto Zehm,” Police Chief Frank Straub, “I continue to review this incident and the Department’s response to it. The charge brought against Ofc. Timothy Moses is another step toward bringing closure to this tragic incident.”
According to a police department source, Moses is on self-imposed leave. The source also says Moses is expected to plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge and then will resign from the police department.
Moses will still be eligible for his pension since the conviction is a misdemeanor according to Tucker. The Prosecutors also said that Moses will resign as part of the plea deal.
Moses began working for the Spokane Police Department 15 years ago and is already on leave.