Report reveals exchange during deputy-involved death



Posted on January 27, 2014 at 7:35 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 28 at 9:41 AM

SPOKANE, Wash.— A public disclosure request has provided new details on what happened the night a man died after he was tased by Spokane County Sheriff’s Office deputies. The 800 page document compiled by the Washington State Patrol revealed something very unusual happened before the suspect stopped breathing.

William Berger lost control inside Oz Fitness in South Spokane in June 2013.  Witnesses said Berger went berzerk while working-out.  Authorities arrived and ended up tasing him. Berger was pronounced brain dead after he fought with deputies. He later died.

READ: Suspect grabbed deputy's taser outside Oz Fitness

In January, KREM 2 News poured through the 800 page public disclosure request and found that at least one thing stood out in the report: how the deputies reacted in the seconds just before and just after Berger stopped breathing. However, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said he backs his deputies’ actions.

Records showed that Berger's dad arrived at Oz Fitness to pick up his son and saw flashing lights.  He ran up to the commotion and yelled that his son battled mental illness. The attorney claimed that is when Berger’s father saw his son take his last breath.

Deputy Shawn Audie told investigators he was exhausted after fighting with Berger at the scene according to the report. Investigators had said that Audie and Deputy Steve Paynter both tased Berger.

READ: Man tased near Oz Fitness served as a Whitman Co. reserve deputy

The attorney for the Berger family claimed William Berger was tased five times.

Yet, the deputies said it did not stop Berger. Audie told investigators Berger did fall to the ground and hit his head after one of the tasings. Audie said Berger somehow got a hold of one of their tasers and fired it at Audie's forehead during the struggle. The deputy told investigators he felt a shock.

The deputy was able to get Berger into a neck restraint. He told investigators he rendered enough pressure to make him unconscious. Audie said, “he was done playing around at that time.”

READ: Apartment tenant describes tasing outside Oz Fitness

Audie added that he heard a female voice yelling during the struggle too, but also he saw were shoes. He admitted that he viciously struck out at the woman to stay away. He also admitted that he was not nice about it. The public records requested state that the woman was a paramedic.

During an interview with investigators, one of those paramedics said they saw Berger hit the ground and go unresponsive. She said they went in to help and saw Berger's face was blue and that he was not breathing. She added that she was ordered to “get the ****away” before she could do anything. The deputy yelled in her partner’s face according to the paramedic. She told investigators that a deputy said, “if they didn't leave, they were going to be arrested.”

Deputies called the paramedics back seconds later to perform CP, but it was too late according to the interview.

The Berger's attorney, Karen Unger says she believes that is one of many things suspicious about this investigation. Unger’s office received the report at the same time KREM 2 News did. Unger and the Berger family are still reviewing their legal options.

Sheriff Knezovich said both deputies are back working their normal duties. He said he cringes at their choice of words toward the paramedics. Yet, he believes they acted appropriately.

It is currently up to prosecutors to decided if the deputies actions were justified.