Defense witness says Zehm's head injuries were not from baton strikes


by & Katie Utehs

Posted on October 25, 2011 at 2:45 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 25 at 6:20 PM

YAKIMA, Wash. -- The defense team representing Spokane Ofc. Karl Thompson is calling more expert witnesses to the stand Tuesday to refute federal prosecutor's charges he used excessive force in the arrest of Otto Zehm and then lied to investigators.  Zehm died two days after the incident.

 Dr. Dan Davis took the stand first Tuesday.  Davis has performed autopsies for 20 years.  He is a forensic pathologist who specializes in finding causes of death.  According to Davis, "there is no evidence Zehm was struck in the head with a baton."

When referring to the injuries on Zehm’s head, he stated they “could be traction injuries from grabbing a handful of hair and pulling real hard.”  Davis says any flat bland surfaces can explain the injuries to Zehm's scalp, like shelves in Zip Trip.  Davis also says the injuries over Zehm’s eye are not from a baton strike.

The defense called Patrick Conley as their second expert witness.  Conley is a retail manager of the White Elephant, which is located across the street from the Zip Trip.  Conley says he saw Thompson and Zehm wrestling inside the store when he arrived.  Conley says he did not see the initial interaction between the two men.  He says he saw Thompson had a hold of Zehm’s hair.

Conley says Zehm appeared to be angry at the time and had closed fists.  When prompted by attorneys, Conley says Zehm was resisting.

Conley says he heard the officers tell Zehm to calm down, but Zehm growled at them and never stopped swinging or struggling.  Conley also states that he saw Zehm spitting.  Conley says he did not see Zehm punch or kick Thompson and did not see a taser being used.

The defense called Officer Steve Braun as their third expert witness.  Braun was the second officer to arrive at the Zip Trip that night to help restrain Zehm.

Braun says he heard the initial police radio call of someone acting strangely around an ATM, and remembers the call was for a suspicious person.  Braun says there wasn’t any information that Zehm had taken money from the ATM at that time.

Braun says he walked into the Zip Trip with a baton on his belt and a flash light.  Braun says Zehm was sitting on the floor when he arrived, and was punching and kicking Thompson.

Braun says he delivered 3 or 4 power jabs to Zehm’s left rib cage.  Braun says he then put the taser up to Zehm's neck because Thompson had instructed him to tase the suspect.

Braun says Zehm continued to thrash around and he did not want to put his hands near Zehm’s face because he feared Zehm would bite him.  Braun says he does not know what Thompson was doing at the time because he was preoccupied trying to control Zehm.

Braun says Zehm kicked him in the left knee during the struggle.  He also heard Thompson call for more help.

Braun says he saw Zehm stretch the leg restraints, and then saw Zehm stop breathing shortly after.