Testimony: Spokane officers felt like suspects in Zehm incident

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by Shawn Chitnis & KREM.com

KREM.com

Posted on April 8, 2012 at 5:42 PM

Updated Sunday, Apr 8 at 5:42 PM

SPOKANE -- More details have emerged from Grand Jury testimony in the trial of Karl Thompson.  The former Spokane Police Officer was found guilty of using excessive force and lying to investigators about a deadly 2006 confrontation with Otto Zehm.

Testimony from one Spokane Police Officer, who responded to the Zip Trip where Zehm was beat and tased by Karl Thompson, said officers had a few days to share what they saw with the help of a union lawyer.  They said they were not happy with their treatment by detectives in their own department.
 
Zehm was hit with a baton several times.  Then he was hog-tied by former officer Karl Thompson.  Zehm later died.  A ten year veteran of the Spokane Police Department told a grand jury in 2009 he and at least three other officers wanted time to think about what happened that night.
 
According to court documents, A U.S. attorney asked Officer Jason Uberuaga if there was reason why the report was not prepared the night of the incident.  Uberuaga said he did not want to give a verbal statement.  He said he wanted to write his statement.

When asked if there was anything preventing Uberuaga from remembering something; Uberuaga said he didn't think so.

In his testimony, Officer Uberuaga also revealed a lawyer for the police union was present while he and other officers were writing their reports.

A U.S. attorney asked Uberuaga why, as a group, did they have a Guild attorney review the report.  Uberuaga replied that the group did not like the way they were treated by the detectives initially reviewing the case.  The attorney followed up and asked what they did not like.  Uberuaga replied that it was his feeling they were almost suspects in this incident right away.  Uberuaga went on to say the group did not like the feeling they got.

Late last month, Federal Prosecutors responded to claims by Karl Thompson's defense team for a new trial because of misconduct by some members of the jury.  The government said that was baseless.  A judge is still reviewing the request.  Thompson is still at home and out of jail until a decision is made.

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