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City of Spokane to pay $4 million to family of man killed by police

David Novak was shot by a Spokane police officer in 2019. On Thursday, the city agreed to pay his family $4 million before the jury even entered the courtroom.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The civil trial between the city of Spokane and the family of a man who was shot and killed by Spokane police officers in 2019 came to a quick conclusion on Thursday after the city agreed to pay $4 million in damages.

35-year-old David Novak was shot by Spokane Police Officer Brandon Rankin on Jan. 7, 2019, after he reportedly threatened to shoot and kill a group of men following a verbal confrontation. 

According to police, Novak went back into his home in the 600 block of W. Montgomery Avenue as the group of people he allegedly threatened called the police. When officers arrived, one of the responding officers told dispatch they heard a gunshot.

Moments later, a confrontation led to Novak being shot by Officer Rankin. Novak went back into his house after being shot but was pronounced dead shortly after.

While it was initially believed that Novak was armed and had fired shots during or before the confrontation, Spokane Police said on Jan. 8, 2019, that no gun was recovered from the crime scene. Instead, officers found a bat.

Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell ultimately determined on Aug. 21, 2019, that Officer Rankin was "justified" in his use of lethal force and, therefore, would not face criminal charges.

"There's 11 seconds from when you guys say Spokane police until you shot my brother," Novak's sister Crystal Jenkins said. "11 seconds. Who can react in 11 seconds?"

Novak's family filed a complaint for damages against the city of Spokane in January 2021, two years after he was killed. The complaint specifically listed former Spokane Mayor David Condon, Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl, Officer Rankin, Spokane County and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

"You have no idea what family you're messing with," Jenkins said.

The suit claimed the city used unnecessary violence, excessive force and committed assault and battery against Novak. His family also claimed the Spokane Police Department (SPD) failed to notify them of Novak's death in a timely manner or properly train officers on the use of force.

Two months later, the city's attorneys responded to the complaint and denied nearly all claims in the suit. Spokane City Council then approved $100,000 to pay the city's legal defense against the Novak family.

The jury expected to hear opening statements from attorneys on Thursday morning. Before jurors even made it into the courtroom, however, both parties reached a settlement of $4 million to the Novak family.

"We can't bring David back, so our goal and our hope is that this saves lives in other ways," Novak's mother Debbie said. "And that when somebody in uniform uses excessive force, they will think twice before they use excessive force or take a life."

The settlement must now receive formal approval from the Spokane City Council before it becomes official.

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