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Spokane standoff suspect climbs tree on cliff's edge, throws rocks, sets fires

Police say Edmon Ling had a camp set up under trees on the ledge of a cliff that overlooks Liberty Park and Ben Burr trail.
Credit: Thinkstock
Police car on the street at night

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane police say they were in an hours-long standoff with an arson suspect who was perched on a cliff that overlooks Liberty Park and the Ben Burr trail Thursday night.

According to a press release from Spokane Police Sergeant Terry Preuninger, officers were called to East Hartson Avenue near South Helena Street around 8:50 p.m. It was reported that a man was walking up and down the street breaking car windows and he appeared to be intoxicated or high.

Preuninger said when officers arrived, the suspect, later identified as 35-year-old Edmon Ling, fled to a vacant field north of Hartson Avenue, that overlooks Liberty Park and the Ben Burr Trail. Ling went over the edge of a steep drop to a ledge about 30 feet below and started trying to light the hillside on fire, according to the press release. It was later determined that Ling had a large homeless camp concealed under some trees on the ledge, Preuninger said.

From his camp, the press release says Ling crawled out to the edge of an even larger drop and grabbed onto a small tree, suspending himself above a 50-to-75-foot cliff above the park and trail below.

Officers tried to talk Ling off the ledge and get him to surrender. Preuninger said he began throwing softball sized rocks at the officers and lighting the grass and brush on fire.

Hostage negotiators, SWAT and units from the Spokane Fire Department responded. According to the press release, SWAT officers and SFD personnel used rescue and rappelling equipment to prepare for a potential rescue and secured themselves to the hillside.

SWAT and negotiators tried to de-escalate the situation for hours, Preuninger said. Ling continued to throw rocks at the officers and attempted to light fires.

“His only response to the negotiators during the hour’s long standoff was threats to commit violent criminal acts against the wives and mothers of the officers on the scene,” the press release says.

Preuninger said a police drone was also used to monitor Ling’s condition and position on the ledge. Eventually, he moved himself down the ledge a few feet and tied himself to a small tree with a short strap, the press release says. He then started to throw more rocks.

At about 1 a.m., the press release says Ling surrendered and was taken into custody without incident.

Ling is charged with second degree malicious mischief, third degree assault, second degree arson, second degree reckless burning and obstructing. As of Friday afternoon, he was listed as an inmate at the Spokane County Jail and no bond was listed.