SPOKANE - The Spokane County Sheriff's Office is investigating a deadly shooting at an East Spokane bar after Spokane police officers responded to a fight at the Special K Pub and Grill and shot and killed 34-year-old Jeremy Groom, who was armed with a gun Saturday night.
?City police got a call in to 911 about 9:30 [Saturday night] of a person with a weapon at the Special K Tavern at Market and Garland. Officers were dispatched, they arrived a few minutes later. While they were on the way additional information came in that we had two men fighting, pushing, shoving in the parking lot of the tavern,? Spokane County Sheriff Sergeant Dave Reagan said.
When officers arrived they told Groom to drop his weapon, but he didn't and officers opened fire, killing him.
Groom's best friend Robert Thompson Junior was the man officers saw Groom fighting with. Thompson says Groom had been drinking that night and feeling depressed because the fourth anniversary of his mother's death is on December 11th. Then, Groom got into a fight with his girlfriend at the bar which put him over the edge.
Thompson doesn't know why but says Groom armed himself with a gun. He tried to wrestle it away from his friend, but was only able to convince Groom to give him the pistol's magazine. He says there was still a bullet in the chamber when Groom began walking toward his girlfriend.
?I pushed him back, stepped back and next thing I know he pulled a gun and was aiming it at me,? Thompson said.
He says it all happened so quickly he hadn't noticed when Spokane Police Officers arrived on scene.
?The cops, you know, they say 'put the gun down,' not two seconds later they're shooting him, you know, I don't think he had enough time to react to drop that gun,? Thompson said.
Thompson remembers hearing four shots, then watching as officers spent the next ten minutes performing CPR on Groom. He died at the scene.
?He served to protect our country,? Thompson said referring to Groom's for years as a Marine. ?Why not show him some respect, you know? Why go in there with the shoot to kill??
That's question Groom's legion of friends and family are also asking: Why use deadly force?
Groom's ex-girlfriend and mother of his third child, a two-month-old girl, doesn't think officers needed to use deadly force. Amanda Schafer wasn't at the bar that night, but learned from those who were there that Groom never pointed the gun at officers.
?It's hard because she's never going to know her dad,? Schafer says of her daughter. ?I wish I could tell him what a great father he was and that Camille is always going to know that her dad loves her.?
His cousin Crystal Groom wishes officers had waited longer and assessed the scene before opening fire.
?I'm angry because it didn't have to pan out the way it did, they went in there with intent to kill. I'm sorry that is how I believe,? Crystal said. ?I was always told that when officers shoot a suspect with a gun that they shoot to injure them and knock them down and basically that is not what happened.?
For Thompson, the memory of watching his friend take his last breath is as unbearable as the thought that their last moments together were spent fighting.
?I'm sorry for all of the stuff we put each other through in life,? Thompson said sobbing. ?I really never had a chance to make amends with everything... I just can't seem to hold on to the last memory that me and my brother shared together were wrestling and fighting.?
The critical incident protocol has been invoked and the sheriff's office has taken over as lead agency in the shooting investigation. Calls made to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office regarding the investigation were not returned Sunday.
The identities of the officer or officers involved in the shooting have not been released.
An autopsy on Groom's body will be performed Monday.
Officer-Involved Shootings Stack Up:
Saturday?s shooting is the sixth officer-involved shooting in Spokane County since August, four of which were fatal.
The most widely publicized of these shootings involves the death of Spokane Valley businessman Scott Creach.
Deputy Brian Hirzel shot Creach outside his home and business on August 25th while responding to reports of a prowler. The investigation into whether Hirzel was justified in shooting Creach is ongoing.
Three weeks later, deputies shot and injured 36-year-old Shaun Houlihan when he returned home after an argument with some friends.
Deputies say Houlihan refused to drop the gun he was carrying. He was wounded and survived. The investigation showed he may have never fired his gun.
On September 24th, a Washington State Trooper accidentally shot and injured a pregnant woman during a search of a North Spokane Apartment. She was attempting to climb out of a bathroom window when the trooper?s weapon discharged.
On October 24th, Spokane Valley Officers shot and killed 50-year-old Quentin Dodd in the middle of a road. Investigators say Dodd came at the officers with a knife.
On November 12th, six Spokane police officers shot and killed 29-year-old Ethan Corporon near Indiana and Monroe. Witnesses say he shot at a nearby home, then started running with a shotgun.
Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker has not ruled on any of the above officer-involved shootings.
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