Settlement reached in Zehm lawsuit

Author: Kylee Cruz, KXLY4 Reporter, kyleec@kxly.com
Published On: May 15 2012 04:11:12 PM PDT   Updated On: May 16 2012 12:02:01 AM PDT
SPOKANE, Wash. -

The City of Spokane will pay Otto Zehm's estate $1.67 Million, have its police force conduct enhanced training and will name a pavilion in Zehm's memory.

Spokane Mayor David Condon, along with Breean Beggs, the attorney representing the Zehm estate, and Judge Michael Hogan, who has acted as mediator, announced the settlement to the Zehm estate's $14.5 Million civil suit against the city at a 4:30 p.m. news conference at the downtown Post Office, where the mediation hearings have been taking place.

The settlement calls for Spokane to pay the Zehm estate $1.67 Million and issue an apology to Zehm's mother. The city will also have the police department conduct enhanced training, something they are already doing, and will contact the parks department to find a pavilion somewhere in the city to name in Zehm's memory.

The settlment now has to be approved by the city council.

Earlier this month U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko ordered the Zehm family attorneys, plus lawyers for Spokane and the city's insurance carrier to meet on May 14 and 15.

The mediation session was set to settle the $14.5 Million civil suit filed against nine Spokane police officers by the mother and estate of Otto Zehm. Zehm, 36, was wrongly suspected of stealing money from a convenience store ATM when he was beaten by police in 2006.

Spokane Police Officer Karl Thompson, who was convicted late last year of using excessive force in the case and lying to investigators, was named in the lawsuit along with eight other members of the department.

The incident happened at a North Division Zip Trip convenience store on March 18, 2006. Zehm never regained consciousness and died two days later. 

Four months after the incident the FBI confirmed it was looking into the case to see if Spokane police acted inappropriately.

Three years later, in March 2009, the Zehm family filed its lawsuit against the city and the officers involved. Three months after that, in June 2009, a federal grand jury indicted Karl Thompson for his role in the case. He was convicted on November 2, 2011 of violating Zehm's civil rights and using excessive force.

Thompson faces more than 20 years in prison, but his sentencing was put on hold because the government's forensics expert has raised concerns about the case.

He's now free on bail pending that sentencing. His attorneys want a new trial.

The Associated Press contributed to this report