Suspect unarmed in Spokane Valley shooting
A man shot and killed by Spokane sheriff's deputies was not armed with a deadly weapon when officers opened fire on him Wednesday afternoon.
Investigators said Ed Gover had climbed over a fence as he was returning to his girlfriend's house following a brief chase with deputies in her Mercedes, and was in the backyard when confronted by two deputies.
Gover told the officers he had a knife and told the deputies they were going to "have to kill" him.
The officers, who were formally interviewed by detectives Friday morning, said they began firing when Gover reached behind his back as if he was drawing a weapon. One officer fired his service weapon five times, striking Gover once; a second officer fired a single round from a shotgun, also hitting him.
The medical examiner confirmed he was hit in the lower torso and pelvis. Officers began CPR on him and medics later took him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Minutes earlier Gover had driven into the cul de sac of his girlfriend's home in that stolen Mercedes, where officers had been taking a domestic violence report from the victim.
The 69-year-old told investigators Gover had held her against her will with a knife to keep her from calling police and had also stabbed her in the arm.
"He had made threats to this victim throughout the night that he was going to kill her. tried to get her to open the safe, she refused to do so, she actually got into a hand-to-hand conflict with him [and] that's where she received the laceration to her arm," Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said during a Friday afternoon media briefing.
The victim eventually was able to run to a neighbor's home and call 9-1-1. Deputies arrived to take her statement and when they spotted Gover in the Mercedes they attempted to stop him but he drove off.
"The suspect drove at a high rate of speed, turned around in the cul de sac and left the area at which time Deputy Werner and Deputy Bond began to pursue the suspect in the stolen vehicle," Sheriff Knezovich said.
After a short pursuit Gover abandoned the car and took off on foot, jumping fences until he wound up in his girlfriend's backyard, where he confronted the two deputies and the shooting occurred.
Deputy Aaron Childress saw Gover jump the fence into the backyard and ordered him to the ground.
"The suspect then reached into his pocket and stated he had a weapon ... he had a knife," Knezovich said.
Deputies say with his hand behind his back, Gover charged at the officers saying they would have to kill him.
"He then proceeded to walk toward the deputies in a very aggressive manner, he got to within eight to ten feet of Deputy Childress and he shot the individual five times," Knezovich said.
Deputy Eric Werner was with Childress and when he opened fire Werner fired his shotgun at Gover. Childress and Werner both hit Gover once.
"At that point, he's coming at the deputies, he's already told them you're going to have to kill me. Deputies don't know what kind of weapon he has and it was a lethal force situation," Knezovich said.
Knezovich bristled at the notion that deputies could have used less than lethal force on Gover, aiming for an extremity like an arm or a leg in a potentially life and death situation, or fired
"No one's that good to determine oh, I better shoot him somewhere. If you shoot him in the arm, he can still come and get you. If you shoot him in the leg and he has a gun, he can still shoot you," he said.
Throughout his press conference, Knezovich continually hammered home that people's expectations of the shoot - no shoot situation Deputies Werner and Childress faced were fanciful, referencing time and again the difference between real life on the streets of Spokane and the Hollywood view you would see on the big screen:
"This isn't Hollywood, this is real life … put yourself in that deputy's position."
"This is not Hollywood, people don't automatically go down when they're shot. That's the difference."
"This is real life. If you make a mistake out in the street, as you just saw two months ago, two deputies almost lost their life. This is real life. This isn't Hollywood."
Court documents obtained from 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City show that Gover had a long history in the court system. His most recent offenses included two felony convictions in 2009 for falsely obtaining and dispensing prescription drugs and a felony conviction for failure to pay child support in 2004.
In the years prior to 2004 there was a revolving door in district court involving Gover's run ins with the law. He was hit time and again with multiple sentences which included restitution, and in some cases community service, that would end in bench warrants being served against Gover for failing to make payments or complete court-ordered community service.
At one such hearing in April 1998, Gover's roommate had to appear on his behalf at a court hearing to let the judge know Gover couldn't make it because he was in jail and was likely going to be there for a year.
His criminal history, however, wasn't available to Childress and Werner when they confronted Gover in the yard. All they knew at that moment where they made the shoot - no shoot decision was that Gover had assaulted a woman, had threatened to kill her repeatedly, and when they approached him he told them they would have to kill him, that he was armed, possibly with a deadly weapon, he took a threatening posture and began approaching them, ignoring deputies' commands as he advanced on them.
"This is another one of those instances that put our deputies in the decision to make a life or death decision. If anybody thinks the deputies want to make that decision, they are severely wrong," Knezovich said.
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