An early morning road rage incident at the intersection of Division Street and North River Drive ended with a man being shot and killed by Spokane police officers in front of the Salvation Army building at 222 East Indiana Avenue.
The incident started at the intersection right next to the Red Lion River Inn where a white truck was stopped at the red light facing northbound on Division. A second truck came up behind the first and the driver locked up his brakes, skidding out. He then pulled out into the intersection, did a U-turn in the intersection, threw his truck into reverse and rammed the white truck.
The driver of the white truck called 9-1-1 at 6:08 a.m. to report the collision and then began following the red truck northbound on Division, passing a marked Spokane police cruiser.
The driver of the red truck turned eastbound on Indiana, where he reportedly rammed the Salvation Army building.
Spokane police responded to the Salvation Army building where they confronted the man. According to Police Chief Frank Straub, four officers attempted to box the red truck in a parking lot, where the driver then rammed two of the parked patrol cars. A witness to the incident said they believed the suspect was trying to ram the police officers with his vehicle. At 6:12 officers reported shots were fired. Witnesses near the Salvation Army say they heard five or six gunshots.
The preliminary investigation revealed all four officers who responded to the incident fired their weapons at the truck. Straub added there was no indication the driver was armed.
Once the truck was stopped, the officers immediately began first aid on the driver and he was transported to the hospital where he was subsequently pronounced dead.
From the first 9-1-1 call from the driver of the white truck to the shots fired call by officers at 6:12 a.m. the whole incident went down in less than four minutes.
"Based on the preliminary investigation I believe that the officers believed their safety, and the community's safety, was in jeopardy," Straub said. "I think the fact that this individual engaged in two aggressive actions against the driver of the white truck, hit that truck twice, the second time the investigation reveals that in fact the truck may have made a U-turn and then backed into, purposely backed into the white truck, so again aggressive altercations between the red truck and the white truck. We have our officers saying and we have independent witnesses saying that they gave repeated commands to the driver of the red truck and he not only failed to comply with their instructions but then aggressively tried to back into the patrol car that was immediately behind his truck, striking it several times."
KXLY sources say the man was a resident at the Salvation Army but has not been identified by authorities. The official identification will be done by the Spokane County Medical Examiner, who is conducting an autopsy on the man Thursday afternoon.
Chief Straub said his department will release the names of the officers involved in the shooting within 72 hours.
The family of the man who was shot by officers are at the Salvation Army building speaking to investigators. Since the shooting involved Spokane police officers, the Spokane Investigative Regional Response Team, made up of several law enforcement agencies including Spokane Police, Spokane County Sheriff's Office and the Washington State Patrol, will take the lead in investigating the shooting.
Several Spokane County Sheriff's vehicles were at the scene of the shooting Thursday morning. Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy Craig Chamberlin said his agency will hold a media briefing Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. with the latest information on the SIRR Team investigation into the shooting.
Meanwhile in the wake of the shooting all programs at the Salvation Army campus are temporarily closed, including the Food Bank, The Nurturing Center and other programs. They will not reopen until further notice.
"We just want to let the community know that the Salvation Army is closed today," Sheila Geraghty, Salvation Army business administrator, said. "The family resource center, the food bank, family visitation and counseling is all going to be closed until further notice."
Officer-involved shooting scenes take hours to process. That, coupled with the fact that the man shot and killed was a resident at the Salvation Army, forced them to make the decision to close their facility not only to protect their residents but to cooperate with that investigation
"We have communicated to all the participants and the families that live here on campus to just kind of hunker down in their units," Geraghty added. "The detectives are going to want to talk to as many people who witnessed the incident as they can. We are just trying to do a little bit of crowd control right now and some counseling."
The Housing and Essential Needs Program is open with entrance on the Indiana and the Lidgerwood administration entrance and will remain open unless the entrance becomes inaccessible.
Coincidentally, at the time of the shooting Chief Straub was conducting an interview with Robyn Nance live on the air at the KXLY studios where he gave a six-month progress report on his department's implementation of recommendations made by the city's Use of Force commission and confirmed there had been a shooting in the wake of a hit-and-run during the newscast.