“You have extremes on the left and right”: Knezovich condemns downtown violence, details investigation

Knezovich defends deputy firings

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich held a press conference Monday, addressing the violence and looting in downtown Spokane the night before.

Knezovich condemned the actions of rioters, distinguishing them from the peaceful protesters who marched through downtown just hours earlier.

“This was not our African-American community, it was not,” said Knezovich. “They actually begged the people who did this not to do this.”

Thanking Governor Inslee, Knezovich explained that the County requested 80 National Guard members from the state, which he said was approved within an hour. He said boots were on the ground not long after.

The Sheriff blamed the escalation into violence on Antifa—short for anti-fascists. This sentiment was echoed earlier in the day by Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl, who pointed to Antifa, the far-right group Proud Boys, and far-right militia group The Three Percenters as culprits.

RELATED: City leaders say peaceful protest defines Spokane, not the looters

“‘Are you sure it was Antifa?’ I’m going to give you one definitive answer, and it was ‘yes,’ said Knezovich. “How do we know? Well we had CI’s [confidential informants] from both sides, left and right; plus, we had police officers on the ground watching people wearing Antifa T-shirts… people that were self-proclaiming themselves to be Antifa.”

Knezovich said he looked at evidence of Antifa presence in Portland’s escalated protests, and made the connection from there, as well.

“The problem with America right now, is you have extremes on the left and the right, and you have 80 percent of us caught in the middle,” said Knezovich. “Maybe it’s time for the 80 percent to start pushing back.”

The Sheriff described the Minneapolis Police killing of George Floyd, the catalyst for the Black Lives Matter protests nationwide, as “inexcusable.” He said their cause was hijacked by an unjust one, with actors on the extreme left and extreme right hoping to “divide the nation.”

“Now it looks like we may have a resurgence tonight. We’re preparing for that,” said Knezovich. “I also want you to know that we are working to fully and to every extent of the law prosecute those who are coordinating this, and those who take part in this.”

The Sheriff’s Office said they had significant intelligence of the event, Knezovich explaining that agitators drove in from out of the area, wearing communication headsets, and were communicating through a channel to coordinate their efforts. The agitators, he said, were also wearing gas masks.

Knezovich warned that a few local organizations should be “sweating bullets right now,” as they will be prosecuted if they are linked to the violence. Additionally, people who crossed state lines could face federal charges as well—as the FBI, he said, are now in Spokane investigating.

Regarding the presence of Proud Boys, Knezovich said he knows of around four of them in town.

“They weren’t the ones causing damage,” Knezovich said.

Lastly, Knezovich spoke on the militia members carrying AR-15s through streets downtown, noting that they left when police told them to. He explained that law enforcement does not want them there, as they escalate the situation and make work more difficult for officers.