Spokane Law Enforcement Rally Behind Officer Karl Thompson

I noticed in my years working as a prosecuting attorney that police officers often had a rather black-and-white view of the world.  It was good versus evil, with not a lot of in between.  They did not seem to wonder too often if a person charged was truly guilty – it was usually assumed.   I don’t think I ever heard it questioned whether a defendant was receiving a fair trial, or if the media was giving the accused a fair shake.  Then, on June 22nd, 2009, it was announced that Office Karl F. Thompson was being charged in federal court with two felonies related to the death of Otto Zehm, the mentally disabled janitor the police beat and tased at Zip-Trip while he bought a soda on March 20th, 2009.   As that indictment was handed down, I kind of wondered what response the police community would have to Karl Thompson’s indictment.  Would they explain his actions away as those of one bad apple, or would they rally in his defense?

THOMPSON PICWell, I received my answer this week when I noticed online that Karl Thompson’s supporters had created a Face Book “fan page” for him.   The page promotes the sale of bracelets for $10 each.  The page blames the media for making Karl Thompson a “media scapegoat,” but then writes: “Thanks to the story in the Spokesman-Review, demand for the wristbands has increased.”  As of today, the page had almost 230 fans.

See news story about indictment:

I will continue to follow the case of U.S. v. Karl Thompson, as well as the civil suit the family of Otto Zehm as brought against Karl Thompson and the City of Spokane.   The Center of Justice in Spokane has a website about Otto Zehm. A central issue in both the civil case and the criminal case will be Thompson’s compliance with Spokane County’s use of force policy. The policy authorizes varying level of force depending on the threat that the police encounter. Creates a legal pleading

When interviewed by police officials, Karl Thompson admitted that Otto Zehm did not try to strike him, but explained that Zehm refused to drop the plastic bottle of soda he was carrying. Thompson stated that he feared the two-liter bottle could be used as a weapon.  When interviewed, Thompson explained that the learning-disabled Zehm responded “why?” when Thompson told him to drop his soda.  Thompson explained that he struck Zehm first in the leg with the police baton trying to knock him to the ground. The store video in Zip Trip is partially obscured by the store shelves but it shows the officer standing over Zehm from behind.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR….
Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking: www.grahamdefense.com
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