Investigation reveals new details in K9 shooting - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Investigation reveals new details in K9 shooting

Posted: Updated: March 18, 2009 05:02 PM PDT

SPOKANE, Wash.- The Spokane County Sheriff's Office has identified the police officers and K-9 unit involved in Tuesday night's fatal shooting of suspected car theif, Johnnie L. Longest.  Spokane Police Officer Dan Lesser and his canine partner Var were pursuing Longest with Spokane Police Sgt. Brent Austin acting as cover for the K-9 team.

According to the Sheriff's Office, Longest pulled a .22-caliber pistol and shot Var during the pursuit, whereupon Lesser returned fire.  Longest was struck and died later at a Spokane hospital.  Var was transported to a 24-hour pet emergency clinic where he was treated for gunshot wounds to his head and leg.  The head injury was grazing wound, but the leg wound was more serious.

    Surgery was deemed inappropriate and Var now carries with him embedded bullet fragments.

    Var had only just returned to duty after having been retired a few weeks ago.  His replacement didn't work out, and Var was returned to duty temporarily while the search for his replacement continued.

    The Smith and Wesson .22-caliber pistol used by Longest to shoot Var had not been reported stolen.  However, the Honda Civic that the suspect abandoned during the police chase had been stolen from a North Spokane County residence.

Here are the events that lead up to the incident according to authorities: 

   Just before 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night a SPD patrol officer noticed a Honda Civic being driven recklessly at the intersection of Division and Longfellow. When the officer attempted to stop the driver for the traffic violations, the suspect sped away.

After a short chase, the suspect disappeared, but minutes later was spotted leaving an alley and the chase resumed. Near the intersection Division St. and Rich Ave., the suspect high-centered the Honda on a concrete lane divider and ran from the car.

Rather than engage in a foot pursuit, officers decided to secure the Honda and called for a K-9 team to conduct a track. The K-9 team and cover officer tracked the suspect into an alley that runs north off Lacrosse just west of Division.

Police say the dog first found the suspect and engaged him. At that point, the cover officer tried to physically take control of the suspect, but the suspect pulled out a pistol and shot the dog. The K-9 handler returned fire and shot the suspect, later identified as Johnnie Longest.

Police say Longest has a nine-year criminal history and in January alone showed convictions for vehicle theft, felony drug possession, reckless driving and driving while license suspended.

Longest was taken by ambulance to a downtown hospital where he died from his injuries shortly after midnight.

The canine was taken to a 24-hour pet emergency clinic where he was declared in stable condition at midnight.  The Spokane Sheriff's Office reports that the police dog is resting well and expected to make a full recovery.  Surgery will not be performed as it might do more harm than good. 

Police learned after the shooting the Honda had been stolen from a North Spokane County address.  According to police, the owner apparently had not yet discovered the car's theft. A shaved key was found jammed into the Civic's ignition.

Detectives from both the Spokane County Sheriff's office and Spokane Police Department are investigating the shooting with the sheriff's office taking the lead.

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