Officers involved in deadly shooting cleared for duty; K-9 recovering - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Officers involved in deadly shooting cleared for duty; K-9 recovering

SPD Sgt. Brent Austin & Ofc. Dan Lesser have been cleared to return to duty SPD Sgt. Brent Austin & Ofc. Dan Lesser have been cleared to return to duty
Dan Lesser and his K-9 partner Var were involved in the March 17 deadly shooting Dan Lesser and his K-9 partner Var were involved in the March 17 deadly shooting

SPOKANE, Wash. -  The two Spokane Police Department officers involved in the deadly shooting of a car theft suspect in North Spokane were cleared to return to active duty following an evaluation with a department psychologist.

Senior Patrol Officer Dan Lesser and Sgt. Brent Austin were evaluated Tuesday and cleared to return to work for their next regularly scheduled shifts according to police spokesperson Ofc. Jennifer DeRuwe. Spokane Police Department policy requires that officers involved in a shooting take a three day break from duty and meet with a psychologist before returning to duty.

Ofc. Lesser and Sgt. Austin were involved in a confrontation with Johnnie L. Longest III in an alley in North Spokane on the night of March 17th after a brief car chase. The incident began when a Spokane Police officer tried to stop Longest on suspicion of reckless driving near the intersection of Division & Longfellow. Longest crashed the vehicle high centering it on a median. Officers later determined that the vehicle was stolen.  He fled the crash on foot and police set up a perimeter bringing in a K-9 team to track him.

Ofc. Lesser and K-9 Var located Longest a short time later and Sgt. Austin attempted to take him into custody while acting as cover officer for the arrest. That's when Longest allegedly opened fire on Var with a .22-caliber handgun wounding the dog in the leg and face. Police say Ofc. Lesser and Sgt. Austin returned fire hitting Longest. He was transported to the hospital where he died several hours later.

K-9 Var is reportedly recovering from his wounds. Doctors opted not to perform surgery to remove bullet fragments from his body but he is said to be recovering at home with his handler, Ofc. Lesser.

The investigation into the shooting continues this morning and is being coordinated by the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

To see previous KHQ coverage on this story click here.

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