Spokane County, deputies sued in man's death - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

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Spokane County, deputies sued in man's death

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SPOKANE, Wash. - The Center for Justice has filed a lawsuit against Spokane County and three sheriff's deputies on behalf of Trent Yohe, a man who died in May 2007 following a struggle with deputies.

On May 1, 2007, deputies went to a Spokane Valley address on an anonymous drug complaint, knowing that one of the occupants, Trent Yohe, had an outstanding felony warrant.

They found Yohe inside a trailer where small fire had started, laying on his back and appearing to have a seizure or ‘tweaking' from drugs. When a deputy touched Yohe, he began punching and kicking until he was tasered and restrained by handcuffs and leg restraints.

Yohe died 11 days later at a hospital.

The complaint alleges that excessive force continued after Yohe was handcuffed and had his legs tied together with nylon straps while in a prone position.

The Spokane Police Department never recommended charges be filed, and sent the results of their investigation to the Prosecutor with no charges recommended.

The Medical Examiner found no evidence that Yohe suffered any seizures at the time of his struggle with deputies. The cause of his death was listed as excited delirium with methamphetamine intoxication which led to cardiac arrest, all exacerbated by a pre-existing heart condition.

The complaint specifically alleges deprivation of federally protected rights under color of law, including unreasonable search and seizure, excessive force, deadly force, denial of reasonably necessary medical treatment and in-custody homicide.

As a result of the rights violations, the suit alleges, the deputies and the county are liable for the emotional and physical pain inflicted on Yohe and the emotional pain caused to his daughter by his death.

It was ruled that the deputies were justified and not excessive in the level of force they used while trying to restrain Yohe.

The manner of death is classified as homicide by the Medical Examiner's office, but legally it is an excusable homicide because there was no intent or criminal negligence on the part of the deputies involved.

"The deputies were confronted with someone experiencing what they described as a seizure," says Center for Justice attorney Breean Beggs. "Instead of calling for medical personnel, they turned it into a criminal matter which resulted in a struggle and death. But perhaps what's most disturbing about this case is that it came a year after Otto Zehm was fatally subdued in a very similar encounter by Spokane police. The Sheriff has said publicly that his department didn't change anything as a result of the Otto Zehm tragedy, even though the city police department undertook special training after Otto's death to be better prepared to handle suspects with mental disorders. If the county deputies had been provided that training, as they should have, Trent Yohe would likely still be alive."

 

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