Spokane Officers Salute Officer Convicted of Beating Otto Zehm to Death

Spokane city leaders call some officers’ courtroom behavior “insensitive” to Zehm family, friends


On March 18, 2006, Zehm — who worked as a janitor and did not own a car — had gone on foot to an ATM at his bank to withdraw money from his account. Two young women, who were in a car at the ATM when Zehm arrived, erroneously reported to police by phone that a man was attempting to steal money from the ATM. The women followed Zehm in their car while reporting additional information to the police dispatch by phone.

Zehm next entered the convenience store that he routinely visited to buy a soft drink and fast food. Video from the convenience store security cameras show that within sixteen seconds of the first officer entering the store, the officer had run up to Zehm, whose back was initially turned to him, and batoned Zehm to the ground – the first of at least seven baton strikes used on Zehm. Within another sixteen seconds Zehm had also been tasered. In addition to the multiple beatings and taserings, Zehm was improperly hog-tied by police and placed on his stomach for more than sixteen minutes. Furthermore, the police requested a non-rebreather mask from paramedics at the scene and strapped it to Zehm’s face. The non-rebreather mask was not attached to oxygen. Zehm stopped breathing three minutes after the mask was placed on his face. When ruled a homicide by the county coroner on May 30, 2006, the cause of death was reported as “lack of oxygen to the brain due to heart failure while being restrained on his stomach.” No illegal drugs or alcohol were found in Zehm’s system.

Otto Zehm was a mentally disabled man from Spokane, Washington. He was tasered and beaten to death by officer Karl Thompson. Six other officers were involved. Zehm’s last words were, “All I wanted was a Snickers Bar.” Thompson was convicted of excessive force and is slated to get 8 to 10 years. He was also convicted of lying about the incident. The whole thing is on video.

So, it is a travesty that other officers would salute this man. He brutally tasered and beat a mentally disabled man to death for no reason. Tell me how that is worthy of support, much less a salute and a show of solidarity? G-d help the citizens of Spokane if they ever need the police, because from this example it looks to me as if they support the brotherhood no matter what atrocity is committed and are not there for the citizens they are sworn to protect. There is no honor here, just murder and tragedy. 8 to 10 years? That’s a joke and an insult to Zehm and his family.

The SPD Salute of Ofc Karl Thompson – Insensitive, Disrespectful and a Violation of Department Policy – Seems the Mayor and the Chief don’t think so