Spokane Police Abuses: Past to Present

The People of Spokane vs. Law Enforcement Abuse, Impunity, Corruption, and Cover-up

Archive for October 6th, 2007

Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents

Posted by Arroyoribera on October 6, 2007

Do something good by creating a blog

Blogs get people excited. Or else they disturb and worry them. Some people distrust them. Others see them as the vanguard of a new information revolution. Because they allow and encourage ordinary people to speak up, they’re tremendous tools of freedom of expression.
Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest.

Reporters Without Borders has produced this handbook to help them, with handy tips and technical advice on how to to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation. It also explains how to set up and make the most of a blog, to publicize it (getting it picked up efficiently by search-engines) and to establish its credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles.


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Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents

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Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents

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Bloggers, the new heralds of free expression
What’s a blog ?
The language of blogging
Choosing the best tool
How to set up and run a blog
What ethics should bloggers have ?
Getting your blog picked up by search-engines
What really makes a blog shine ?
Personal accounts:
Hong Kong
How to blog anonymously
Technical ways to get around censorship
Ensuring your e-mail is truly private
Internet-censor world championship

Posted in Freedom to Fascism, In Collective Self-Defense, Independent Oversight, Know Your Rights, Protest, War Abroad & At Home | Leave a Comment »

Anything sound familiar here?

Posted by Arroyoribera on October 6, 2007

Recent news revealed that U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) would investigate the actions of one of the major U.S. mercenary corporations, Blackwater USA, in the September 16, 2007, incident at Baghdad’s Nisoor Square in which 11 Iraqi civilians were killed in an allegedly unprovoked attack on them by Blackwater USA personnel.

Two days later the FBI revealed that its personnel in Baghdad to investigate allegations of Blackwater criminal misconduct are protected by… Blackwater personnel.

This blackwater is only going to get deeper and darker.

As it turns out, the September 16 incident had already been investigated, shortly after it occurred. That initial report was written for the U.S. State Department on Bureau of Diplomatic Security letterhead by…

No, not by Diplomatic Security or the FBI. But by a Blackwater employee, Darren Hanner!

(I don’t know about you but reading this made me think about the conflicts caused when Spokane area law enforcement agencies — the Spokane Police and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office — investigate one another and when the investigative teams include members of other agency. If I commit a crime do you think I could get my mom on the team that investigates it? Or maybe my best buddy? No? Why not, huh? If it is good enough for the SPD and the SCSO and Blackwater and the CIA and the FBI and the rest of these good old boys, shouldn’t it be good enough for the rest of us taxpaying slobs?)

Salon.com — Blumenthal — Private Military in Iraq

CNN.com — 10/02/07 — Blackwater.spot.report

U.S. Embassy Baghdad — Bureau of Diplomatic Security — Report on Blackwater written by Blackwater employee

Washingtonpost.com — Blackwater in Iraq

Posted in Freedom to Fascism, History of SPD Abuses, Lies Damn Lies and ..., Unanswered Questions, War Abroad & At Home | Leave a Comment »

Prison Towns — Walla Walla, Shelton and Spokane

Posted by Arroyoribera on October 6, 2007

In 1998, Spokesman-Review reporters collaborated in a six-part series on crime in Spokane. The series began June 14, 1998, with six articles, including this one, City of Second Chances. Nearly ten years after it was written, the six-part series remains an important sources of information, analysis, and insight about the community which hosts the second largest prison in the state of Washington.

How Spokane comes to terms in humane and realistic ways with the realities of poverty, homelessness, mental illness and crime may well be a more important measure of who we are than our civic show events, such as Bloomsday and Pig Out in the Park. As we can see by the recent history of Spokane, we have a long way to go. In fact, it could be said that if we have even started, we may have moved backwards rather than forwards.

Sunday, June 14, 1998

Special report

City of Second Chances

(first of six parts)

By Julie Sullivan, Karen Dorn Steele and Kim Barker
The Spokesman-Review

Society demands criminals pay for their crimes, but society is paying too. With a disproportionate number of released inmates choosing to start over here, Spokane is paying more than its share.

A funnel of convicted felons is aimed at Spokane.

Ten years of get-tough-on-crime laws have poured thousands into the state prison system with little thought as to where they’d eventually come out.

But criminals don’t go to prison so much as they go through prison. From the moment they enter, inmates begin moving toward a final destination: outside.

For a startling number, the last stop is Spokane.


Colin Mulvany – The Spokesman-Review

Department of Corrections field officer Rick Jost searches the new apartment of Carl Streeter in downtown Spokane. Streeter, convicted of assault in Yakima County, recently was released from the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. “I was living on the streets in Yakima. The folks in Walla Walla wanted me to come to Spokane.”

The number of former prisoners choosing Spokane County as their new home has leaped an estimated 84 percent in the past five years, higher than the state average. More than half of those offenders were convicted somewhere else.

The city’s downtown bus Plaza, shopping malls and neighborhoods are becoming hunting grounds where community corrections officers search for ex-offenders and ministers try to counsel them.

While sex offenders and the most violent criminals are supervised by community corrections officers for one or more years after prison, most other offenders aren’t. They leave prison with $40 and a bus ticket.

More than 1,800 inmates were released to Spokane County between 1992 and 1997, state records show. Interviews, state prison data and other government records also reveal that:

  • For every 100 people convicted in Spokane County, nearly 150 were released here. No other county in the state gets back so many more offenders than it puts into prison. The state’s two largest counties, King and Pierce, get back fewer offenders than they send behind bars.
  • More than 1,150 sex offenders are now registered in Spokane County – more sex offenders per capita than in King County. What’s more, four out of 10 sex criminals released here from prison weren’t even convicted in Spokane.
  • About 12,000 released offenders report to the Department of Corrections in Spokane County. Of those, about 1,300 must have regular face-to-face meetings with community corrections officers. Nearly twice that number are labeled inactive — meaning they’re dead, deported or otherwise absent without official reason.
  • Along with the offenders has come the Department of Corrections. The prison at Airway Heights is now the state’s second largest, holding 2,043 inmates. More than 80 convicted felons live in a work-release center in downtown Spokane. The state’s premiere drug treatment center for convicts is at Pine Lodge Pre-Release in Medical Lake.
  • No state, city or county agency is monitoring the civic impact of this ex-inmate migration.

    State Department of Corrections officials aren’t aware of Spokane’s emerging reputation as a city of second chances. They say tracking offenders is not part of their mission.

    The mayor, City Council, county commission and county prosecutor know almost nothing about the former prison inmates living here. The police and sheriff’s departments are notified when most individual convicts are released, but don’t track the overall numbers. Even social service agencies that help offenders or their families don’t monitor the trend.

    Kay Walter, superintendent of the Airway Heights Corrections Center, says the state’s 13,800 inmates are closely watched when they’re behind bars. But they quickly vanish into the community once they’re released.

    “We don’t track people very well when they leave the system. A high percentage just walk out the door,” Walter says.

    So many offenders are now clustered around Spokane that community corrections officers are stationed in neighborhood cop shops. When officers want to look for sex offenders, they walk through the STA Bus Plaza. A volunteer who ministers to offenders in prison runs into ex-felons every few minutes downtown.

    This flow of offenders into Spokane is part of a state and national trend: More people behind bars, and more eventually coming out into the community.

    Throughout Washington, 85,500 offenders are under supervision — double the number a decade ago. The state is second only to Texas in the number of people on parole, probation or community supervision.

    In Spokane, many former prisoners pay taxes and rent. They make calls for telemarketing firms, cook in restaurants from West Main to State Line. They work as machinists, computer instructors and auto mechanics. They sweep streets on the West Plains, swab floors at the malls, stock shelves at the Spokane Food Bank. They repair cars, wrap tortillas, stuff advertising inserts into the newspaper.

    There are success stories like that of Larry Ecklund, who after serving time for drug crimes is drug free and sober. His East Central business as a plumber and general contractor is thriving. His relationships with his wife and grown children are strong. He’s taking 30-mile bike rides, exercising his retrievers, restoring antiques. “Enjoying life,” he says.

    There are horror stories too.

    The impact of former prisoners isn’t obvious in Spokane County crime rates, which fluctuate yearly and tend to be affected by home-grown criminals. But the consequences of one-man crime waves from released offenders have been enormous. Consider:

  • Demetrius Dean, convicted of seven felonies on the West Side, was released to Spokane County in 1995. He told a girlfriend he’d been in trouble elsewhere and wanted a clean slate. He subsequently raped two Spokane junior high school students and the mother of one of the girls. He met one of the girls at a bus stop where she was en route to Garry Middle School.
  • “He asked for my telephone number. I’d never given out my number before and I thought, what could it hurt?” says Kassie Reyes, now 15.

  • Dwayne Woods was convicted in King and Spokane counties of assault, served time at Pine Lodge Pre-Release, completed work release in Spokane and was released here in December 1994. Thirteen months later, he met Venus Shaver, a clerk at the Valley Hastings store, while checking out a video. Four months later, he stabbed and beat her when she refused to have sex with him. While she lay unconscious, he raped her friend Jade Moore and beat her with an aluminum baseball bat, and beat her sister Telisha Shaver when she unexpectedly arrived. Only Venus Shaver survived.
  • Kenneth Galloway, convicted of killing his infant son and abusing twin sons in Pierce County in 1990, served time at Airway Heights Corrections Center. He was released in September 1994. Six months later, he moved in with a woman he’d met through friends at work release in Spokane, and a month after that, beat her 2-year-old son to death.
  • Byron Scherf was imprisoned for raping a woman and setting her on fire in Pierce County. He was paroled to Spokane County in 1993 after completing his sentence at Airway Heights. Two years later, he picked another victim out of a Spokane Realtors catalog posed as a prospective home buyer and met her at a home near Cheney. Scherf forced Barbara Bell into his trunk at knifepoint and drove her to Spangle, raped her and threatened to kill her and her daughter.
  • “The public is focused on the 13,800 people in prison,” says Secretary of Corrections Joe Lehman. But there are 85,500 people under state supervision living in Washington communities. “Which ones represent the greatest public safety risk?”


    Colin Mulvany – The Spokesman-Review

    Leo Dickerson, an inmate in the minimum- security prison camp at Airway Heights Corrections Center, prepares ground for a new scoreboard at a park next to Sunset Elementary School. Airway Heights and other communities use supervised inmate crews for litter pick-up and public works projects.

    ‘They think this is paradise’

    Almost as soon as inmates enter one of Washington’s 12 adult prisons, they begin working on a plan for getting out.

    The plan helps determine eventual moves within the system to minimum-security camps, pre-release and work release. Then, 120 days before finishing their sentence, most inmates list an address that is forwarded to a community corrections officer.

    The state must approve the address and can stop a sex offender from, say, locating next to a day-care center. But state officials can do nothing about the choice of community.

    “We can’t say ‘You can’t go to Spokane,’ ” Deputy Director Dave Savage says.

    The number of offenders trying to find an address here has become a nuisance for some agencies. The Union Gospel Mission in Spokane was receiving 19 requests a week asking to serve as a release address.

    “We were having a horrible time,” says Don Munday, assistant director for men’s services. He spent his first week on the job two years ago writing prisons and corrections officers to stop it.

    The Mission accepts a small number of offenders who qualify for an intense two-year program with a team of therapists, counselors, job trainers and ministers.

    Still, requests keep coming to the Mission, to the Salvation Army, to downtown landlords and distant pen pals, asking to provide an address.

    Offenders look to Spokane as a place to make a fresh start.

    The city is far away from the West Side — where 77 percent of the state’s criminals committed their crimes and were sentenced. Far away from their victims, the police and the old neighborhood.

    “I call Spokane a city of refuge,” says Leone Johnson, who has ministered to people imprisoned and jailed in Spokane County for 22 years. “Portland, Seattle, Tacoma and Yakima is where they’ve all gotten in trouble and where they can’t go back.”

    When Don Byers leaves prison after 16 years this December, he doesn’t want to return to Tacoma, Everett or Seattle, where his old partners in crime live. The 62-year-old armed robber wants to stay here.

    “Spokane is a big enough town to exist in, but not big enough to get in trouble again with the same old associates. And even at my age, I can probably find a job,” he says.

    Convicted felons can get work within days of arriving, as restaurant cooks, dishwashers, sheet metal workers and construction laborers. Extensive bus service allows them to commute as far as Cheney or Liberty Lake.

    The selection of low-income housing available is double the state rate. Apartments downtown start at $48 a week. Add to that a low unemployment rate of about 4 percent and a smattering of charities, mental health programs and drug and alcohol treatment.

    There are other reasons that inmates choose Spokane over smaller communities like Walla Walla, says researcher Keith Farrington of Whitman College.

    “Night life and prospective mates.”

    Spokane also draws from other states. With its booming economy, Washington attracts five felons under supervision from other states for every two it sends elsewhere, the Department of Corrections reports.

    About 440 offenders supervised by the state in Spokane County are from Idaho, Montana, Utah and other states. They transfer here to find work and get away from harsher laws and penal systems elsewhere.

    “They think this is paradise here in the state of Washington,” says Bruce Woods, a community corrections officer who supervises several out-of-staters.


    Colin Mulvany – The Spokesman-Review

    Carpenter Mike Bass paints doors at a West Central business. Bass is under supervision after serving five years for armed robbery in New Mexico. He moved to Spokane after marrying a pen pal who lives here. “I’m slowly but surely trying to get back to civilization.”

    Mike Bass, 42, served more than five years in a New Mexico prison for armed robbery. While in prison, he met and married a Spokane woman — all through the mail. When he was released in January, he flew north and settled with her in a West Central neighborhood.

    The union didn’t last: “Let’s just say the attraction was not the same in person as it was on paper.” But within three days of arriving, he walked around the corner and got a job as a carpenter. He found a 12-step substance-abuse meeting he likes and a new apartment.

    “I’d never been here before in my life,” he says. “Now it’s just me, the boss and Bruce,” his corrections officer. “But I want to stay. I want to make it here.”

    ‘Corrections is a growth industry’

    To understand how Spokane became a destination for felons, look back at crime and politics over the last 30 years.

    Between 1965 and 1975, the country’s murder rate nearly doubled. Fear of crime grew, not just in poor city neighborhoods, but in middle-class suburbs, writes author David Anderson in “Sensible Justice.”

    Then, in the mid-1980s, crack hit cities from Los Angeles to Tacoma and Spokane. More than any previous drug epidemic, crack cocaine created what Anderson calls an urban arms race, raising violence — and fear — to new levels.

    Politicians responded with get-tough-on-crime laws. Seven sentencing laws in as many years put an additional 4,500 offenders behind Washington state bars.

    Most Spokane legislators voted for these laws, with strong public support. Their goal: put repeat offenders away faster and for longer sentences.

    “I’d rather build another prison than more office buildings for state employees,” Sen. Bob McCaslin, a Spokane Valley Republican, said in 1993.

    “The public has said they want us to take bad people off the streets for their protection,’ echoed Sen. James West, another Republican from Spokane.

    Voters weighed in as well. The “three strikes you’re out” initiative for various violent offenders will add 830 inmates by 2012. The “hard time for armed crime” law, another 1,300.

    Even the federal government took part with a crime bill that put 100,000 police officers on the street and more criminals in jail.

    The result: Washington’s prison population has jumped 71 percent since 1980 while its general population has risen just 13 percent. The most dramatic increase has come in the last seven years.

    When former Secretary Chase Riveland took over Corrections in the mid-1980s, there were so many prison beds available, the state rented them out to other states and made nearly $60 million.

    Ten years later, the state is squeezing in offenders by doubling the number of bunks in handicapped or larger cells at Airway Heights Corrections Center and converting storage rooms to hold up to eight men.

    Riveland once quipped that if the growth rate were straight-lined, by the year 2057 everyone in Washington would either be in prison — or be working in one.

    Airway Heights is now the state’s second largest prison, with 2,043 men. Only the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla holds more, with 2,300 behind bars.

    All told, the state Department of Corrections spends nearly $52 million a year in Spokane County. Corrections’ 838 employees in Spokane County work in offices from Hillyard to the Spokane Valley, from Airway Heights to Medical Lake. It’s a work force equal to Gonzaga’s or Eastern Washington University’s.

    “We are in the Department of Corrections business here in Spokane County just like Shelton and Walla Walla,” says Spokane County Prosecutor Jim Sweetser.

    In five years, the prison at Airway Heights has quadrupled in size and the work-release program has swelled. A third more beds were added to the work-release center for women, and the center for men is expected to increase by a quarter in the next several years.

    “Corrections is a growth industry in that once you get it in your community, it continues to grow,” says Katherine Carlson, a cultural anthropologist who has studied Washington prisons.

    Prisons bring good-paying state jobs and lucrative contracts that serve the mini-cities behind bars. They’re a “clean” industry insulated from most economic recessions. They never move to Mexico.

    “We build them and staff them for the rest of our lives,” says Walter, the superintendent at Airway Heights.

    The growth in Spokane has swept up so many employees that qualification exams that used to attract hundreds for correctional officer positions now draw a quarter of the candidates. Average pay: $2,700 a month and many jobs require only a high school education.

    It’s a career with a future. The state expects to need 2,850 more prison beds in the next decade. Annual cost to house each offender: $24,494.

    “We have to remember the enormous number of jobs created by corrections,” says Kaye Adkins, the top Corrections official in Eastern Washington.

    “Those are our neighbors and friends.”

    Community impact isn’t studied

    In the scramble to lock offenders up, there is almost no attention paid to the impact of prisons on nearby communities or what happens when offenders are released.

    Spokane’s downtown apartments and low-income neighborhoods are filling up with felons, many of whom continue friendships begun in prison.

    “Nobody cares about communities,” says researcher Carlson, who studied the prison at Clallam Bay.

    Kasey Kramer, Spokane County’s community services director, was astonished to learn of the rapid growth of Spokane’s ex-felon population.

    Kramer has seen the impact of mental health patients treated at Eastern State Hospital who choose to stay in the Spokane area when released.

    For every one Spokane County resident treated at Eastern, another 11 from other counties stay here after treatment, Kramer says.

    “We call it drift. We’ve documented it from the state mental hospital side, but not for ex-felons,” Kramer says.

    Money is not available for agencies to study these impacts, he says. “It is a weakness at the state level.”

    The Rev. Michael Treleaven, a Jesuit political science professor at Gonzaga University, monitors prison issues for Amnesty International.

    “This is the politics of vengeance,” he says. “To throw money at prisons, but not at the communities where they eventually settle is dishonest. This is a serious issue for Spokane.”

    Farrington, the Whitman College professor, has spent years trying to gauge the impact of the century-old penitentiary on Walla Walla, but has never seen a study on what happens to offenders when they’re released.

    “You think it would be logical,” he says. “There’s probably a lot more screw-ups than we’re aware of and the flip side is — and equally sad — that there are some people who go through and get straightened out and we don’t know that either.”

    Statistics show that Walla Walla, a small farm town, has violent and property crime rates from 52 to 93 percent higher than the national rate over a 17-year period.

    Despite the influx of ex-convicts into Spokane, violent crime rates here have not increased.

    The property crime rate is higher than the state average, but the reasons for that are unclear. Calls to Spokane’s Crime Check also have increased more than 40 percent since 1993.

    Former Spokane Police Chief Terry Mangan predicts the new ex-felons will nudge up the crime rate soon. They just haven’t been here long enough.

    “When prisoners remain in an area for an appreciable time, 70 percent of them eventually reoffend,” Mangan says.

    Statistics on the nation’s 400,000 criminal offenders released each year back his prediction.

    Washington officials say 32 percent of offenders return to prison within five years.

    But that figure is misleading. It only counts offenders who return to a Washington prison and not those who wind up in county jails or other states’ facilities.

    “No matter what study you look at, they’re reoffending,” says Police Lt. Mark Caillier of Salem, Ore. “Which means your community now has to deal with it.”

    Caillier worked on studies that show the average inmate had 17 felony arrests before being sent to prison.

    Crime analysts in the Spokane Police Department agree that for some people, crime is a way of life.


    Colin Mulvany – The Spokesman-Review

    Ex-inmates who violate their supervision face Department of Corrections hearing specialist Lyn Paxton. Tyrone Brown, 32, listens as field officer Paul Schmidt lists violations that include using drugs and failing to report.

    “Most criminals who rape and burglarize also wife beat and drive without a license. They fish without a license,” says Toni Sneva, who keeps a database of known offenders for the Spokane Police Department.

    “Everything they do is a violation of the law.”

    Even if they don’t break the law again, former inmates can be a drain on the community.

    More than half of the felons in prison read, write and compute at less than a ninth-grade level, according to the Department of Corrections. Up to 76 percent of inmates are addicted to drugs or alcohol, but the state has the ability to treat only about 20 percent of those addicts, says Patty Terry, a chemical dependency coordinator in the prison system.

    The National Criminal Justice Commission reports that some inmates leave prison with a sort of stress disorder.

    It appears that prison damages a person’s ability to respond to stress, leaving a choice between gritting one’s teeth or lashing out, the report says. Problems are not easily talked through, but are likely to result in a blowup or withdrawal. In a job, it’s lost tempers or failure to show up for work.

    Inmate families, often splintered by the imprisonment, find little support in Spokane beyond a list of phone numbers for social service agencies already struggling to meet the city’s needs.

    “We’re a city that’s blind and asleep,” says prison volunteer Johnson. “If people were awake they would do something for people who are coming and bringing families and starting families here.”

    People who make the transition from law breaker to law abider can’t usually do it alone. Larry Ecklund made it with help – from Judge James Murphy who sent him to Drug Court, from local drug counselors and supportive 12-step groups, from his state community corrections officer who visited regularly.

    “My life has never been this good,” Ecklund says. “I feel like I’m the product of these people.”

    ‘No more than our share’

    To see where Spokane could be headed, take a close look at Salem.

    Oregon’s capital city has served as its top prison town since statehood. Salem houses five of the state’s 12 prisons plus drug and alcohol treatment centers and halfway houses. It has the largest institutional population of any city its size in the nation.

    Nevertheless, the city is so like Spokane demographically that Salem police come here to observe trends in crime and policing.

    Like Spokane, Salem is a mid-sized city miles from the urban center where most crime is committed.

    It offers a multitude of low-wage and seasonal jobs. It gets back considerably more offenders than it puts in the system. And for years, the phenomenon went unnoticed.

    Then, 10 years ago, the city realized it tallied more emergency calls per capita than Portland.

    Subsequent investigation revealed the problem was directly related to the number of ex-offenders who stayed.

    “It’s like the miracle of compounding. If you’re putting one in and the system is not fixing it, you’re getting back compound interest on your problem you don’t want,” says Lt. Caillier of Salem Police.

    “We had an incredible number of our people who were ex-offenders, many of whom would reoffend and commit crimes,” says Rep. Peter Courtney. “They had incredible social needs, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and illiteracy that put a heavy burden in counties.”

    In 1989, Courtney co-sponsored the “Send them home” bill that required freed prisoners to return to the county of conviction. California has a similar law.

    The law cut returns but loopholes for family, employment and personal safety continues to return 33 percent more offenders than Salem incarcerates. The city still:

  • Has the 43rd highest crime rate in the country.
  • Arrests nearly two ex-offenders a day.
  • Prosecutes nearly 200 felonies a year on charges related to the crime in prisons.
  • Community awareness has helped Salem residents plan better but has not made the planning any easier.

    If Spokane offers more help to offenders and families, that may attract even more. Yet if the city doesn’t increase services, it drains help from people who already live here.

    “If you build it, do they come? If you’re successful, does that mean folks are going to come to Spokane, stay and reoffend? Those are the questions you as a community need to be asking,” says Caillier.

    Salem has used its research to fight new prisons. City leaders don’t say: “Not in my back yard,” but rather, “No more than our share.”

    “You’ve got to have a mayor and city council and police chiefs who flat out say this is happening and we’re willing to share our burden but not threaten public safety,” Courtney says.

    “Where are your state legislators? They have as much responsibility in this. Where are the prosecutors and the judges? You have to have more than the city council. You have to have a team to fight this.”

    Part 2

    Part 3

    Posted in Educating the Chief, Testimonies | Leave a Comment »

    Urban Legend or part of Spokane anti-gang campaign?

    Posted by Arroyoribera on October 6, 2007

    Periodically, over the last several years, a bogus story about gangs begins to make the rounds by e-mail in one part of the country or another.

    Somewhere along the way in summer 2007, about the time the scandal-ridden Spokane Police Department was stepping up its gang propaganda and inviting the COPS TV crew to follow them around town, someone decided to circulate this bogus email in Spokane.

    In an effort to give it greater credibility, this version was augmented with a few local facts, for example, stating that one of the victims was Bruce, “the painter contractor for Condron Homes” and including references to streets such as Mission, Bowdish, and Sprague.

    Late this summer the phony email was sent out by — among others — the Spokane Convention and Visitors Bureau. It was also sent out to a number of conservative Christian Churches and members of the Hispanic community in Spokane.

    The e-mail — obviously untrue to anyone with experience with “urban legend” emails — is a fabricated tale of gang initiation.

    Let me start by letting you know from my own experience some of the characteristics of these Urban Legend emails:

    1) Fonts of different sizes and colors.

    2) Readers are told that it is “real” and asked to “Please share” with everyone and anyone.

    3) The writing style is often very formal.

    What can you do when you receive a suspicious email of this nature?

    Go to a website like www.snopes.com or http://urbanlegends.about.com and type a sentence from the email into the search engine. If that doesn’t provide you with information, summarize it yourself, for ex., “gangs flashing headlights”. In the case of this e-mail you get the following: http://www.snopes.com/horrors/madmen/lightsout.asp

    Following is the e-mail sent in Spokane by Celia Sogge, followed by Tom Lutey’s Spokesman-Review article on the matter. The http://www.snopes.com link above includes references to multiple media articles debunking the myth.


    From: Celia Sogge [mailto:celiasogge@yahoo.com]
    Sent: Friday, August 24, 2007 12:31 PM

    Subject: Gang Initiation in Spokane Valley

    Sent: Friday, August 24, 2007 11:03 AM

    Subject: Gang Initiation in Spokane Valley, very REAL!!!!!

    This is terrible. Please share with anyone you know who lives in Spokane.

    This is very real. It happened on the corner of Mission and Bowdish Saturday night. Bruce is the painter contractor for Condron Homes.

    Pass the word.

    Bruce and I came very close to being beaten and/or
    killed Saturday night. We were on our way home from
    the boat when a car coming at us did not have on
    their head lights. I, of course, blink my lights at
    them to let them know they needed to turn on their
    head lights. As they passed us they flipped a
    U-turn and were driving erratically behind us
    flashing their flashers. We locked the car doors,
    of course. But we had to stop at a red light.
    Nobody else was around. It was dark. They jumped
    out of their car and ran towards us. Bruce shouted
    “Go! Go” I went, went. They jumped back in to their
    car and were so close to us I’m surprised they
    didn’t bump us. We were very scared to say the
    least. At that point we used our cell to call 911.
    Bruce hardly had told the gal what was happening and
    she said they were on there way. She didn’t ask any
    question like they usually do. (Later. we thought
    that was very strange). I turned down Sprague and
    went directly to the Police Station

    IT WAS CLOSED! The car went straight up Bowdish.
    We figured with Sprague being busy and well lit
    they decided not to follow. Turns out we were

    We found out this is some sick gang initiation.
    They drive around with their lights off. They
    ‘choose’ the people who blinks their lights at them
    to beat/shoot/kill in order to get into the gang.
    Great sport, eh? Had we gone home we more than
    likely would be dead or very badly hurt now.

    So do not blink your lights at ANYONE! And if
    someone behind you is driving with their lights off,
    stay in a well lit area with traffic and call 911 if
    they keep following you. (Don’t go to the police
    station they are not opened! Out here in the valley

    Please pass this on. We heard about this a long
    time ago but it was in LA or someplace. Didn’t even
    think much about it except to think how sick it was.
    Well, they are here now. So be aware!

    Bruce and Bonnie (Alive and kicking)


    Urban legends hit Spokane Valley

    Heard this one?

    A Spokane Valley couple, Bruce and Bonnie, on their way home from the lake Saturday night, pass a car traveling with its headlights off. The couple flash their car’s high beams as a heads-up warning to the other driver that he’s driving in the dark. Terror ensues. The couple’s lives are threatened.

    Lately, the story of Bruce and Bonnie has been spreading like wildfire on the Internet as Spokane locals receive – and then disseminate – the account via e-mail. The story suggests the chase was part of a gang member initiation, with the death of Bruce and Bonnie being the objective.


    And people are taking it seriously; the Spokane Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, was sending the e-mail to its members this week as a warning.

    But Spokane Valley police say the gang allegations in the e-mail are bogus, apparently originating from an old Internet hoax about gang pledges baiting and killing unsuspecting motorists as part of a bloody initiation. They say they suspect an angry driver was responsible – not gang members.

    “It’s probably more likely a case of road rage, and that’s a real problem. Road rage is scary,” said Sgt. Dave Reagan, Spokane Valley police spokesman. “But people have heard it was gang-related, and that’s an urban legend.”

    Reagan said he learned about the incident via e-mail, as a growing number of concerned Spokane Valley residents have.

    The e-mail account says the couple called 911 while they were being chased through Spokane Valley, but there’s no record of the call, according to police.

    In the story, the couple does the right thing, Reagan said; they just keep driving to a well-lit place where they can get help.

    The story of prospective gang members killing drivers who flash their headlights at pledges is an urban legend dating back to the early 1980s, according to Snopes.com, an Internet service that debunks online hoaxes.

    The story has been applied to would-be gang members from Los Angeles to London.

    The story also was key to the plot of the 1998 movie “Urban Legend.” The movie’s tag line was: “It happened to someone who knows someone you know. … Never talk to strangers, never answer the phone, never flash your lights, never leave the car and always believe what you’re told.”


    Posted in Gangs?, History of SPD Abuses, Lies Damn Lies and ... | Leave a Comment »

    Acts of Conscience — Spokane Circus Protest — Sept 20, 2007

    Posted by Arroyoribera on October 6, 2007

    The youth of the world — and the young at heart — are on the move again. Faced with a world of cruelty, torture, destruction, and war, the indomitable human spirit once again arises on a planetary scale to speak truth.

    The youth of Spokane are leading the way today!

    Heed their call. Take up your sign. Raise your fist. Call out your protest song. Place your body where your mouth is. Forsake the lies of your father and sins of your government. Give your time for your convictions. Bow down to no one. And remember those words–

    Muertos pero nunca de rodillas! Dead, perhaps, but never on our knees!


    I am also including this link to Colin Mulvany’s “video journal” on the Circus protest along with the accompanying narrative and commentaries posted by readers. I very much admire Mr. Mulvaney’s work, for ex., the excellent video on the 2005 Immigration March in Spokane. The only comments I would make about the circus protest video and commentary are: 1) To refer to the scantily clad woman as a form of “shock and awe” given the truly criminal and barbarous acts of US destruction in Iraq which gave us our definition of that phrase is to conflate a woman’s body with the 21 century crime of known as “shock and awe”. 2) Note to the blind and unobservant: The young woman, Julie Kelton, is not “naked” and, in fact, other than the claw marks on her back makes a beautiful Victoria Secret model a la the Northtown Mall store or any number of TV towel or shampoo commercials. 3) Is anyone in our vulgar and crass society really as concerned about the children as a couple women in the Mulvany piece proclaim? Did you see the little girl run by and not even look? 4) Given the context of police conduct and relations with the citizens of the Spokane area, Mulvany should have filmed the Spokane Police Officer checking for Kelton’s pasties, and, if in fact he did film it, he should have included it in his video journal. Unless, of course, I misunderstand and Mulvany is not doing news journalism but rather strictly feature journalism. In either case, I do admire his work, but encourage him to continue to remember the news angle.

    Posted in In Collective Self-Defense, Photographic Evidence, Protest, Spokane Police vs. Youth, Urgent Call, Videos | Leave a Comment »