Spokane Police Abuses: Past to Present

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

Tyrone Thomas – shot in the back by Spokane Police – August 6, 2001

Posted by Arroyoribera on April 1, 2010

On August 6, 2001, Tyrone Thomas, an African American student at Spokane Community College, was shot and killed by Spokane Police in a downtown office building. The police accused Thomas of shooting directly at them and that they shot back in self defense. However, the bullet entered Mr. Thomas’s back as he fled down a hallway and turned down a corridor. A local attorney walking through the building was able to see Thomas through a glass door but was unable to render assistance because the door was locked. The witness, not knowing that police officers shot the victim, reported seeing the injured Thomas and told the officers to get medical assistance immediately because he was still alive and was losing blood rapidly. Police officers would not allow emergency medical assistance for more than a half an hour. Even though the victim had been reported as incapacitated and severely injured, police officers claimed a need to have a SWAT team clear the area before they would allow emergency medical personnel into the building. Though the bullet did not hit any vital organs, Tyrone Thomas bled to death in the corridor. It was reported that if medical assistance had been provided immediately Mr. Thomas would more than likely have lived. Several months later, in the midst of controversy that has endured to this day, the Spokane Police Department awarded the two officers (Shane Oien and James Erickson) involved in shooting Tyrone Thomas in the back with its highest award, the Medal of Valor. Thomas’s death was one of those that generated great outrage in the community, resulting in public meetings with then-Police Chief Roger Bragdon but no actions to curb police abuses nor impunity nor, of course, any effective community oversight of the police.

(This is one of numerous deaths not included on the original timeline that forms the backbone of this blog. The information on the death of Tyrone Thomas was sent to me by a key activist in Spokane’s police accountability movement. Though I myself have not been very active of late, I invites the entire community to e-mail him at SpokanePoliceAbuses@gmail.com with additional cases of deaths, abuses, crimes, corruption, and impunity which mark the Spokane Police Departments history and have left our community fearing for the safety of our law-abiding children, family members, and friends. Please contribute to this project with ideas, articles, links, format ideas, etc.)

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