Statement from Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub:
When I was appointed as Chief of Police, I promised the community and the Department that I would work to resolve and bring closure to the investigation into the death of Otto Zehm. I continue to review this incident and the Department's response to it. The charge brought against Ofc. Timothy Moses is another step toward bringing closure to this tragic incident.
SPOKANE, WASH. – KHQ's Alex Rozier has learned that the Spokane County Prosecutors Office charged Spokane Police Officer Tim Moses for knowingly making a false or misleading material statement to a public servant.
The charges stem from the Otto Zehm encounter more than seven years ago and statements that Moses gave to investigators related to Officer Karl Thompson's actions on the evening of his encounter with Zehm. Zehm died from his injuries in the 2006 incident. A jury convicted Officer Karl Thompson of using excessive force and lying to investigators in 2012.
FBI Special Agent Lisa Jangaard said following the Zehm incident Officer Moses provided an "incident report" of what happened. Later in the investigation, Officer Moses appeared before the Grand Jury to provide sworn testimony in 2009. According to court documents in that testimony Officer Moses made the following statements:
Q. And Officer Thompson also told you that night that Otto Zehm had lunged at him with a Pepsi bottle; is that correct?
A. That is correct.
Q. And you do recall the specific words that Officer Thompson used?
A. Lunge is the one I remember.
Q. Okay. And Officer Thompson indicated that Zehm's lunge was the reason that he began to use force against Otto Zehm that night; is that true?
A. Yeah. He interpreted that as an act of aggression, yes.
Q. Correct. And then you, having received that information from Officer Thompson, provided that information to Acting Chief Nicks; is that correct?
A. That is correct.
According to court documents, later in the testimony, Moses went on to say:
Q. And did Officer Thompson that night or at any time ever indicate to you that, in fact, that information was incorrect and there was no lunge at all by Mr. Zehm?
Moses also testified that "he had an on-scene discussion with Officer Thompson about what happened. Officer Thompson advised Officer Moses that Mr. Zehm had been hit in the head, neck, and upper torso areas. Officer Moses testified that he then relayed this information to AMR personnel for the purposes of medical treatment." He later took all of this back.
According to court documents, "two and a half months after that testimony on August 25, 2009, Officer Moses met FBI Special Agent Meador at a Spokane City refueling location at East Trent and East Springfield Avenues." When he talked to Special Agent Meador, Moses told Meador he talked to Officer Thompson one week before their conversation. It was then Moses told Meador that "lunge" was his word and not officer Thompson's.
Eight months later he met Special Agent Jangaard and others at the United States Attorney's Office in downtown Spokane. It was during that meeting that Officer Moses told them, contrary to what he testified, that he did not have a recollection that Thompson used the word "lunge" but Moses just used that word to summarize what he took away from his conversation with Thompson.
But the word "lunge" isn't the only word in question, according to court documents. Officer Moses also stated that he did not recall having any conversation with medical personnel the night of the incident. This time, Officer Moses said Officer Thompson only told him that he struck "Mr. Zehm in the leg and then again a number of times all over." According to court documents, "He (Moses) also denied having a current recollection that Officer Thompson told him (Moses) that Thompson struck Mr. Zehm in the head with his baton." A strike to the head is considered excessive force.
It is likely Officer Moses will appear on the charge in the coming weeks. KHQ's Alex Rozier is following this story and will provide updates as they become available.