SPOKANE, Wash., JULY 9, 2020 — Press Release by Crary, Clark, Domanico, & Chuang, P.S.
On July 8, 2020, the City of Spokane Police Department released a statement regarding felony charges filed against Officer Michael Brunner that was misleading and false. Officer Brunner was charged for two counts of Vehicular Assault. Those charges arose from his actions on March 25 th 2020, where he was driving 65 mph on Lincoln at 5th Avenue next to Deaconess Hospital, an area where the speed limit is 30 mph. Officer Brunner was driving so recklessly not to respond to an emergency, but simply to get to the police station as his shift ended. He was traveling more than twice the posted speed limit, without any emergency flashing lights or sirens, and crashed into Mr. and Mrs. Collins, causing them both substantial injuries that will impact them for years to come. Contrary to the press release issued by the City of Spokane Police Department, in an apparent attempt to cover up Officer Brumer’s actions, Officers initially ticketed Mr. Collins for the collision rather than begin a criminal investigation into Officer Brunner. It was only when the true extent of the on-duty misconduct committed by Officer Brunner became undeniable that the Washington State Patrol investigated the Police Department’s actions, had the ticket dismissed, and disclosed Officer Brunner’s actions to the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office. Officer Brunner refused to provide any statement to the Washington State Patrol Detectives investigators about the collision and hindered the investigation.
The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office chose to charge Officer Brunner with two counts of Vehicular Assault, RCW 46.61.522. More specifically, the Spokane County Prosecutor’s office charged him under the prong of the vehicular assault statute which alleges that he drove in disregard for safety of others, instead of charging him under the section which alleges that he drove in a reckless manner. That choice is not only inappropriate given the circumstances of the Officer driving twice the posted speed limit, but will also result in lower consequences and a lower amount of jail time for this felonious act. This is especially concerning given the fact that the Legislature has already made clear that driving in excess of the posted speed limit is prima facie evidence of the driving in a reckless manner. RCW 46.61.465
Officer Brunner’s actions are wrong. The Prosecutor’s charging decision is wrong. The City of Spokane’s cover-up and attempt to sweep this under the rug is even worse. After the changes made by the Spokane Police Department after the Otto Zehm case, and under Chief Meidl’s leadership, to have the Spokane Police Department try to cover up an officers’ criminal actions is wrong. The citizens of Spokane deserve better. Especially at a time in our country where the overzealous actions of police have drawn national attention, to have not only the police department but the prosecutor’s office applying a different set of rules to officers than to the average citizen is indefensible.
Crary, Clark, Domanico & Chuang, P.S. represents Mr. and Mrs. Collins who were the victims of Officer Brunner’s vehicular assault on March 25th, 2020.
The entire press release and Washington State Patrol Criminal Investigations Division Case Summary may be downloaded here.