Spokane County won't seek charges against deputies in death of former Port Angeles resident

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SPOKANE — The Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney's Office will not seek criminal charges against deputies in connection with the death of a former Port Angeles resident last year.

Prosecutors said that Spokane Sheriff's deputies Shawn Audie and Steve Paynter acted appropriately during a confrontation with Will Berger, 34, on June 6, 2013, The Spokesman-Review of Spokane reported Thursday.

Deputies shot Berger, a Port Angeles High School and Peninsula College graduate, with a stun gun five times and placed him in a neck hold after they investigated a report of a disturbance at a Spokane gym.

Berger was taken by ambulance to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, where he died the next morning.

His death was described as a homicide on his death certificate, with contributing factors listed as oxygen deprivation and “application of restraint measures.”

The struggle was in a parking lot across the street from a gym where Berger had just completed a workout, said his father, Bill Berger of Port Angeles, who added that his son had had manic episodes occasionally since he was 15.

The elder Berger has launched a campaign, traveling to communities throughout the state to gather support for state legislation that would mandate at least 40 hours of crisis-intervention training for law enforcement officers across the state.

("Port Angeles father pedaling state to urge police crisis-intervention training after son's death," PDN June 29 — click on: http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20140629/NEWS/306299978 )

“It shouldn't take a year and almost a month to determine if a crime was committed,” Bill Berger told The Spokesman-Review on Thursday.

The case is the last outstanding officer-involved investigation from 2013, the newspaper said.

Five men died at the hands of Spokane area law enforcement last year, and the prosecutor's office ruled all of the actions justified, The Spokesman-Review said.

Last modified: July 04. 2014 7:35AM
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