Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. Sentenced In Death Of Man With Mental Disabilities

(HUFFINGTON POST)   A police officer was sentenced Thursday to more than four years in prison for using excessive force against a mentally disabled janitor who died after being erroneously suspected of stealing money from an ATM.

Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr., 65, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle to four years and three months for his role in the 2006 death of Otto Zehm.

Van Sickle said he hoped the sentence would begin to bring closure to Zehm’s family and to the Spokane community, which has been at odds with the police department as a result of this case and others.

“This had a significant impact on the community and how it viewed its police department,” Van Sickle said.

Van Sickle also ordered that Thompson be taken into custody immediately, over the objections of defense lawyers, who wanted him to remain free while the verdict is appealed.

Thompson was convicted last year by a federal jury of violating Zehm’s civil rights by using excessive force and then lying to investigators in the case.

Six years ago, Zehm was beaten and stunned by Thompson in a convenience store. He was hog-tied and sat on by other officers until he passed out. The 36-year-old died two days later without regaining consciousness.

Zehm had committed no crime.

Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich argued for a sentence of zero to 16 months, saying there was no evidence presented that the actions of Thompson led directly to Zehm’s death.

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