How the inquest unfolded to examine Issaquah police officers’ actions

May 29, 2012

The decision from a King County-appointed inquest jury May 23 ended the long investigation set in motion after Ronald W. Ficker abandoned a Kia sedan on a busy downtown Issaquah street.

The inquest process is a fact-finding hearing conducted to determine the circumstances in any officer-involved shooting in the county.

Inquest jurors answer a series of questions, called interrogatories, to determine the facts in the case. Jurors answered 22 interrogatories related to the officers’ actions and Ficker’s death.

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Inquest opens to examine Clark Elementary School shootout

May 22, 2012

King County authorities started to examine the actions of Issaquah police officers involved in a deadly September 2011 shootout at Clark Elementary School as a prosecutor-led inquest opened May 21.

The officers shot and killed Ronald W. Ficker, 51, after the rural Maple Valley man abandoned a rental car at a downtown Issaquah intersection and, brandishing rifles and carrying ammunition, set off in the direction of school campuses.

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Witnesses at police inquest describe strange scenes from school shootout

May 22, 2012

NEW — 8 a.m. May 22, 2012

Just after 11 on a September morning, as Ronald W. Ficker meandered on a fateful trek from a downtown Issaquah intersection to Clark Elementary School, Leslie Olerich stared down the barrel of Ficker’s rifle.

“He looked right at us, looked down the barrel and he smiled,” Olerich said Monday at a court hearing about the Sept. 24 incident.

Issaquah police fatally shot Ficker, 51, after the rural Maple Valley man abandoned a rental car at a downtown intersection and, carrying rifles and ammunition, set off in the direction of school campuses and, along the way, brandished firearms to passers-by.

Olerich testified Monday at a King County-led inquest into the actions of police officers involved in the shootout — Laura Asbell, Brian Horn, Christian Muñoz and Jesse Petersen.

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Strange behavior shaped Issaquah gunman’s final days

May 15, 2012

Inquest into police shootout starts May 21

The rough outlines resemble doodles more than a far-fetched blueprint, and the instructions on the page defy explanation.

Ronald Ficker

In hand-scrawled notes about a manmade island scattered among the sketches, the creator urges, “Start building Atlantis.”

The creator later stuffed the notes, sketches and more than $23,000 in Swiss francs into a safe deposit box at the Bank of America branch in Issaquah.

The stack of documents contained instructions for the reader.

“If I get hurt, must take this to police.”

The sentence outlined the future. The man behind the notes, Ronald W. Ficker, 51, died in a police shootout on the Clark Elementary School campus Sept. 24.

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Off the Press

May 15, 2012

Tragedy yields changed perspectives

Warren Kagarise Press reporter

Memories from the afternoon remain fresh months after the last gunshots echoed across the Clark Elementary School campus, even as the incident recedes deeper into the past.

Downtown Issaquah transformed into a crime scene Sept. 24, as a gunman menaced residents and later died in a police shootout.

The incident receded into memory for most people not long afterward. Still, the investigation continued and throughout the process, the events from Sept. 24 remained close to me.

A stack of documents from the King County Sheriff’s Office investigation sits on my desk. Photos from the incident still flicker across my computer screen. I speak to sources about the investigation at least once each week.

The inquest into the incident starts May 21 at the King County Courthouse. I plan to report from the official inquiry into the event, too.

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Issaquah police officers earn top law enforcement honor

May 8, 2012

Officer Jesse Petersen, Cpl. Christian Munoz, and officers Brian Horn and Laura Asbell (from left) stand at the Washington Law Enforcement Memorial after receiving the Law Enforcement Medal of Honor in a May 4 ceremony in Olympia. By Jacqueline Kerness/Issaquah Police Department

In a solemn ceremony not far from the state Capitol, Gov. Chris Gregoire slipped a Law Enforcement Medal of Honor around the necks of police officers involved in a deadly September 2011 shootout at Clark Elementary School.

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Issaquah dog breeder faces animal cruelty charges

May 8, 2012

NEW — 12:45 p.m. May 8, 2012

The empty kennels outside a rundown Issaquah house and the sound of dogs barking from inside alerted animal rescue advocates to possible trouble.

Days later, in early October, King County Sheriff’s Office investigators raided the house and discovered 62 Chihuahuas and Japanese Chins inside filthy carriers.

On May 3, King County prosecutors filed animal-cruelty charges against the homeowner, a dog breeder and a past judge for the American Kennel Club, a prestigious registry of purebred dogs. Prosecutors said Issaquah resident Margaret Ann Hamilton, 70, hoarded more than 100 dogs at homes in Issaquah and Burien.

Detective John K. Pavlovich said Hamilton and her since-deceased husband hoarded the animals at a home is in the 5900 block of 189th Avenue Southeast on Cougar Mountain, about a mile south of Cougar Mountain Zoo.

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King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg showcases high-tech crime-fighting tools

May 1, 2012

Investigators used saliva from a cigarette butt discarded at a murder scene to connect a suspect to the slaying. Recorded jailhouse phone conversations led prosecutors to convict a man for brutal acts of domestic violence. Cellphone data allowed police to trace gang members’ movements before and after a chaotic shooting at a crowded car show.

Dan Satterberg

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg delved into recent cases April 17 and outlined the forensic science tools investigators and prosecutors use to lock criminals behind bars.

In a talk given to the Rotary Club of Issaquah, Satterberg offered a presentation akin to “CSI: Issaquah” — down to using the “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” theme music, The Who’s “Who Are You.”

“This has changed the way that we investigate cases. It has given us results that we never thought we’d be able to get to solve cold cases going way back,” he said to the Tibbetts Creek Manor audience. “It has in some ways made the job of the police investigator and the deputy prosecutor more complicated.”

The cigarette butt and a spent shell casing linked gang member Omar Norman to the October 2005 murder of Terrell Milam, a rival gang member.

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Proposed $200 million property tax levy clears hurdle

April 5, 2012

NEW — 8 a.m. April 5, 2012

The proposed $200 million property tax levy to raise funds for a juvenile detention center cleared a King County Council committee Tuesday — a key step to sending the measure to voters.

Budget and Fiscal Management Committee gave a “do-pass” recommendation to a measure to fund a replacement for the aging Youth Services Center, a juvenile detention facility in Seattle. The legislation heads to the full council for final consideration. The council must act by the end of April to place a measure on the Aug. 7 primary ballot.

Led by Councilman Bob Ferguson, council members proposed the nine-year levy. If the levy is placed on the ballot and passed, homeowners should pay about 7 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or about $20 per year for a home assessed at $350,000.

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King County executive orders inquest into Issaquah police shooting

December 27, 2011

NEW — 11:10 a.m. Dec. 27, 2011

King County Executive Dow Constantine on Tuesday ordered a prosecutor-led inquest into the lethal shootout at Clark Elementary School — a standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.

Ronald Ficker

The action came a little more than three months after Ronald W. Ficker, 51, trekked across downtown Issaquah, brandishing rifles at passers-by. The bizarre episode ended on the elementary school campus as police officers and Ficker exchanged gunfire.

In the days before the Sept. 24 incident, Ficker told others, “Something big is going to happen.” Then, the day before the shootout, he rented a Kia sedan at a Seattle rental car counter, drove more than 450 miles and, just after 11 a.m. Sept. 24, abandoned the car at a downtown Issaquah intersection and set off to Clark Elementary.

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