Spokane police chief: Washington state crime policies 'are wreaking havoc'

Police investigating whether shooting of officer was targeted.

Updated: July 1, 2022 - 10:52pm

Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl said learning that one of his officers had been shot and was being rushed to the hospital caused a flurry of emotions.

“Fear. Anger. Sadness. Frustration. I felt them all,” he told The Center Square.

Meidl is relieved that Spokane Officer Kris Honaker has been released from the hospital following the June 26 shooting and is expected to make a full physical recovery. However, he said the trauma of the incident is something that will stay with the officer for years, or forever.

Honaker was shot in the leg and a bullet grazed his scalp while he was responding to a drive-by shooting. Detectives are investigating whether he was deliberately targeted, said Meidl.

Suspects Ray A. Wynecoop, 22, and Isaac A. Ott, 21, were taken into custody after the vehicle they were allegedly fleeing in after Honaker’s shooting crashed into a tree.

They both have prior criminal records.

Wynecoop’s past convictions include burglary, car theft, attempted residential burglary and attempting to elude police, according to Corporal Mark Gregory, spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

Ott’s prior convictions include residential burglary and robbery

Meidl said Sunday's shooting reinforced his belief that it is time for law enforcement and government leaders to stand against policies that are fueling lawlessness.

“I have a firm resolve that it is more important than ever to speak boldly about the damage being done by these philosophies even if we are condemned by our leaders for speaking out,” he said.

Although the vast majority of Americans support law enforcement, Meidl said officers have found themselves in the crosshairs of politicians and criminals alike the past several years.

“This is a tough job to be in right now,” he said.

Law enforcement agencies in Spokane have reported 81 shootings since the start of 2021.

“This violence absolutely has to stop,” said Mayor Nadine Woodward at a Thursday press conference.

Meidl agrees. He said local agencies are doing everything they can to turn things around. However, he said criminals are emboldened by decriminalization of drugs and restrictions placed on police powers, so the fix really lies at the state level.

“These policies are not supported by science or facts - and they are wreaking havoc,” said Meidl.

He said federal mental health laws also need to change because the inability to institutionalize someone against his or her will is sending many untreated people to the streets. He said large homeless camps frequently become a haven for drug trafficking and other crimes.

“There are a lot of layers to this – it has taken us years to get where we’re at now,” summarized Meidl.

He and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich believe the uptick in violence and property crimes can be attributed to gangs.

Knezovich estimates there are between 850 and 1,500 “gang members” in the county. He said at Thursday’s press conference that estimate is based on his experience and investigative work by deputies.

Meidl said local gang activity is fueled by drugs flowing over the southern border of the U.S.

“We’ve lost the war on drugs,” he said of having more than 107,000 Americans die of drug overdoses last year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that record in the nation’s escalating overdose epidemic.

While agencies are battling to stop drug trafficking, Meidl said reform groups in the state are pushing to reduce sentences or keep people out of jail altogether. He said that movement seems to have more regard for offenders as a victim of their early environment than the people they have harmed.

Many activists support money for treatment programs. Meanwhile Spokane’s aging jail is overpopulated and there is not enough room to hold everyone who does pose a threat to society, said Meidl.

Without accountability, there is no justice, he said, because criminals learn they can get away with lawlessness.

Meidl and Woodward wish to hold those who break the law accountable for the injuries they inflict. Toward that end, they have formed a task force that will look at and incorporate best practices from other specialty task forces. The aim is to cut down on violent crime and accompanying drug and property crimes.

There are two sergeants and a mix of five officers at different levels on the task force, according to Brian Coddington, spokesperson for the city.