Police Abuse

Officer Gets Four Years for Killing Janitor

Karl Thompson used excessive force in subduing Otto Zehm, who was innocent of any crime


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

Spokane officer Karl F. Thompson Jr., 65, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle in the 2006 beating death of Otto Zehm, 36.

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