The Elephant in Spokane’s Living Room

PR Problem

CAUGHT A GLIMPSE of the elephant in  Spokane’s living room the other day. It came in the form of an email from a friend responding to “America’s Most Dangerous Cop.” That post is about the refusal of Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick to investigate the death of Jo Ellen Savage in the River Park Square parking garage.

“Dear Larry,” wrote my friend. “I have met Anne and spent time with her in professional settings and I ‘NO WAY’ believe this is the truth about her. Anne is a wonderful woman with wonderful ethics and deep good values.”

In no way does former Pend Oreille County Sheriff Tony Bamonte agree with that assessment of Kirkpatrick’s ethics and values. Bamonte contends that the circumstances surrounding Savage’s death represent “the best evidence of first-degree manslaughter I have ever seen.” He says Kirkpatrick’s refusal to investigate it is illegal. Based on several thousand pages of evidence he has presented to every relevant level of government and law enforcement between the Spokane River and Puget Sound, between the Spokane and Potomac Rivers, Sheriff Bamonte accuses Chief Kirkpatrick of covering up the organized criminal activity of Spokane’s powerful Cowles family, one of America’s last media dynasties. The Cowleses, of course, own the RPS garage, where a wall failed in 2006, catapulting Savage, screaming inside her car, five stories to her death before the eyes of horrified onlookers. (See “Death by Parking” at

“First-degree manslaughter is a form of murder,” says Bamonte. “That means Savage was murdered.”

Jo Ellen Savage, September 1, 1943 - April 8, 2006

Who murdered her? Specific members of the Cowles family, he charges, who allowed the hazardous condition that claimed Savage’s life to go unrepaired for at least 16 years before she died. A sworn affidavit by the garage’s former manager proves this, he says. (See “Deathtrap” at

Chief Kirkpatrick has now made herself an accessory to Savage’s death by protecting Cowles family members from being prosecuted for it, says Bamonte.

I understand my friend’s upset. Bamonte’s charges would be outrageous if not supported by the facts. But they are supported by the facts—ugly, messy, terrible facts—which is one of three reasons I think my friend is misguided.

My friend copied the note she sent me to Stacey Cowles, publisher of his family’s Spokesman-Review newspaper, Chief Kirkpatrick, Mayor Mary Verner, the Spokane City Council, and many others. That’s why I’m responding in this public fashion.

I admire my friend. I actually consider her to be “a wonderful woman with wonderful ethics and deep good values.” Why? Because of the things I’ve seen her do for others. I know her by her acts of compassion. The evidence supports my opinion of her.

Her compassion, I suspect, is the second reason for her misguided defense of Kirkpatrick. My friend obviously thinks I was unfair to the chief.

Again—I have to repeat it—I don’t think the evidence supports my friend’s opinion of Chief Kirkpatrick. That evidence is contained in “America’s Most Dangerous Cop.” Follow the links to the facts. They are threads that weave a tapestry telling of the sad end of Jo Savage’s life. I think you will see why I intended for that title to be as clear as it is.

Savage death scene

Evidence is all I have to go by. Journalists, like police officers and other public servants, are supposed to be disciplined by it. I’m attempting to follow the evidence. I don’t think Chief Kirkpatrick and my friend are. They have lots of company in fleeing the scene of the Savage crime. I name some of their company—public officials from Spokane to Olympia to the White House—in “America’s Most Dangerous Cop.” Because so many public officials have ignored the evidence of what killed Jo Ellen Savage, hers is one of the loneliest deaths I know of. Society marks graves of unknown soldiers more respectfully than hers.

The elephant in the living room—that’s what those who minister to the human psyche call a problem we don’t want to talk about. Problems like alcoholism, family abuse of all kinds, etc., are common elephants in the living room. Thinking of them can fill us with such despair that it makes it hard to breath. So we put them out of our minds.

“Denial” is what we commonly call this psychological trick. But if the word connotes weakness, cowardice, dishonesty, etc., it is both too simplistic and harsh, I think, to describe what’s really going on. At least it is according to Daniel Goleman.

In his brilliant book, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception, Goleman points out that denial is Mother Nature’s way of protecting us from the “cognitive static” caused by anxiety.

“The essence of anxiety is the intrusion of distress into physical and mental channels that should be clear,” writes Goleman. “A nagging worry invades sleep, keeping one awake half the night. A persistent fear imposes itself into one’s thoughts, distracting from the business at hand.”

So nature equips us with this free peripheral that actually creates psychological blind spots that are every bit as real as the physical blind spots caused by our optic nerves. The psychological blind spots that make the menacing rogue elephants of life disappear are so powerful we don’t even know we have them. They’re unconscious. This is what Goleman writes so hauntingly about in Vital Lies.

This means that if you are a little child coming to consciousness in a harsh environment confronting you with a physical and/or emotional threat that you are powerless to manage, this ingenious trick we call denial can go a long way toward blotting it out.

Voila! No elephant. No cognitive static. No dripping cortisol—the stress hormone—to wear out your vital organs with stress-mediated diseases. In the china shop of the human heart, this can be a tender mercy.

I think Spokane’s living room elephant may be the third reason for my friend’s misguided defense of Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.

Why is Chief Kirkpatrick so dangerous? Because some elephants will kill you. The evidence suggests to me that Spokane’s elephant of public corruption is what killed Jo Ellen Savage. (Please see “Deathtrap” at

And the exhaustive evidence amassed by Sheriff Bamonte shows that Spokane Police Chief Kirkpatrick is covering for this rogue whose century-old rampage will assuredly continue until the public itself decides to contain it, and figures out how.

Those wanting a closer look at the elephant in Spokane’s living room may want to study some of Sheriff Bamonte’s snapshots of it. You’ll find a few in the attached documents.

Document Links:

A 5-page index sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, showing documentary evidence of Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick “rendering criminal assistance.” (E-118a)

August 18, 2007 letter from Tony Bamonte to Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, requesting a first-degree manslaughter investigation in the Savage death. (E-4)

January 11, 2008 letter from Tony Bamonte to Anne Kirkpatrick, asking about lack of investigation into the Savage manslaughter complaint, including NOT contacting over 15 witnesses, the lack of jurisdiction of the FBI, and the running out of the statute of limitations. (E-25)

January 14, 2008 letter from Anne Kirkpatrick to Tony Bamonte, noting the manslaughter complaint was sent to the FBI, because of the charge of public corruption. (E-26)

January 15, 2008 letter from Tony Bamonte to Anne Kirkpatrick, noting that the heart of the original August 18, 2007 complaint was first-degree manslaughter, not public corruption, and that a public danger persists in the Cowles parking garage. (E-27)

September 16, 2008 letter from Tony Bamonte to Anne Kirkpatrick, requesting a review of evidence and a briefing with legal counsel, the mayor and city council, citing legal duties to investigate. (E-68)

February 2, 2009 letter from Tony Bamonte to Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker, regarding Tucker’s dereliction of duty in investigating the Jo Savage death, after federal prosecutors referred the case to him. (E-83)


Filed under Public Corruption

8 responses to “The Elephant in Spokane’s Living Room

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  2. Tony Bamonte

    Larry Shook’s friend, Elizabeth, responding to his story, America’s Most Dangerous Cop, stated she had met Anne Kirkpatrick and spent time with her in professional settings and “NO WAY” believe this is the truth about her. I respectfully ask that Elizabeth study my correspondence (E-25, E-17, and E-68) to the chief, read Chief Kirkparick’s curt response back to me (E-26) and then personally ask Chief Kirkpatrick the same questions I asked the her in my correspondence.

    I also met Chief Kirkpatrick when she first became our police chief and liked her. She is quite personable and gives an impression of having a great sense of humor. However, when the occasion came for me to ask her to perform the duties of her office, I found her to be rude, deceptive and corrupt.

    On two occasions I filed criminal complaints with the chief – both of my complaints involved crimes against the public involving Spokane’s wealthy media family and public officials. Each time the chief blatantly and illegally rendered criminal assistance to the suspects. Why? To serve herself. Since coming to Spokane Chief Kirkpatrick has attempted, unsuccessfully, to become the police chief of two large cities – San Francisco and Seattle. How would it benefit her to cover up crimes committed by members of the Cowles family? Throughout Spokane’s police history, Chief Kirkpatrick has received the most favorable write ups of any police chief since the department was formed in 1881. At one time in the Spokesman-Review she was even, falsely, referred to as the best police chief in the history of Spokane. Why do I say, falsely referred?” Because during her tenure in Spokane she has not accomplished anything significantly good. He improper actions brought about a $4 million dollar lawsuit against the city. In a police guild vote 112 of her officers voted they had no confidence in her as their leader, another 80 failed to vote either way (what is the old saying, “if you’re not for someone, you’re against them.” However, her command staff support her, which is interesting, because a number of them are now being investigated for lying and covering-up the murder by a police officer of an innocent victim. Spokesman-Review minion reporters spun this “vote of no confidence” to say the department is corrupt and the guild members of the department don’t want the chief because she is trying to clean up this corruption. Basically, the reporter who spun this story maligned the majority of the men on the department who actually risk their lives on a daily basis – and their chief, to promote herself, let that happen.

    Remember when the chief first came to Spokane and her impressionable statement making us all think she was going to be an honest chief – “You lie, you die.” One of the most significant liars on her department is Jim Nicks, the person she placed as her second in command. Deputy Chief Nicks is also the person she recommended take her position when she thought she was going to become the police chief of Seattle. Deputy Chief Nicks is the officer who lied to the public about the circumstances surrounding the death of Otto Zehm. His lie was reported in the Spokesman-Review on a number of occasions. Recently, Mr. Nicks completely changed his story when he found he was going to be called to testify in court – the only reason was to protect himself from being charged with perjury. What I find most interesting is the fact that those reporting for the Spokesman-Review continue to ignore Chief Kirkpatrick’s involvement in the cover-up of the “police caused” Otto Zehm murder. How can she be our police chief and not know this murder was being covered-up by members of her command staff?

    If Elizabeth will study my correspondence with the chief she will discover that specific members of the Cowles family owe her a big debt. Chief Kirkpatrick engineered the cover-up that protected at least two members of the Cowles family from being charged with a class A felony and she illegally refused to investigate my complaint concerning property tax favors by Spokane County Assessor Ralph Baker to various members of the Cowles family that are in the millions of dollars

    In return, Chief Kirkpatrick, according to writings in the Spokesman-Review, is the best police chief Spokane ever had. I invite Chief Kirkpatrick to respond openly to these comments here. I would also welcome Elizabeth’s response after studying my correspondence.

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  4. Elizabeth Wilton

    Thank You Larry for your response and invitation to dialogue regarding the dark and dangerous side of Spokane. The following questions come to my mind. Certainly I cannot converse with the written or verbal ease that you and Mr. Bamonte have, but why would Chief Kirpatrick “refuse” to investigate a death? What power do the Cowles family possess that would create this type of intimidation? The Cowles family is not admired in any circle I travel in fact in my professional and private life. I can’t think of anyone who is not horrified by the actions of this “dynasty” but It certainly hasn’t intimidated Larry Shook for whom I have much admiration and who has continued a rigorous, factual, and persistent pursuit of justice for the city of Spokane, it’s citizenry and Jo Ellen Savage and her family. I applaud your work, your intelligence, your fact gathering and investigation and your caring, still I cannot imagine Chief Kirkpatrick receiving any gain in protecting the Cowles family. Nor can I imagine her not believing in justice and right action. I may be naive in my view but I would have to hear from her before I would accept an opinion that she is dangerous and ill intended.


    • In view of the enormous body of well established, uncontested facts establishing a pattern of Cowles family criminal conduct associated with the RPS securities fraud and the death of a patron in the RPS parking garage, your inability to “imagine Chief Kirkpatrick receiving any gain in protecting the Cowles family,” and your inability to “imagine her not believing in justice and right action” is, ironically, evidence of the very blindness—the elephant in the living room—that I write about in this post.

      My dear, treasured friend, abuse of power is among the most common and natural of all human behavior. “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said Lord Acton. For me, the bedrock genius of the American idea of government is the scheme of checks and balances that allow us to be guided by our better angels, not our basest ones. Yet you seem to be saying that—incontrovertible facts not withstanding—Chief Kirkpatrick is somehow immune to this most human of human traits. I understand from your comments that if Chief Kirkpatrick has betrayed the trust you have placed in her, that betrayal will be painful to accept.

      I think you must find the courage to face the facts.

      I know that, because of my sincere affection and respect for you, you understand that I am not being sarcastic. I know, too, that you are not alone in trying to come to grips with the profound, and truly frightening, abuses of power and public trust that now threaten the legacy and future of the American experiment in democracy.

      I feel like this is the Monday morning after a lost weekend for an entire generation that believed that “leaders,” or “government,” could do the job that only citizens, only you and I, can do. Why is this so scary? Because love of freedom is in the American DNA. You and I were raised singing anthems to it. For me, as I believe for a critical mass of most Americans, loss of life is infinitely preferable to life without freedom.

      Speaking in the most personal terms, hostile foreign powers don’t much trouble me. They make fine hard targets. God help me, I love a hard target. The corrupt and apathetic among us, they are a much more difficult matter.

      With regard to the financial fraud of the RPS scandal, the City of Spokane effectively admitted the fraud, and its role in it, when it purchased the bondholders’ case. For details of this evidence, please see “Fraudville, USA,” “The Casino was Rigged,” and “A New RPS Fraud?” at

      The facts surrounding the death of Jo Ellen Savage and Chief Kirkpatrick’s refusal to discharge her duties and investigate her death have all been abundantly documented here. Now it is for you to find the energy and courage to face those facts. Facts concerning the history of the Cowles family’s use of its media as a weapon against those who would serve the public and not them have also been documented here. For further reference on this subject, please see “Newspaper Monopoly Town” at It is for you to find the energy and courage to face these facts, too.

      You are free to see what you believe. You are also free to reevaluate your beliefs. Godspeed.

  5. Ms. Wilton,

    Thank you ever so much for engaging in this community dialog. For there to be any meaningful change in Spokane PD, this public discussion is very necessary which I will comment later. Your government is deceiving you!

    I too was impressed with Chief Kirkpatrick when she first came to town, however I now concur with Sheriff Bamonte’s and Mr. Shook’s analysis/assessment.

    Chief Kirkpatrick had a duty and responsibility to the people of Spokane and to the family of Jo Savage to compel a complete and thorough criminal investigation into the death of Jo Ellen Savage. Such an investigation should have followed the evidence wherever it would lead to its logical conclusion. Chief Kirkpatrick failed in this duty and responsibility. This was never done. Both Sheriff Bamonte and I warned Chief Kirkpatrick many times that it was her duty to compel such an investigation. Ask her why she failed to do her duty when you see her next.

    Our Mayor and City Council are still in hiding and will not act to determine if the RPS Parking Garage is safe for continued public occupancy. I have appeared before Council twice to demand such an impartial inspection. I have yet to receive a reply. Why? This is the motivation for the cover up of Jo Ellen Savage’s death. The motive is not only to protect those responsible from criminal prosecution but to conceal the robbery of the Spokane taxpayers of $87.5 million dollars in the RPS Bond Frauds at the hands of the Cowles Co.

    I’m here to tell you this criminal investigation was never done. Your local law enforcement officials even including the WA AG’s Office are lying to the public when they said the Savage death was thoroughly reviewed by three separate law enforcement entities and concluded that there was insufficient grounds for filing a criminal complaint Further to my knowledge there was no grand jury impaneled either state or federal that reviewed any evidence and or heard testimony heard into the death of Jo Ellen Savage. Savage’s death with County Prosecutor Steve Tucker’s decision not to file any criminal charges was successfully covered up.

    Chief Kirkpatrick’s inaction is the subject of my formal complaint I filed with Tim Burns the SPD’s Ombudsman. Sheriff Bamonte and I are “breaking blue within the ranks of our law enforcement colleagues. We have no dog in this fight other than to seek the truth, to protect the citizens from an imminent public danger and to prevent a criminal enterprise from preying on the Spokane taxpayers. This criminal enterprise has sucked the life’s blood of Spokane through other tainted public bond projects over the last 100 years. The RPS Settlement Agreement is a significant structural debt that is draining the general fund which is now only becoming evident with this year’s budget shortfall. This is not all about the economy.

    Ms. Wilton I only ask you keep an open mind. Please read Sheriff Bamonte’s and Mr. Shook’s information/evidence thoroughly and completely. Please read my evidence too. See my comment in Mr. Shook’s commentary “American Serbia”:

    This is the very corrosive impact organized crime has on government. In my 35-year career as a criminal investigator, this is certainly one of the most blatantly criminal enterprises I have ever encountered. It’s hard to find words to adequately describe it. This is no appeasing of organized crime. It must be thoroughly destroyed.

    The people have been repeatedly victimized by this criminal enterprise – this is organized crime. Organized crime cannot be appeased but must be destroyed because of its corrosive impact on government. The citizens of Spokane and the family of Jo Savage have a fundamental right to ensure that justice is served when their political/ governmental law enforcement bodies and decision makers because of their systemic co-option/ corruption can’t or won’t act to protect them from criminal victimization and from imminent public hazards.

    In our legal system the law is of, for and by the People – NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW.

    Ms. Wilton Spokane’s government is so dysfunctional because of its systemic corruption by the criminal enterprise led by the Cowles Co.’s, it is incapable of fixing itself. If you agree after reviewing the evidence please join with Sheriff Bamonte and me in calling for the appointment of a independent/impartial special prosecutor and grand jury whether it be federal and or state to further investigate our complaints of corruption in Spokane. What is there to lose?

    As we are just now witnessing in the Otto Zehm case, a competent prosecutor using a grand jury to compel testimony from fearful, reluctant and/or complicit witnesses/suspects has an amazing affect of getting to the truth.

    Det. Ron Wright (Retired)
    Riverside PD, CA

    Thirty-five year law enforcement professional
    Economic crimes detective as well as other complex investigative assignments
    Past two-term president of the Riverside Police Officers’ Assn.
    Professional Vitae with significant case histories of complex criminal cases worked

  6. Ms. Wilton,

    Here’s the reason why it’s so important to have this public discussion that I promised I would comment earlier.

    The following is an excerpt of email I sent regarding having Tim Burns the SPD Ombudsman into speak to my college class on Community Oriented Policing.

    Det. Ron Wright (Retired)

    . . . My class is somewhat up to speed with the Savage case as I’ve been using it as a teaching moment in my class on Community Oriented Policing (COP). I’ve given the class an extra credit assignment re the ongoing the Ombudsman (OPO) issues as it relates to COP. I’m having Tim Burns come in and discuss code enforcement’s role in COP projects to regain control of a neighborhood in my class Friday night.

    I’ve provided my class with Tim’s (Connor) and Larry’s previous commentaries on the OPO. As I said I’m not willing to write off Tim just yet. We all know all too well that the powers that be will work to shut down any involvement of Tim Burns in the matters that they so far have concealed from the public e.g., the Savage case, the RPS bond frauds et al, and Sheriff Bamonte’s latest venture into preferential property tax appraisals by Co Assessor Baker’s Office. The true test will come when Tim runs up against this brick wall.

    Should Tim encounter the tentacles of the criminal enterprise/organized crime, we have given him an alternative action/solution. Will Tim succumb to the powers that be or will he speak out to the people in his true sense and responsibility to the citizens of Spokane and demand a special prosecutor/grand jury? This will be the divining nut crunching moment:-)

    COP if you don’t know is the new buzz word in police circles (Last twenty years) for re-establishing a beneficial/positive relationship with the community. With the traditional form of policing, the police became detached from the communities that they served and became very isolated and response driven. While some of COP is very idealistic and manpower intensive, it can be a powerful tool to force leverage scarce police resources. In a sense its teaching/developing the community to police itself.

    However critical to this process is developing and regaining the community’s confidence and trust in the police – Spokane? There are many parallels with COP and our developing military counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq/Afghanistan.

    The ideal situation is for both police/community to implement COP together. Unfortunately in many neighborhoods there is a general sense of apathy re government in general. Citizens don’t feel it’s their responsibility to intervene. Further in some neighborhoods people don’t have a well developed sense of belonging/commitment/community or empowerment to become involved. And in some cases not unlike certain neighborhoods in Iraq et al., there are terrorists embedded/entrenched in the community, and the people are hiding in their residences out of fear. In those neighborhoods the police must first develop a sense of community before moving into more advanced COP programs with a shared role of police and the community.

    The literature suggest in most situations its the police who alone at first imitate COP, followed by joint police/community action and lastly and rarely by the community itself. I would argue what we’re trying to do in Spokane is the third. The community is forcing the police to change re critical incidents such as Zehm/Pete. The community senses something is wrong here hence their outrage re Zehm/Pete, however they don’t know what the real problem is. This has been concealed from them by the Spokesman-Review that is an instrumentality of the criminal enterprise that operates to conceal its criminal activity from the people. . .

    In the text for my class, Spokane is highlighted for it’s innovative COP shop programs. Unfortunately for a number of reasons the COPs program became its own nonprofit entity and SPD has drifted away from involvement to the point of only giving lip service. Does this sound like Spokane?

  7. Sorry I didn’t provide the links to Tim Connor’s latest articles at the Center for Justice:

    An Eye for the Watchdog?
    Inside the Ombudsfarce

    Here’s the link to Kevin Taylor’s article at the Inlander

    The city’s first ombudsman finds himself in uncharted territory

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