Spokane police release body camera footage of officer-involved shooting of schizophrenic man during an eviction

March 15, 2019

Spokane police released body camera video footage of the officer-involved shooting of Ronald Acre – a rifle-wielding man with severe mental health issues who was injured a year ago in a hail of gunfire during an eviction.

Acre, 35, who was diagnosed last year with schizophrenia, survived after he was shot multiple times by Deputy Sam Palmer and Officer Scott Hice the morning of March 12, 2018, at Agnes Kehoe Place, a subsidized apartment building at 5313 N. Regal St. The Spokane Housing Authority had moved to evict Acre the previous month.

Because he allegedly pointed a rifle at three officers in his apartment before they fired at him, Acre was arrested and charged with three counts of second-degree assault. Once released from Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, he was ordered to undergo two rounds of competency restoration at Eastern State Hospital, where in August he told a psychiatrist he did “not mean to survive when he got shot.”

In September, Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell ruled the shooting justified.

The video, taken from Hice’s body camera, shows a group of officers surrounding Acre’s door with a Frontier Behavioral Health worker. Once they open the door, Acre can be seen seated on a sofa in the corner of his room, his left arm outstretched over the top of the couch.

As Officer Hice and Palmer enter the room, the deputy speaks with Acre, explaining why they’re there as Acre repeatedly tells them to leave. Once inside and standing in the kitchen, Acre again tells them to leave. When Palmer asks him if he wants to speak to a mental health provider, Acre declines.

“I feel like defending myself,” Acre says. “Somehow.”

After about a minute of back and forth, where Acre continuously tells them to “contact the federal government,” he says, “I’m not going to budge on this.”

About a minute later, Acre appears to get more defensive.

“The fact that you guys are moving all of this stuff out of the way, to maneuver yourselves and start to do an attack, it’s pretty obvious,” he says. “I know what’s going on.”

A few seconds later, he can be seen digging underneath a blanket on the couch with his left hand. As Palmer asks him if he has any weapons, Acre repeats that Palmer and Hice need to contact the federal government.

A short while later, he appears to pull something from underneath the blanket as Hice and Palmer back away. Hice warns “He’s got a rifle” as the two back out of the doorway. Hice yells “Gun, gun, gun, gun” while the three officers take cover in the hallway.

Then multiple gunshots ring out from the officers. After a burst, Acre can be heard saying “You just shot me in the (expletive) hand.” Then, another flurry of gunfire rings out. Acre never fires the rifle.

“OK, I guess I’m dead,” Acre says.

“Shots fired,” says Hice.

Both officers then yell for him to show them his hands. He appears to comply, and about a minute and half after the shooting, they move in and handcuff him before providing medical treatment.

Police Capt. Brad Arleth, speaking to media at a presentation of the video Thursday morning, said after officers seized the rifle, they found two bullets lodged in the chamber, rendering it unable to fire. Officers also found two other bullets, which had words written on them in black ink. One, an armor piercing round, read “Mick Cop.”

“Our thought was that the armor-piercing round was for law enforcement,” said Arleth. “He had some intent to shoot other people.”

Arleth said officers also found videos on Acre’s phone of him duct-taping a hammer to the butt of his rifle, saying if he “ran out of ammo he could still hit people.”

After speaking to neighbors, officers learned Acre had made several threatening remarks to others in the building, including physically accosting several female neighbors. The Frontier Behavioral Health worker noted the same type of alleged reported behavior in notes referenced in Acre’s competency report.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price ordered Acre to undergo a 30-day competency restoration treatment at Eastern after staying for several weeks at Sacred Heart for treatment of at least six visible wounds. Injuries included a fractured finger, femur, right scapula and pelvis, in addition to a bladder wound.

A doctor concluded Acre was paranoid schizophrenic. Acre, 35, has a history of mental health issues – including multiple visits to Frontier – and at least two stays at Sacred Heart for a mental health hold, in addition to a stay at Eastern in 2014.

Each time, health providers concluded Acre exhibited signs of schizophrenia, on top of showing signs of verbal aggression and “homicidal threats toward one or more neighbors.”

In a report filed in August 2018, Dr. Amy Sellers at Eastern State Hospital describes Acre’s improved mental state after a monthslong stay with increased medication. In July, the hospital reported Acre “has not been displaying any symptoms of delusions” during group therapy.

During an interview to determine if Acre needed to stay at the hospital, however, Sellers noted that Acre “had continued discussion of delusional content” as a means to “remain in the hospital rather than return to jail.”

“I really do need more time here to sort my (expletive) out,” Acre reportedly told hospital staff. “I need more time here.”

In February of this year, the court found Acre was eligible for Felony Mental Health Court, a pretrial release program that combines “treatment, education, and intensive supervision to reduce the symptoms of mental illness and their impact on associated criminal activity,” according to a description on the county’s website.

To be accepted into the program, Acre will have to attend all hearings and undergo treatment and testing until May.

His attorney, Bevan Maxey, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Given Acre’s history with mental health, Arleth said the March shooting was a “prime example” of when “every option is explored.”

“Officers don’t want to shoot people,” he said. “Fortunately, he lived and the situation ended up being resolved.”