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Washington State News

‘I’ll Always Run From You.’ Spokane Chase Shows Washington Law Enforcement’s Pursuit Problem

(The Center Square) – Spokane County Undersheriff John Nowels says the recent arrest of a man with 14 prior felony convictions who recklessly fled from deputies is a prime example of what has gone wrong in Washington’s criminal justice system.

The recent pursuit of Bryan D. Bewick, 36, had to be terminated several times by a new law even though he was endangering other motorists and pedestrians, Nowels said.

“Previously, we could have taken into account all sorts of conditions to decide whether to continue a pursuit, which was a very effective policy – but those decisions are now made for us,” Nowels said.

In addition, Bewick allegedly told authorities after he was finally arrested, “I’ll always run from you [expletive],” which Nowels views as an exhibition of the “bold lawlessness” that is becoming commonplace on the streets.

In 2021, the state Legislature passed a package of police reform bills that, among other things, limits police to engaging in a pursuit if there is “probable cause” to arrest a person in the vehicle for committing a specific violent crime or sex offense such as murder, kidnapping, drive-by shooting, and rape.

Prior to that law, police could pursue a vehicle if there was reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed or was going to be committed soon. Under the probable cause standard, police, deputies and troopers must have known facts that a crime has occurred in order to act.

As a result of the legislature’s “one-size-fits-all” approach to pursuits, Nowels said drivers are increasingly refusing to pull over for police.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 24 years and I’ve never seen anything like what we are now experiencing,” Nowels said. “The criminals know they don’t have to stop for us, and they don’t.”

Not only does the Bewick case point to failure in the pursuit law, Nowels said, it raises questions about offenders being held accountable for the harm they do.

“Mr. Bewick is someone that law enforcement has been familiar with for a long, long time,” Nowels said. “After this latest incident, I have to say that whatever we have been doing with him through the courts, it’s not working.”

During a search of the vehicle that followed Bewick’s apprehension for reckless driving, a Glock 20 and 10mm semiautomatic pistol were recovered. As a convicted felon, Bewick was not supposed to be in possession of firearms.

Also recovered from the vehicle were 200 pills believed to contain fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Nowels said not only are criminals more motivated to evade police, they are empowered by the decriminalization of drugs to engage in trafficking.

He said programs that help people turn their lives around, such as drug treatment, are a necessary part of reducing crime, but arrests are also part of the equation because offenders need to be held accountable for the harm they do.

“Washington is experiencing higher violent crime rates, higher property crime rates, simply because over the last 15 years, we’ve reduced accountability,” Nowels said. “Justice is part of America’s values and when there is no accountability, there is no justice for victims.”

The incident involving Bewick that Nowels referenced began about 11:15 p.m. on July 28 when Spokane Valley Deputy Riley Sullivan observed a yellow Chevrolet Colorado truck parked at a gas station at Mullan and Sprague. The vehicle reportedly matched the description of a truck that had recklessly fled from deputies on three other occasions that month.

“All the rest of what transpired that night would have been stopped if the new pursuit legislation didn’t exist,” Nowels said.

As it was, he said Sullivan alerted other deputies about the truck’s location and then observed Bewick allegedly driving north on Willow Road. After the truck failed to stop at an intersection, Sullivan activated his emergency lights and siren to try to get the vehicle to pull over.

Instead, Bewick allegedly ran through another stop sign and began using the center turn lane to recklessly pass other vehicles. To comply with Washington law, Nowels said Sgt. Justin Palmer directed Sullivan to stop the pursuit.

Bewick then reportedly continued to drive around town without lights.

Finally, the degree of risk to public safety led Palmer to authorize the use of spike strips if deputies could safely deploy them.

Deputy Trevor Ball set up the strips on Pines near Sinto, and Bewick allegedly ran over them, damaging at least three tires. However, he continued to drive and was observed swerving all over the road while the tires shredded apart and threw pieces into the air.

Deputy Tyler Kullman was given permission to try to stop the truck again and activated his lights and siren. However, Bewick reportedly did not stop and, once again, the pursuit was terminated.

Bewick was then allegedly observed almost striking several vehicles even though he was no longer being pursued. Kullman was finally given permission to utilize a Pursuit Intervention Technique to stop Bewick. Kullman successfully performed the maneuver that forces a fleeing car to turn sideways and causes the driver to lose control and stop.

Bewick and the adult female passenger were detained and later released at the scene without charges. The female was later released at the scene without charges. 

After being advised of his rights, Bewick allegedly stated he ran because he was in violation of a No Contact Order involving the female passenger and because “he could” due to knowledge that law enforcement could not typically pursue him.

He denied ownership of any property found during the vehicle search.

Bewick was transported to the local jail and faces prosecution on numerous charges.