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Spokane Co. Sheriff searches for funding for drug task force

Many parts of eastern Washington have become hotbeds for drug trafficking and gang activity, and the Spokane County Sheriff's Office says Spokane could be next if it loses a key task force.

"This is the only drug and gang enforcement effort the Spokane County has," said Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

The Spokane County Drug and Gang Task Force have been nationally recognized for their "outstanding task force effort" in a 2013 multi-agency raid that seized over 10,400 OxyContin pills, and arrested 57 people on charges ranging from drug trafficking to money laundering.

"Which at the time was the largest number of indictments handed down in eastern Washington," said Lt. John Knowles with the Spokane Regional Drug Task Force.

The investigation targeted criminals here in Washington and the Los Angeles area.

"We were able to reduce crime in Los Angeles and here in Spokane. We were able to affect the drug distribution and price of narcotics here," said Knowles.

Now, the team's future is in peril.

"Without funding from the county, that task force in is jeopardy of being shut down in June," said Knezovich.

Flu shot only 23% effective, still recommended

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that this season's flu shot is only 23 percent effective. Despite the low percentage, doctors still urge you to get vaccinated.

Kelly Dvorak and her daughter Piper didn't get a flu shot this year and so far, so good.

"Not the flu, thank goodness,? Dvorak said. ?Not in our house, yet."

Others haven't been so lucky.

"Couple of kids in her class have had the flu," she said.

The latest update from the Washington State Department of Health shows there's been 22 laboratory-confirmed deaths in the state from the flu. This year is shaping up to a better year than the 2014-2015 flu season, which saw a whopping 79 deaths due to the virus. However, just like last year, this year is hitting the elderly particularly hard.

"This is a bad strain of flu this year,? Dr. Richard Besser, ABC's Chief Medical Editor said. ?It's infecting the elderly very, very much, but today we have learned that vaccine is not very effective."

Falling gas prices send mixed message on economy �

Gas prices in Spokane are the lowest they've been in six years. Some stations are offering gas at just $1.78 per gallon.

"I remember when we were at the upper�three dollars, hitting the four�dollar mark, and I never thought I would see it below two-eighty ever again," said Rob Fuson, who loves the more affordable fuel.

More than half of the nation's gas stations, including most in Spokane, are now selling gas well below two dollars per gallon.

"I'm thrilled. It makes it a lot easier to drive this beast and I notice a lot more cars on the road now too," said Fuson.

It's good for consumers, but numbers released today show a slightly mixed picture when it comes to their spending.

"I think people are spending more in other places. You're able to�eat out�a little bit more. I think you're thinking, well I can go ahead and afford this thing I've wanted," said Fuson.

Surprisingly, The Commerce Department said retail sales fell 0.9 percent in December, the largest decline since last January.

Spokane County Sheriff’s Explorers honored at State Academy

Spokane County Sheriff’s Explorers honored at State Academy

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Explorers returned from the Washington State Explorers Winter Academy with knowledge from their training classes along with some very prestigious awards. 

The Washington State Explorers Winter Academy is broken down into 2 groups. The Basic Course, for the first time attendees, and the Advanced Course, for Explorers who had previously passed the Basic Course. This year’s Winter Academy was attended by 216 Explorers from all across the State of Washington. 

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said they are extremely proud to recognize Explorer Austin Powell who received a 2nd place award in shooting with a score of 294 out of a 300 possible points. He also received a 1st place award for his overall performance in the Basic Academy. For this award, Explorer Powell competed against approximately 150 other Explorers and received the highest combined score in physical fitness, shooting and average test scores during the academy.

Fatal fire raises concerns about space heaters

A southeastern Washington house fire killed a toddler and sent her 2 year-old brother to the hospital. A space heater inside the Walla Walla home caught blankets on fire on Wednesday night where the two children were sleeping.

A 3 year-old girl died of smoke inhalation; the other child is in a coma.

The incident brings up safety questions about space heaters.

During the winter, many people stay warm with space heaters, but they can be dangerous if left unattended, which was the case in this fatal fire.

"Space heaters help a lot of folks out during the winter season because they're cold and they're trying to make their home more livable," explained Jan Doherty with the Spokane Fire Department.

When using a space heater, it's important to keep flammable objects at least three feet away. The Spokane Fire Department says just like you wouldn't leave a candle burning in an empty room, don't leave your space heater on when you're away, sleeping, or in a room with children.

And you've heard it before: make sure your smoke detector is always working. It will detect smoke long before you see flames.

Lilac Court trades sashes for self-defense

There were no sashes or crowns on Spokane's Lilac Court Thursday night. The lovely ladies took to Sharp Shooting to learn some self defense techniques.

"It's really important because we're all girls going off to college in like five months,? Medical Lake High School senior Katelynn Houger said. ?So just to know the basics of what to do if we're put in a bad situation anywhere we go."

Houger was one of the dozen young women who took part in the annual event. The ladies were put through real life scenarios and were given pepper spray if they felt they needed to use it. Houger was put in a scenario where she was approached by a stranger while walking to her car. The man asked if he could use her cellphone, after she said she needed to go home, he attacked her. Houger pulled out her pepper spray and deployed it.

"I was worried that he would attack,? Houger said. ?I was prepared with the spray in my pocket trying to get in my car."

The ladies learned how to use a variety of objects for self defense that they could find within their purse: from keys to a coffee mug.

Many county offices to close from MLK Jr. Day

Many county offices to close from MLK Jr. Day

Most Spokane County offices will be closed on Monday, January 19, 2015, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. However, several departments will remain open to the public:

 

  • Public Works:
    • Engineering and Roads Division – OPEN
    • Utilities Division, including the Spokane Valley and North County Transfer Stations – OPEN
    • Building and Planning Division – CLOSED
  • Sheriff’s Office, including non-emergency functions and services.
  • To report a crime, call Crime Check at 456-2233
  • Call 9-1-1 to report a life-threatening emergency or if you need an immediate response by law enforcement.

 

The public is invited to join the Spokane County's administration and staff on Monday, January 19th at 10:00 a.m. in the Convention Center for the Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance Celebration, Unity March, and Resource Fair.