No charges against officers in machete shooting


The Spokane County Prosecutor's Office has determined that Spokane Police Officer Scott Lesser was justified in the shooting of Charleston Harper at Zola bar last May.

On May 1, 2016, the night before the annual Bloomsday Run, Spokane Police Lt. Joe Walker was informed by two bouncers at Borracho's Taco and Tequileria that a man, later identified as Harper, was walking in the vicinity of the restaurant, brandishing a machete and threatening people. Barracho's is just north and east of Zola on W. Main.

Downtown street traffic was heavier than normal due to the upcoming Bloomsday event. Lt. Walker began to look for Harper and found him at Zola. Two more people told Lt. Walker that Harper was threatening people with a machete. Walker himself saw Harper with the weapon and called more officers for backup.

Responding officer Scott Haney noticed that Zola was busy, with people inside and outside the bar, and apartments upstairs. Haney told Harper to show his hands, and Harper refused and then pulled out the machete. Harper reportedly attempted to tase Harper twice, but had no effect. More officers arrived soon afterward and a standoff began with officers in the street outside the south entrance of Zola, and Harper in the doorway of the main entrance. 

Prosecutors say the standoff lasted about 15 minutes and Harper expressed a number of mood swings in that time, from calm to extremely agitated. Several times he yelled at police to shoot or kill him. He ignored numerous requests to drop his weapon. In the meantime, SPD called additional units to the back of Zola to clear patrons out of the rear of the bar.

Despite being told not to go inside the building, Harper opened the door, and police shot him to keep him from getting inside. Officer Lesser fired four rounds from his M-4 rife. One of which hit Harper on his side. Harper was treated at the scene and taken to Sacred Heart. He survived his wound after which he was released to police custody and charged with burglary and harassment and booked into the County Detention Facility.

Under the circumstances, it was reasonable for Officer Lesser to use deadly force. Harper presented a serious and immediate threat to officers if he charged toward them and to the safety of others if he accessed the upstairs apartments once inside the building. Harper ignored numerous requests to drop his weapon and speak with police to defuse the situation, and tasing Harper failed. There is no indication that Officer Lesser acted out of malice or lacked good faith belief in the correctness of his actions. Therefore, no criminal liability attaches and no criminal charges will be filed against Officer Lesser.

(story: Matt Pusatory, KHQ Local News Web Producer,; photo:

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