Deputy facing assault charges was suspended twice
A Grant County sheriff’s deputy now charged with domestic violence brandished a handgun to confront a civilian couple parked outside his Quincy home in 2013, and was suspended from service for it.
It was the first of two unpaid 80-hour suspensions within six months for Corey R. Linscott, 36, who was later suspended for insubordination after his superiors counseled him for often resorting to force while on patrol. Linscott now faces a trial on a charge of fourth-degree assault, after family members accused him of putting his hands around his 18-year-old stepson’s neck during an April 26 argument at his Quincy home.
“… I believe Deputy Linscott has shown a history of not making sound decisions under stress when interacting with the public, his peers, and his supervisors,” Chief Deputy Ken Jones wrote in a March 2014 internal report.
Linscott, a deputy since 2011, remains on administrative leave with pay while the domestic violence case proceeds. The charge is a gross misdemeanor; his next hearing in Grant County District Court is scheduled for September in Moses Lake.
Linscott’s lawyer in the disciplinary cases, John Ziobro of Richland, wouldn’t specifically comment on Linscott’s disciplinary history but said a deputy’s off-duty conduct “presents a very distinct set of issues compared to on-duty conduct.”
“To treat the two the same is simply wrong,” Ziobro wrote in an email.
Administrators for Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones also declined to discuss the past sanctions. Undersheriff Dave Ponozzo, who authorized both of Linscott’s suspensions, wrote in an email that it would be “irresponsible.”
Disciplinary records show Linscott was put on unpaid leave for 80 working hours in 2013, after confronting a Hispanic couple Nov. 3 in a parked car outside his house. In the incident, Linscott heard a loud vehicle muffler about 10:30 p.m. and emerged from his house wearing only boxer shorts, carrying a .45-caliber handgun with a tactical flashlight mounted beneath the barrel.
In the ensuing investigation, carried out by Douglas County sheriff’s deputies, the 26-year-old male driver of the parked car said Linscott knocked on his window and demanded to know why he was in the neighborhood. He said Linscott pointed the gun at his face with his finger on the trigger, and used the flashlight to illuminate the inside of the car. The passenger, a 19-year-old woman who lived nearby, also said the firearm’s mounted light was pointed at the driver’s head.
“The guy told me that it was his street and he lives on that street and he don’t like nobody around that street,” the driver said when interviewed by Detective Dave Helvey, then with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Linscott told them he was a police officer and demanded identification, but did not present a badge.
Linscott later told investigators he feared the occupants might be people his teenage son had conflicts with at school. He said he used the .45 with mounted light — which the sheriff’s office had not authorized as department policy required — because he could not find his standard flashlight. He said he held the gun muzzle-down and denied aiming it at either occupant.
Linscott later ran the car’s license plate on his sheriff’s-issue laptop to get information about the vehicle and owner, but did not file a report with either the Quincy police or his own department.
The driver “advised me that he was in fear for his life during the encounter,” according to a report filed within days of the incident by sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Crowder. “He described how he was pressing his head against the headrest in an effort to get his face out of the line of fire.”
Chief Deputy Ken Jones put Linscott on leave with pay Nov. 5. On Dec. 13, Undersheriff Dave Ponozzo suspended Linscott without pay for a total of 80 hours, to be served over four months.
Ponozzo cited eight different sections of the sheriff’s conduct policy which Linscott violated in the Nov. 3 encounter, but wrote, “… There is no evidence, beyond the allegations as reported, that indicated you ever pointed your firearm at the occupants of the vehicle.” A review of the case by then-Prosecuting Attorney D. Angus Lee found no grounds for criminal charges against Linscott.
Ziobro wrote to Ponozzo on Linscott’s behalf, saying the deputy recognized he made “bad decisions” in the incident and hoped his job would not be endangered. Linscott was sent to training in “tactical social interaction” and “justice-based policing,” and scheduled to meet monthly with supervisors to discuss his progress.
One of the monthly meetings, in March 2014, went awry after Crowder and Cpl. Beau Lamens called attention to “the high number of use-of-force reports (10) Corey has submitted this year,” according to a memo from Crowder. “There is concern that the majority of the reports involve the display of his firearm,” Crowder wrote.
After showing a video of a traffic stop in which Linscott drew his handgun and left the cover of his police vehicle to order a motorist back into his car, Lamens said he encouraged Linscott to look for nonlethal solutions, according to memos from the meeting.
Linscott said he would be able to simultaneously draw a Taser and holster his firearm, which Crowder told him ran counter to police training and policy. Crowder and Lamens both reported that Linscott said he was unfamiliar with that policy, and called it “a failure to train” issue.
Linscott disputed their recollections. Chief Deputy Ken Jones called Linscott March 18 and told him he would be taken off overtime duties to undergo use of force training. “I stated to Chief Jones I felt confused, and I felt this was a knee-jerk response,” Linscott wrote.
Jones placed Linscott on administrative leave on March 20, citing insubordination. Ponozzo said Linscott’s interaction with Jones “showed a clear lack of respect for his authority” and on May 27 gave Linscott his second 80-hour unpaid suspension.
Linscott is also the subject of a federal civil suit against Grant County over the 2012 arrest of James A. Watson. The suit claims Linscott warned Watson away while he tried to video-record a “commotion/law enforcement encounter” outside a Desert Aire tavern, then used a Taser on him when he refused.
Attorneys for the county said Watson was “interfering and inciting others” at the scene and denied other elements of his complaint, including his claim that the phone was unlawfully searched and the video removed.
Linscott’s attorney in the domestic violence case, Steve Woods of Wenatchee, did not respond to several messages from the Wenatchee World seeking comment. In his email, written last week, Ponozzo said the sheriff’s office has not determined what discipline Linscott may face in that matter, if any.
“We are not prepared to make that decision until after this investigative file has been reviewed by the County’s labor attorney, which is expected to be completed in the next couple of weeks,” Ponozzo wrote.
Ziobro said the sheriff’s office has handled Linscott’s prior disciplinary matters with fairness.
“He takes his job seriously and is working hard to become a better law enforcement officer,” Ziobro wrote in his email to The Wenatchee World. “He just wants to be treated fairly based on the facts.”
— By Jefferson Robbins, Wenatchee World