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CRIMINAL JUSTICE

TRAGIC EXPECTATIONS A Sandpoint mother feared that one day her troubled son would end up dead; turns out, nothing prepares you for it BY JOSH KELETY

J

ustine Murray, a 43-year-old owner of a boutique in Sandpoint, saw that her phone was buzzing with calls from the medical examiner’s office while she was out for lunch with friends. She knew it had to be about her troubled 25-year-old son, Ethan Murray, who suffered from schizophrenia and meth addiction. “I know what a medical examiner is,” she tells the Inlander weeks later at the Tango Cafe in Sandpoint. “It was starting to set in and my heart was racing really fast. And I started shaking.” After leaving her table, she eventually got through to a staffer from the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office. “I’m like, ‘Is he dead?’” Murray says. “She paused for a minute and then she’s like, ‘Yes.’ And then I kind of lost it.” Her son, Ethan, died after getting shot by a Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy near a small homeless camp a

short distance from an apartment complex in Spokane Valley. Two deputies had responded to an early evening 911 call about a male who seemed “very high” around children outside the apartments, only to chase him through the adjacent woods and to a small homeless encampment after he failed to follow verbal commands, according to a news release from investigators. There, Murray allegedly hurled profanities and reportedly refused to comply with deputies’ orders to show them his hands before he was shot, per the release. His mother says an autopsy showed that Ethan was shot six times. One resident at the apartment complex tells the Inlander that she heard a deputy repeatedly shout “drop it” before firing. No weapon was found at the scene. For Ethan’s mother, his death at the hands of local police was both shocking and the latest tragic development in her son’s life that had been practically blown

TOP: Justine Murray (left) and her mother, Margie Polkowski, bring flowers to the site where Ethan was killed. YOUNG KWAK PHOTO ABOVE: Ethan and Justine Murray at Christmas. apart by schizophrenia, addiction and routine bouts of homelessness. His struggles with mental illness and methamphetamine landed him in jails, homeless shelters and hospitals around the country — from California to Florida. All the while, his mother grappled with a patchwork of medical and judicial systems, trying to keep him safe and get him the help he clearly needed. She also began advocating for broader awareness on mental health issues, a passion she intends to carry on into the future. “Maybe that officer thought it was just another homeless guy with nobody and that no one would speak out,” she says, referring to the deputy who shot Ethan. “But a lot of people don’t speak out and I think that should change. “It’s the system that let him down,” she adds. ...continued on next page

MAY 23, 2019 INLANDER 13

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