Erratic, Armed Suspect in Crisis Causes Panic at Store
Deputies make Arrest after Initial Less Lethal Attempts Failed
Spokane Valley Sheriff’s Deputies responded to Walmart, 15727 E. Broadway, for a person with a weapon call. The suspect, reportedly armed with a handgun, armed himself with a knife, a baseball bat, and other store merchandise while acting erratically and threateningly inside the busy store. Deputies used several less lethal options, which were ineffective due to the suspect’s bulky winter clothing. Eventually, a Taser and OC spray applications were effective, and the suspect was safely taken into custody. Thankfully, no citizens or Deputies were injured during this extremely dangerous and unpredictable incident. The suspect suffered a self-inflicted knife wound to his thigh. He was transported to the hospital for additional treatment and then booked into the Spokane County Jail once medically cleared.
On January 28, 2023, at approximately 11:55 am, Spokane Valley Deputies responded to Walmart, 15727 E. Broadway Avenue, for reports of a male acting erratic, jumping on a vehicle and attempting to lite it on fire in the parking lot. Information continued to pour in from witnesses providing the suspect’s description, location, and some that he was armed with a handgun.
After the suspect, later identified as 31-year-old James W. Jennings, moved away from the vehicle, citizens removed the burning clothing placed under the vehicle by Jennings, potentially preventing the car from igniting.
Deputies contacted Jennings inside the store, where he had armed himself with a large kitchen knife, a baseball bat, a batting helmet, and a pole/bar. Jennings’ erratic and unpredictable actions, coupled with being armed with a knife, a bat, and witness reports that he was armed with a gun, clearly demonstrated an extreme and potentially life-threatening danger to the customers, employees at the store, and the Deputies at the scene.
Deputies worked together to try and contain Jennings’ movements for the safety of shoppers and employees while attempting to de-escalate this intense and volatile situation. Jennings would not comply with commands and refused to drop the knife in his hand.
A Taser was used several times, while other Deputies remained vigilant with lethal options should Jennings’ action escalate further, causing an immediate life-threatening danger to customers, employees, or Deputies. These Taser applications failed due to the inability of the probes to make contact with Jennings through his thick, bulky winter clothing.
Finally, a Taser deployment and an OC (pepper spray) application were effective, and Jennings was disarmed and safely taken into custody. He was provided immediate medical attention, including for a self-inflicted knife wound to his upper leg. Deputies applied a tourniquet and continued care until they were relieved by Spokane Valley Fire personnel.
Jennings was transported to the hospital for additional care and evaluation. Once medically cleared, he was booked into the Spokane County Jail for Robbery 1st Degree, Reckless Endangerment 2nd Degree, Reckless Burning 1st Degree, and Obstructing.
We appreciate the quick actions of citizens who prevented the vehicle from catching fire and potentially creating a danger to others in the area.
We are also thankful for the assistance of the employees who evacuated customers away from danger while Deputies contained the treat and safely ended this extremely dangerous situation.
Jennings was not found to be in possession of a gun; however, he did have a handheld torch in his possession which is what witnesses may have observed and believed was a handgun.