Gregoire unfazed that cop killer attended signing

Gregoire unfazed that cop killer attended signing
In this still frame from video provided by TVW, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire is shown with supporters on April 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Courtesy TVW)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday she's not changing any security procedures after discovering that a biker who shot and killed a Portland, Ore., police officer decades ago showed up at a recent bill signing.

Robert Christopher was convicted of killing officer David Crowther during a drug raid in 1979, but he was released from prison after less than two years due to police misconduct in his case. He was among a group of bikers who stood near Gregoire on April 13 as she signed a bill prohibiting law enforcement from profiling motorcyclists for sporting club colors or logos.

She said she's aware of grumblings from some law enforcement officials about Christopher's presence, but said bill signings are open to the public and that's how it should be. Attendees do not have to pass through metal detectors.

"Those folks who showed up last week, I didn't know them; I'd never met them before; I didn't know anything about their backgrounds. They came in here just like anybody else would," she said. "I don't screen people; it's a free process here for people to come in and observe if they choose."

Christopher shot Crowther on Dec. 12, 1979, when the plainclothes patrol officer entered the Outsiders motorcycle clubhouse on a drug raid. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but served less than two years after an internal police investigation revealed that officers lied to obtain a search warrant used in the raid and brought drugs with them to plant at the club.

Washington State Patrol officers at the Capitol campus in Olympia said they had no advance knowledge of anyone with potential criminal histories attending the bill signing. A patrol spokesman declined to discuss the governor's security.

Christopher did not appear to have a listed phone number; it was not immediately clear how to reach him.

Portland Police Bureau spokesman Pete Simpson confirmed Christopher's identity in an image taken from the bill signing but declined to comment otherwise. The police union's president also declined to comment, noting that any officers who served with Crowther have retired by now.

Gregoire's spokeswoman Karina Shagren said that at no point during the bill signing did the governor feel unsafe, and she noted it would have been ironic for law enforcement to single out a group of bikers for extra scrutiny at the signing of a bill designed to protect bikers from being unfairly targeted.

"There were troopers all over the place that day," Shagren said. "The bill process has always been very open. ... It would be a shame to make the last — and most important — step closed to the public when everything else is open."

Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, is an avid biker and sponsored the bill at the behest of a motorcycle enthusiasts group called ABATE.

ABATE legislative affairs spokesman Donnie "Mr. Breeze" Landsman said his organization was one of four that pushed the bill and helped spread word about the signing, but said he didn't know who showed up. News coverage surrounding Christopher's presence perpetuates stereotyping of motorcycle groups, he said.

Under previous law, police cannot target people for arrest based on their race, appearance — or the fact that they ride a motorcycle. The bill Gregoire signed last week requires additional training and policies to prevent law enforcement from singling out motorcyclists.

The bill's passage "is a huge victory that's being minimalized," Landsman said.

Rep. Steve Kirby, D-Tacoma, sponsored the bill in the House. He said several law enforcement groups had opposed the legislation, and he said news coverage of Christopher's attendance was part of an anti-biker smear campaign.

"I didn't feel unsafe and I was right next to (Gregoire)," Kirby said. "Anybody who is walking free has the right to be there."

Associated Press writers Nigel Duara in Portland, Gene Johnson in Seattle and Manuel Valdes in Olympia contributed to this report.