Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Tuesday, July 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 70° Clear
News >  Crime/Public Safety

Prosecutor to weigh charges against Pullman police sergeant after sexual misconduct allegation

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 4, 2018, 10:44 p.m.

The Bryan Hall clocktower at Washington State University glows at dawn on Sept. 17, 2016. A Pullman police sergeant could face charges in connection with a sexual misconduct allegation by an 18-year-old WSU student. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
The Bryan Hall clocktower at Washington State University glows at dawn on Sept. 17, 2016. A Pullman police sergeant could face charges in connection with a sexual misconduct allegation by an 18-year-old WSU student. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The Washington State Patrol has completed its investigation into an allegation of sexual misconduct against a Pullman police sergeant.

The WSP forwarded its findings Sept. 28 to the Whitman County Prosecutor’s Office, which will decide whether to file charges against the sergeant, who is on paid administrative leave.

The investigation stemmed from a March 30 incident involving an 18-year-old Washington State University student, according to search warrant applications filed in Spokane County Superior Court.

The Pullman police sergeant reported that he stopped the student sometime that evening, warned her about underage drinking and then gave her a “courtesy transport” to her dorm at Community/Duncan Dunn Hall, a building near Greek Row mostly reserved for freshmen, according to the court records.

The sergeant also reported that he told the student to stay in the building for the rest of the night and made sure she got inside before driving away, the records state.

Later, shortly after midnight, another sergeant from the WSU Police Department was driving past the building and noticed the student stumbling around at the base of some stairs, clearly intoxicated, the records state. He questioned her, ordered her to go back inside and informed her he would recommend a charge for underage drinking to the prosecutor’s office.

On April 6, the student filed a complaint with WSU’s Office for Equal Opportunity, which is bound by a federal law mandating student confidentiality. While the office could not disclose details of the complaint, it did notify the campus police department, which immediately placed its sergeant on leave.

No details of the student’s allegation have surfaced, though records indicate “the alleged crime may have taken place in the back seat of a police vehicle.” It was initially unclear which of the two sergeants was the focus of the investigation.

On April 19, a WSP detective interviewed the WSU sergeant, who corroborated his own account with body camera footage, according to one search warrant application. A female WSU officer was also backing him during the encounter with the student, the record states.

Trooper Jeff Sevigney, a public information officer for the WSP, confirmed Thursday that the WSU sergeant had been cleared of wrongdoing. WSU’s assistant police chief, Steven Hansen, said the sergeant has been back on patrol for some time.

The warrant applications listed a potential charge of “custodial sexual misconduct in the first degree,” but Sevigney and Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy declined to say which charges are now under consideration.

Pullman police Chief Gary Jenkins said that agency’s sergeant was placed on paid administrative leave immediately after the student made her complaint. The sergeant, who joined the department in 1999, briefly returned to desk duty before he was placed on leave again in late August. He is also under an internal department investigation.

His attorney, Michael Staropoli, did not respond to an email seeking comment Thursday.

Jenkins said all Pullman police officers are required to wear body cameras while on patrol and to activate those cameras in certain situations. He declined to say if the sergeant had activated his body camera during his encounter with the student.

“That’s one of the things that we’ll be looking at in our investigation,” he said.

Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter

Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.

You have been successfully subscribed!
There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter. Double check your email and try again, or email webteam@spokesman.com