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Tuesday, October 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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WSP finds no death threat to Rep. Matt Shea, closes investigation

OLYMPIA – The investigation into a voicemail received by Rep. Matt Shea’s office has been closed after the Washington State Patrol determined it does not “rise to the criminal threat level.”

Patrol investigators said the obscenity-laced call, which Shea had characterized as “a death threat,” only references an armed occupation of his office – a public place – and not harm to an individual. Investigators were not able to find anyone involved in making the call.

“At this time, without further information, I would consider this matter a free speech issue from a very irate person,” Detective Sgt. Matt Wood wrote. “The case is to be closed.”

Shea’s Olympia legislative office received a voicemail message of one minute, 11 seconds, on Jan. 12, from a caller irate over Shea’s journey a few days earlier to the Oregon wildlife refuge being occupied by an armed group protesting federal land policies. The Spokane Valley Republican was part of a group of legislators from the Northwest who went to the refuge on what they called a fact-finding mission.

The unidentified caller says Shea’s “office in Spokane is going to suffer in an armed occupation, and we’re going to take it over.” The caller also mentioned the sheriff of the Oregon county, and that his family had been “chased around.”

“Remember, we can do it here, too. Matt Shea lives in our community,” the caller says.

Patrol investigators tried to trace the call, but the number belonged to a pay-as-you-go cellphone. “So it can be possessed by anyone,” investigators reported.

They also checked for clues on Shea’s Facebook page, where he wrote about the threat, and on comment threads in The Spokesman-Review, which carried stories and commentary on Shea’s trip to Oregon and he cited as inciting the threats.

“I do not find any comments that contained information that was specific to the phone message,” Wood wrote late last month. The recording and documents from the investigation were obtained Wednesday under a public records request.

After the message was left, Shea told Facebook followers he was “demanding a retraction and an apology of The Spokesman-Review for putting me and my family in danger.” Editor Gary Graham said at the time the newspaper had not received such a request, but encouraged Shea to share any facts supporting his contention the newspaper’s reporting contributed to the threats. The newspaper never received that information or a retraction request.

Through a spokesman, Shea declined to comment Wednesday on the WSP’s decision to close the case and classify the phone call as a free speech issue rather than a death threat. “He’s got nothing to say today on it,” House GOP spokesman John Sattgast said.

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