Two police sergeants are under investigation after an 18-year-old Washington State University student claimed she was sexually assaulted by a law enforcement officer.
One of the sergeants works for the Pullman Police Department, the other for the WSU Police Department. Officials from both agencies confirmed Wednesday that the sergeants are on paid administrative leave. The Washington State Patrol is conducting a criminal inquiry, and internal investigations may follow.
“We take the allegation seriously,” Pullman police Chief Gary Jenkins said. “We’re fully cooperating with the Washington State Patrol in their investigation.”
Details of the student’s allegation were not immediately available Wednesday, and it wasn’t clear if she had specified which sergeant allegedly assaulted her.
A search warrant filed Monday in Spokane County Superior Court indicates both sergeants made contact with the student after she was out drinking on the night of March 30. The warrant lists a potential charge of “custodial sexual misconduct in the first degree.”
The Pullman 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.
The Pullman 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.
But later, shortly after midnight, the WSU sergeant was driving past the building and noticed the student stumbling around at the base of some stairs, clearly intoxicated, according to the search warrant. 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, according to the search warrant.
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, Assistant Chief Steve Hansen said.
Jenkins, the Pullman police chief, said he suspended the other sergeant on April 13, the day the department was notified about the complaint by WSU police.
WSP Detective Larry McGill obtained the search warrant this week because he needed a judge’s order to get the confidential records from WSU.
McGill also searched the sergeants’ patrol cars and cellphones, finding no evidence of semen or digital contact with the student, according to the search warrant. Citing unnamed sources, McGill wrote that “the alleged crime may have taken place in the back seat of a police vehicle.”
Trooper Jeff Sevigney, a WSP spokesman, said Wednesday he couldn’t comment on whether detectives had made direct contact with the student.
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