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Sunday, December 15, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Pullman police sergeant arrested under suspicion of custodial sexual misconduct with WSU student

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 30, 2018

Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins, right, is seen in 2014. Jenkins said Tuesday the sergeant charged with custodial sexual misconduct engaged in “completely unacceptable behavior.” (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins, right, is seen in 2014. Jenkins said Tuesday the sergeant charged with custodial sexual misconduct engaged in “completely unacceptable behavior.” (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
By Jonathan Glover and Chad Sokol The Spokesman-Review

A Pullman police sergeant was arrested Tuesday morning, seven months after an alleged sexual encounter with an 18-year-old Washington State University student.

Sgt. Jerry Daniel “Dan” Hargraves, 49, who has worked for the Pullman Police Department for 19 years, is accused of receiving oral sex from the student near a public park in late March in exchange for letting her off the hook for underage drinking. Court records say his semen was found on the victim’s sleeve.

Hargraves was booked into the Whitman County Jail at about 6:30 a.m. on a charge of first-degree custodial sexual misconduct after turning himself in to the Washington State Patrol, which had been investigating the allegation since it was reported in early April. He was released later Tuesday on his own recognizance.

During a morning news conference, Pullman police Chief Gary Jenkins said the department would launch an internal investigation to determine whether Hargraves violated any department policies.

“We stand here acknowledging that there was a failing in our department and that we know that our people have to be held to a high standard of conduct,” Jenkins said. “And so because of that, we do hold our people accountable. And so we think, we believe that a lot of work we’ve done in our community, and the way the community knows us, they know as a department they can trust us. Moving forward, we will continue forward to earn that trust.”

According to court records filed Tuesday, the sexual encounter happened in the early hours of March 31, after the student, a freshman, had been out drinking. Based on cellphone location data, surveillance video and other evidence, WSP Detective Larry McGill laid out a detailed timeline of the student’s encounters with law enforcement.

The student was walking toward a dorm building along Cougar Way, “stumbling and obviously intoxicated,” when Hargraves stopped her at about 11:46 p.m., the records state. He warned her about underage drinking, gave her a “courtesy transport” to Community/Duncan Dunn Hall and told her to stay in the building for the rest of the night, the records state. She entered the building at 11:59 p.m.

At 12:20 a.m., however, a sergeant from the WSU Police Department drove past the building and noticed the student stumbling around the base of a staircase, clearly intoxicated, according to court records. After activating his body camera, he approached the student, informed her he would recommend a charge for underage drinking and ordered her to go back inside, and she did so at 12:26 a.m.

At 12:40 a.m., Hargraves heard the WSU sergeant say the student’s name over the radio, then drove to meet the WSU sergeant in front of another dorm building, the records state.

Although she had been told twice to stay in her dorm, the student again left “to meet up with friends,” according to court records. Hargraves spotted her outside the building, stopped and told her something to the effect of, “You disobeyed me. I told you not to leave your dorm before. Now I have to take you to the station because you didn’t obey my orders.”

Hargraves didn’t handcuff the student but put her in the back seat of his patrol car. Cellphone data indicate the student left the area of her dorm at 12:47 a.m. On their way to the station, she began pleading with Hargraves, saying, “I’ll do anything to not get arrested,” the records state. He responded: “What are you willing to do?”

At 12:53 a.m., cellphone data indicate the student arrived in the area of Reaney Park. There, the student said, Hargraves stopped the car and instructed her to get on her knees. The records state she “has a vague recollection of performing oral sex on Hargraves.”

Afterward, the records state, Hargraves told her to get back in the car and asked her where she wanted to be dropped off. She told him friends were expecting her at another dorm building. Cellphone data indicate her leaving the park at 1:01 a.m. On the ride back, she searched the back seat for her cellphone, but Hargraves had it, the records state.

The student said she “felt like they were driving around for a long time,” the records state. After Hargraves dropped her off, she called a friend at 1:58 a.m.

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.

It was initially unclear which sergeant was the subject of the student’s allegation. Both of their vehicles were swabbed for semen, and both lab results came back negative.

On April 18, McGill, the WSP detective, interviewed the WSU sergeant and ruled him out as a suspect. McGill also interviewed the student, who pointed out a photo of Hargraves, and collected the clothing she had worn on the night of the incident.

Pullman police officers are required to wear body cameras and turn them on in such situations, but Hargraves did not.

“Hargraves had very little documented activity for the entire shift and no document activity during the same questionable time frame,” from 12:47 a.m. to 1:57 a.m., the records state.

In mid-August, a forensic scientist at the WSP Crime Laboratory matched Hargraves’ DNA to semen found on the student’s sleeve. The WSP recommended a charge to the Whitman County Prosecutor’s Office in late September.

Hargraves has been on paid administrative leave or desk duty since the allegation was reported. He has been the subject of at least one previous internal investigations, when in 2016, Jenkins said Hargraves sent inappropriate text messages to a female employee at the police department. Jenkins said Hargraves was required to undergo counseling.

“Honestly, I felt betrayed,” Jenkins said, describing how he felt when he read the new allegations against Hargraves. “We have a lot of employees that are completely invested in this department and this community. To have somebody representing us do something that is completely against everything we believe in is very disheartening. I was very disappointed.”

In Whitman County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon, Judge Gary Libey released Hargraves pending trial. In his reasoning, Libey said Hargraves had strong ties to the area and wasn’t likely to flee or reoffend. And, Libey said, the alleged crime was nonviolent.

“I think it would be an error not to release Mr. Hargraves on his own recognizance,” he said. “So I will do so.”

As part of his release conditions, Hargraves may not leave Washington or North Idaho, and he may not have any contact with the victim. His arraignment is set for Nov. 9.

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