Springdale marshal accused of lying to investigators about turbulent car chase
Fri., March 1, 2019
The town marshal of Springdale, Washington, faces criminal charges for allegedly ramming a woman’s car during a high-speed pursuit and then lying about it to Stevens County sheriff’s investigators.
Todd M. Schauls, 36, was hired as marshal – Springdale’s sole law enforcement officer – in early 2018 but never completed basic training for a Washington state law enforcement certification.
Prosecutors last week charged Schauls with reckless driving, reckless endangerment, lying under oath and making false or misleading statements to a public servant. Each charge is a gross misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.
The charges stem from a car chase the evening of Feb. 2. According to a complaint filed in Stevens County Superior Court, the chase began after Schauls pulled over a woman who failed to stop at an intersection in Springdale, a town of fewer than 300 people west of Loon Lake.
Schauls was driving his patrol vehicle, a Ford Expedition, while the woman, Sunshine VanCleave, was driving a sedan.
Meanwhile, a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy was commuting to his home in Stevens County and noticed Schauls had pulled over the sedan, so he pulled up behind Schauls’ vehicle “to make sure everything was OK,” the complaint states.
As both law enforcement officers walked toward VanCleave’s car, she panicked and sped away from the scene because she knew her license was suspended and she had used methamphetamine a few hours earlier, she later told an investigator.
Schauls and the Spokane County deputy got back in their vehicles and pursued VanCleave as she traveled south on state Highway 231. Schauls had his emergency lights activated.
The Spokane County deputy later reported that he followed the two other vehicles because Schauls had no backup. The deputy said he limited his speed to 80 mph because it was foggy outside and the roads were icy.
While trying to catch up to Schauls’ vehicle near the town of Ford, the deputy heard Schauls say over the radio that VanCleave’s car was in a ditch and had struck his patrol vehicle, according to the complaint. The deputy reported he could see through some trees that both VanCleave and Schauls were traveling south on a road that runs parallel to the highway.
The deputy stopped his car on the highway and thought about setting up spike strips, but then realized he couldn’t tell Schauls because his radio wouldn’t work in Stevens County, according to the complaint. The deputy watched VanCleave’s car approach and begin to slow down, while Schauls’ vehicle closed the distance and slammed into the back of her car, according to the complaint.
VanCleave’s car swerved across the highway before she regained control, and again the deputy watched Schauls’ vehicle strike her rear bumper, according to the complaint. Her car swerved a second time, but she continued traveling south.
The deputy turned off his emergency lights and went home when a state trooper joined the pursuit, according to the complaint. A sergeant from the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office also joined the chase after receiving a call from the Spokane County deputy that Schauls was ramming a woman’s vehicle.
The chase finally ended near a highway bridge that crosses into Lincoln County, though it’s unclear precisely how VanCleave’s car came to a stop. She was arrested on a warrant and taken to the Benton County Jail. (Limited space at the Stevens County Jail makes it difficult to house women separately from men.)
The sheriff’s sergeant reported he had to swerve around a large piece of white plastic on the highway, which appeared to have come from Schauls’ vehicle. He also reported that Schauls’ vehicle had “extensive damage to the sides and front” that didn’t seem consistent with Schauls’ explanation, the complaint states.
Schauls denied that he rammed VanCleave’s car, and he claimed in a written report that VanCleave had in fact rammed his vehicle on two occasions. He claimed the chase ended when VanCleave’s car went off the roadway and she began spinning her tires. He claimed he tried to drive in front of her car and his vehicle “slid into the front of her car” at about 5 mph.
VanCleave denied she had rammed Schauls’ vehicle in an interview with a sheriff’s investigator. Analysis of her car’s damage was also inconsistent with Schauls’ account, according to the complaint.
Attempts to reach Schauls were unsuccessful. A Facebook message went unanswered Thursday, and an employee at Springdale Town Hall declined to provide his phone number.
The prosecutor assigned to his case, Lech Radzimski, said Thursday that Schauls had not been assigned an attorney.
Schauls’ Facebook page indicates he’s a Marine Corps veteran, an avid hunter and a supporter of President Donald Trump. The page also features an image of a Confederate flag and a number of offensive memes, including disparaging comments about former President Barack Obama, an image of a burning Quran and profane statements expressing hatred of Muslims.
The Town Hall employee also declined to make Springdale Mayor Elizabeth Calderwood available for comment.
Calderwood, who was elected in 2017, hired Schauls early last year after making the marshal position a full-time job with a $52,000 salary, according to a story in the Chewelah Independent.
Schauls remains employed by Springdale. A lawyer for the town, Jennifer Hanson, said, “Obviously the town is taking this matter very seriously and looking into all the facts, and appropriate action will be taken.”
In towns with fewer than 1,000 residents, state law allows people to work as marshals or police chiefs for up to nine months before they must complete basic training or “equivalency” training with the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission.
According to the complaint, Schauls has not completed that training or an emergency vehicle driving course, though he did provide Stevens County prosecutors with “certificates of achievement” for online courses.
Tisha Jones, the training commission’s certification manager, said Schauls has worked in law enforcement in California and Montana, but his certification had lapsed by the time he got the job in Springdale.
Jones said Schauls was granted an extension last year so he could attend the police academy in Spokane, rather than Burien. He dropped out of the academy in August due to an injury.
On Jan. 29, Schauls passed a benchmark physical fitness test to get into the academy a second time. Jones said the session began on Feb. 12, but the next day his office contacted the state commission, saying he was injured again.
“If Springdale chose to give him the authority to go out and make arrests and enforce the law,” Jones said, “that’s up to them.”
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