A Pullman city councilman filed a police report alleging Washington State University Athletic Director Pat Chun verbally abused and exhibited threatening behavior toward him.
Although police characterized the issue as a civil matter, Chun has accused the investigating officer of having a conflict of interest, suggesting that he and the councilman possibly conspired as a means for retaliation.
Councilman Al Sorensen contacted police about a Sept. 29 incident involving Sorensen; Sorensen’s daughter, Jennifer; Chun and Chun’s wife, Natalie. The encounter saw Pat Chun allegedly threaten Al Sorensen in a profanity-laden confrontation over a video posted Sept. 17 by Jennifer Sorensen on social media.
The video, approximately 30 seconds long and taken from inside a moving car, showed a gathering of people at Chun’s house. Roughly 35 people were seen gathered outdoors beneath a banquet tent, with some groups chatting at tables situated throughout the space. For the most part, attendees are seen talking in close proximity.
A voice can be heard over the video noting, “Not one of them,” which Pullman police said was a reference to the fact that the guests were not wearing masks.
Not that they needed to be wearing masks. Outdoor events with fewer than 500 people, where physical distancing is possible, are exempted from the mask mandate Gov. Jay Inslee announced in September to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant. Pat Chun has previously stated he is vaccinated against COVID-19.
In a declaration filed with the police department Tuesday concerning the incident, Pat Chun said the event was a “work-related” reception. He believes Jennifer Sorensen “falsely accused” him and WSU of wrongdoings related to local health and safety standards. The Spokesman-Review obtained a copy of the declaration.
“From my perspective, I believe her actions were dishonest and unethical,” he wrote. “Also, to put the home of my family on Facebook attached to an erroneous claim would seem to constitute some level of cyber bullying.”
Chun alleged he and his wife are “another example” of Pullman residents targeted by Sorensen’s “abuse of power and misuse of local tax payer resources for his personal and political gains.”
Sorensen was a candidate this fall for a third consecutive four-year term on the Pullman City Council. He also teaches personal finance classes at WSU.
He made headlines in May 2020 for suggesting that people not get tested for COVID-19 so Whitman County could reopen sooner; to meet Gov. Jay Inslee’s benchmark for reopening at the time, counties with fewer than 75,000 people had to go three weeks without any new cases.
Sorensen has “permanently trespassed” the Chuns from his home and two businesses he owns, Pioneer Insurance and Flirt, a women’s clothing store, according to the police report.
Al Sorensen could not be reached for comment.
The Pullman Police Department determined no criminal activity occurred out of the confrontation between the Chuns and the Sorensens, classifying the incident as a civil matter.
Sorensen first contacted police the day of the incident, which took place at around 11:30 a.m. Sept. 29 at Pioneer Insurance on Northwest Stadium Way.
On Oct. 19, he told police he wanted to make an official report in an attempt to protect himself from Pat Chun claiming something else. The filing took place a day after WSU fired football coach Nick Rolovich for failing to comply with the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
According to Sorensen’s account outlined in the report, the Chuns walked into Al Sorensen’s office where they had a discussion about the two canceling their insurance policies with Pioneer. He said Pat Chun then changed the subject to the video.
“Al said Pat became verbally aggressive and asked Al ‘What have we done to offend you?’ ” the report reads.
Jennifer Sorensen claimed responsibility, telling Pat Chun she posted the video, according to the report. She told police she did delete the video at that time.
Pat Chun allegedly ignored this and started yelling at Al Sorensen to the point where Sorensen told police he felt threatened and verbally abused.
“Al said Pat then kept using profanities and said ‘I am going to tell everyone your stance on (Black Lives Matter),’ ” the report reads. “Al said Pat then threatened to tell everybody to not shop at his store and what type of person he is and that he was going to ‘destroy you.’
“Al said Pat told him that ‘he was only going to ask you once to take that video down, or else’,” the report continued.
According to the police report, a member of the WSU Police Department went to Pat Chun’s office to inform him of Al Sorensen’s wishes to trespass him and his wife from the properties.
Pat Chun’s declaration is much more brief in characterizing what transpired the day of the incident.
“On Sept. 29, 2021, my wife, Natalie and I communicated to Al Sorensen directly at Sorensen Insurance that we had canceled our insurance with his agency and demanded an explanation as to why he and his employee/daughter would treat customers in this manner,” Chun said in his statement. “We also requested the video of my home be taken down.”
Conflict of interest?
The police investigation, and the resulting report, was handled by Pullman Police Detective Joshua Bray.
Pat Chun said in his declaration he contacted Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins, and sent photocopies of the Facebook post – including a comment posted by Bray supporting Jennifer Sorensen’s video and commentary.
Chun said he would like Pullman police to investigate the matter and evaluate whether Bray should face any disciplinary measures.
“It is with the utmost disappointment that not only would a local business owner make false accusations of a customer, but both a Pullman City Councilman Al Sorensen, and Pullman Detective Joshua Bray would potentially conspire and waste tax payer resources to weaponize the complaint system as a means for retaliation,” Chun wrote.
Bray said in the police report he previously saw the video while off-duty.
According to the photocopy of the comment Chun sent to Jenkins, Bray commented on Jennifer Sorensen’s video around two hours after the video was posted Sept. 17, the police chief said. Al Sorensen called Bray directly when he made the complaint and again to file a police report a few weeks later, Jenkins said. It was after Bray took Sorensen’s statement for the police report that he informed Pullman police Commander Jake Opgenorth. Opgenorth then informed Jenkins.
Bray never disclosed to his superiors that he commented on the video. Jenkins said the first time “anyone in our department” was aware of the comment was when Jenkins was informed by Pat Chun on Oct. 19 after WSU Police told him that he and his wife were trespassed from Sorensen’s properties.
Jenkins said he and Opgenorth talked to Bray and “took some steps internally to address the situation.” He declined to elaborate, and also said he does not believe the investigation was affected by Bray’s personal opinion.
“I think it was handled appropriately with the report documents,” Jenkins said. “What was not appropriate was that Detective Bray was involved in it at all because I think there is an appearance of conflict of interest because of a comment that he made on Facebook in the public. He should have recused himself from that investigation completely.”
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