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Harassment Complaint Follow-up – Sheriff Wheeler

The story in the Bee differs in content from the official reports, I found that my staff acted in a prompt and professional manner.

wheeler sheriff harassment
Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler, Photo Credit: Redoubt News

Harassment Complaint Follow-up

On October 5th 2016, Keith Kinnaird sent me an e-mail that read, “Hey Daryl, The spokesman for the Idaho Democratic party contacted me to say that they are pulling an employee from the field due to several instances of harassment and intimidation, allegedly by supporters of Heather Scott. He said that while the SO has been responsive to the reports, but was dismayed when a deputy advised the employee that Democrats are not a protected class of citizenry and implied that he was fabricating his claims for political purposes. Can you speak to any of this? Thanks for your time, Keith.   On October 6th, I replied to his e-mail and told him that I’m looking into it.  This is what I found.

On Thursday, September 8th 2016 at 3:54 pm, a field worker for the Democratic Party called dispatch and wanted to make a report to Sandpoint Police Department. He said he was threatened by a male at the beginning of last week, right outside “The Flying Fish” booth. The threats were verbal only and over politics. The incident he was reporting occurred 9 or 10 days prior to making that report.

On Tuesday, September 27th 2016 at 9:53 am, the same field worker for the Democratic Party called dispatch and wanted to make a report to the Sheriff’s Office. He stated that he works for the Democratic Party; he was confronted by people because of his job on Thursday, September 22nd 2016. When he came out of his office at 301 N 1st Ave in Sandpoint, there were people around his vehicle saying they needed to document his license plate since they knew he had moved. He also reported a second incident during the same conversation. He said that between 2:00 am and 2:30 am that morning, he heard a diesel truck come into his driveway at the place he was currently staying. “They were there for a few minutes.” He thought that they may be turning around. He looked out the window and someone was taking pictures of his vehicle. The suspect was driving a 2012-2013 white Dodge truck.

A Bonner County Deputy made phone contact with this Democratic Party field worker who reported these two incidents of which he felt were harassment. The Democratic worker provided the deputy with further details on the incident from September 22nd and advised that he was confronted by a group of people at his vehicle and he heard them say, “He moved from Dover, get his license plate number.” He stated that he asked the people for their names but they would not tell him. He also stated that most of them were wearing apparel marked with Heather Scott election items, i.e. t-shirt, hat and buttons.

The Democratic Party field worker told the deputy that he felt very targeted in this community and did not feel safe. The deputy advised the RP that Sandpoint was an accepting community and his wife, a democrat, had never received any negativity when expressing her opinion. The deputy went on to explain the Idaho trespass laws, stalking laws and the Idaho malicious harassment law, I.C. 18-7902. That statute reads:

18-7902. MALICIOUS HARASSMENT DEFINED — PROHIBITED. It shall be unlawful for any person, maliciously and with the specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin, to: (a) Cause physical injury to another person; or (b) Damage, destroy, or deface any real or personal property of another person; or (c) Threaten, by word or act, to do the acts prohibited if there is reasonable cause to believe that any of the acts described in subsections (a) and (b) of this section will occur. For purposes of this section, “deface” shall include, but not be limited to, cross-burnings or the placing of any word or symbol commonly associated with racial, religious or ethnic terrorism on the property of another person without his or her permission.

While explaining the statute, the deputy told the Democratic Party field worker that under the strict language of this law, a democrat is not a protected class as defined in 18-7902. The deputy told the RP that his feelings of being targeted were being taken seriously and he would document the incidents in the form of a report. The Democratic Party field worker was also advised that if he had called dispatch when the truck drove up to the house, deputies could have immediately responded and attempted to locate the suspicious white Dodge.

While the deputy was taking the report from the Democratic Party field worker, another deputy was in the vicinity of where he was staying and did a security patrol of the area. The deputy found nothing suspicious present. A request for extra patrols was also sent out to all the shifts and regular prowler checks were made in that area and no suspicious white truck was ever identified.

On October 7th, an article written by Keith Kinnaird appeared in the Bonner County Daily Bee. Keith Kinnaird inserted quotes by Dean Ferguson, a third party, who was not the reporting party.

The story in the Bee differs in content from the official reports, and despite the tone of that article, I found that my staff acted in a prompt and professional manner.

Sheriff Daryl Wheeler