Friday, November 14, 2003
Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler could face a harassment charge for his alleged treatment of a local teenager during the Oct. 24 Homecoming Parade.
Late last week Hood River City Prosecutor Johnson Dunn was notified that the Oregon State Police had finalized its investigation into a formal complaint filed about the alleged incident. That report is being forwarded to Dunn and after reviewing it he will decide if further investigation is needed.
“Certainly it’s an unfortunate situation for everyone involved. The important thing is that everyone in the community knows that the people in responsible positions are taking this seriously and taking the right steps to ensure it’s followed up on,” Dunn said.
If Dunn proceeds with charges against Wampler, the city prosecutor will then have to decide whether to pursue the case himself or turn it over to an independent counsel. Dunn has been given the green light by the Oregon State Bar to handle the matter even though he is employed by the Wyers-Haskell law firm which conducts legal business for the county.
However, Dunn believes it might be more appropriate to turn the litigation over to an official from the Oregon Department of Justice, “if for no other reason than to avoid any appearance of impropriety.”
“In determining whether or not to prosecute Sheriff Wampler and in resolving this case he will be treated like anyone else and I’ve made the victim’s family aware of this,” said Dunn. “I have been acquainted with the sheriff for years and I don’t think he would expect any less of the other officials in this area than that they do whatever they are supposed to do.”
Wampler said the allegation made against him was “untrue.” He declined to comment further until he had been provided with an opportunity to review the OSP report.
“I’m very disappointed in this whole thing, I don’t mind that a complaint is being investigated but nobody’s ever gotten back to me to let me know what’s going on,” he said.
Dunn said he was first contacted about the potential problem from a lead city law enforcement official who witnessed the interaction between Wampler and the 16-year-old Hood River Valley High School student.
During a meeting with that witness, Dunn reassured him that it had been a correct move to file a complaint. That decision was also reinforced when several citizens also came forward to provide witness statements.
According to an undisclosed source, Wampler allegedly pushed the high school student up against a chain link fence with his hands around his neck near May Street. That altercation reportedly took place after the teen refused to heed Wampler and Police Chief Tony Dirks’ directives to stop riding his skateboard against the flow of traffic on a one-way street.
In talking to the victim’s family, Dunn said it was alleged that the boy was not injured.
If that information is correct, he said Wampler could be charged with harassment instead of assault.