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San Juan County Sheriff articles

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San Juan County Deputy Felix Menjivar cites racism as a factor in the escalation of the tension during his December 24 traffic stop of a Christmas Caroling hayride.

Menjivar wrote in his official report dated December 24, 2013:

"During the contacts both McCutcheon and the crow{d} kept yelling racial slurs at me. McCutcheon said "I can't believe my civil rights are being violated by someone who is not even from this country. The entire contact turned into an assault on my ethnicity and all refused to hear the fact that all of them had caused a dangerous situation by not properly plan{n}ing their Christmas Hay ride."

Deputy Brad Korth who responded to Menjivar's call for "cover", stated in his report:

They seemed to be very upset with Deputy Menjivar and angry about his ethnicity, so I felt I may be able to deal with the crowd more effectively than Deputy Menjivar."

210-1224-2013

(Menjivar's and Korth's reports are posted at the end of this article.)

Mark McCutcheon, driving a pickup truck,  was stopped at 5:40 p.m. near the ferry terminal parking lanes on First Street in Friday Harbor. The pickup was towing a trailer filled with children and adults   sitting on hay bales. It was the McCutcheons' annual Christmas caroling ride.

The trailer, decorated with strings of Christmas lights, did not have working tail lights.

Menjivar explained the reason for the stop:

"As the trailer passed my location I noticed it did not have any tail lights of visible license plate. Also at the very rear of the trailer were two small children sitting by themselves on each of the rear corners with only a foot tall railing.

"I was afraid that without brake or tail lights, someone would not know they are stopping or slowing down and rear end the trailer and right into the two small kids. I was also afraid that either of the two small kids could fall off the trailer and run over by traffic before any of the adults could help."

The deputy's report and Mark McCutcheon's written account of the incident vary.

Korth wrote:

"I stepped in and asked McCutcheon to please stop yelling and let me try to figure out what was going on. McCutcheon turned and looked at me, then addressed me by name and said he would talk to me but wouldn't "give Felix a fucking thing." He then went on to say, "I think it is bullshit to be having my civil rights violated by someone who isnt even from this country on Christmas night." He told me, "I can't even talk to him, but I will deal with you."

"I thanked him for dealing with me, then I turned to some of the other men who were approaching the location. I loudly asked for them to go back to the trailer and let me deal with the issue. They shouted back at me about the traffic stop and began verbally assaulting Deputy Menjivar."

Menjivar wrote that he recognized McCutcheon from prior contacts and refers to the driver's extensive assault history.

Korth wrote:

"I got out and noticed Deputy Menjivar was standing in the center of the road, parallel with the front of his patrol car with Mark E. McCutcheon ve
ry close in front of him. McCutcheon is much larger than Deputy Menjivar and appeared to be attempting to use his size to intimidate him."

Earlier this month, attorney Steve Brandli released a statement by McCutcheon and an accompanying Fact Sheet. It states: "Prior to Christmas Eve, Mark E. McCutcheon had not had any significant contact with Deputy Felix Menjivar."

The document also states: 

"In the first few minutes of the traffic stop, Deputy Felix Menjivar became angry. In response, Mark E. McCutcheon told him, “You need to get another officer. I cannot deal with you.

"During the traffic stop, with Deputy Brad Korth present, Deputy Felix Menjivar accused Mark E. McCutcheon of threatening to harm him. When Deputy Menjivar made this accusation, numerous witnesses exclaimed that Mr. McCutcheon had made no threats.

"Deputy Felix Menjivar charged Mark E. McCutcheon with his hand on his gun. He took three steps toward Mr. McCutcheon before Deputy Brad Korth physically restrained Deputy Menjivar. Deputy Korth was clearly exerting physical force on Deputy Menjivar to restrain him."

Menjivar told the dispatcher, "Let Zebra 1 [Sheriff Nou] know he's going to be getting a lot of complaints."

She replied, "He's on the air listening."

Sheriff Rob Nou has asked witnesses of the traffic stop to contact him. As of last week he had received eyewitness accounts from only two citizens.  Nou can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at 360.378.4151.

Sheriff Nou is looking into Menjivar's use of a camera. In a Facebook post, which was deleted the day after it was posted, the deputy's wife wrote:

"Felix wears a camera every night. Exactly for this purpose. Because people claim things happened a certain way and only a camera from HIS perspective shows how the other person is behaving."

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Sheriff Nou said the use of the camera is something Menjivar did on his own. A few people on San Juan Island are speculating about the possible negative impact the disclosure of the photos may have. Will they be considered evidence withheld from the defendants? If so, will they imperil previous convictions?


NARRATIVE written by Deputy Felix Menjivar
about the December 24, 2013 hayride traffic stop

On 12-24-2013, at approximately 1738, I was traveling westbound on Spring Street and approaching Argyle Avenue when I noticed a pickup towing a long low trailer with lots of people sitting on hay.

As the trailer passed my location I noticed it did not have any tail lights of visible license plate. Also at the very rear of the trailer were two small children sitting by themselves on each of the rear corners with only a foot tall railing.

I was afraid that without brake or tail lights, someone would not know they are stopping or slowing down and rear end the trailer and right into the two small kids. I was also afraid that either of the two small kids could fall off the trailer and run over by traffic before any of the adults could help.

I wanted to contact the driver and talk to him about the lack of tail lights and maybe move the two kids inwards so they could not fall off the trailer.

I turned around and followed the trailer, by now there were several vehicles between the trailer and me so I followed the traffic as it continued onto First Street from Spring street and all the vehicles between me and the trailer pulled onto Lot "A" of the ferry landing.

I then activated all the emergency lights on my patrol vehicle and initiated a traffic stop on the trailer and truck. It stopped just south of Lot "A" and by the time I was able to exit my vehicle, the male driver was already at my door.

I quickly exited my car and made contact with him. I recognized him as Mark Edward McCutcheon, DOB 10-14-1974 from prior contacts. McCutcheon has an extensive assault history and he was already squaring off as he said "are you serious, are we doing this now?". He was visibly angry.

I told him I had stopped him because the trailer did not have functional tail lights. I asked him for his driver's license, registration and insurance and he refused and told me "you need to get back up" as a female grabbed him and attempted to pull him away from me.

I told him he needed to deal with me. He kept telling me I needed back up as the female kept pulling him away from me.

I called for back up on the radio, while the crowd was now around me and Mark still refused to give me any of the documents I was requesting and as required by law..

All the time he kept trying to come back to my location an was getting even more aggressive and volatile.

Deputy Korth arrive and started to help backing people off and helped by taking McCutcheon away. His behavior caused some of the children to start crying, which the crowd immediately blamed on me.

During the contacts both McCutcheon and the crow{d} kept yelling racial slurs at me. McCutcheon said "I can't believe my civil rights are being violated by someone who is not even from this country". The entire contact turned into an assault on my ethnicity and all refused to hear the fact that all of them had caused a dangerous situation by not properly planing their Christmas Hay ride.

It is clear that McCutcheon wanted to instigate a fight and was so angry that he was shaking. He has the history of resolving his issues by assaulting others. He is used to having people be afraid of him and he did get that from me, which angered him more.

At the end McCutcheon would not listen to me and kept insulting me. I told him, I had not planned on issuing any citations and even after his behavior, I did not issue him any citations.

I cleared the scene, but Deputy Korth, recognizing the danger of them continuing without any brake or tail lights on the trailer, offered to give them an escort back to the residence.

I have attached two photos of the trailer and tail light in the Files section of this case. The first photo shows the rear of the trailer and the two small children at each of the corners. The second photo shows the left tail light. I could not take any additional photos because of the crowd.

Deputy Korth later told me at the station that McCutcheon admitted he was fully aware that he did not have the proper adapter for the trailer wiring to his truck and was operating the fully loaded trailer with people without any trailer brakes.

We had a similar scenario on Shaw a couple of years ago when the Hay Ride turned into a mass casualty incident when the trailer without any brakes lost control, crashed and ejected its occupants, causing multiple injuries.

Traffic injuries and casualties are some of the few things that are totally preventable. I wish McCutcheon had put the safety of his riders at the forefront had had done the proper preparation for his Christmas Hay Ride instead of being more concerned and upset that a Hispanic Deputy had stopped him. I just wanted to prevent any possible tragedy. Instead they turned into an personal attack on my and almost created a riot. They will never know how lucky they are that McCutcheon's reckless disregard for the safety of his passenger did not turn tragic.

I measure my success as a traffic safety Deputy by the tragedies that did not happen.

I hereby certify (declare) under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of Washington that the foregoing is true and correct. (RCW 9A.72.085.)

Date: 12-24-2013, Time: 1849, Deputy F. Menjivar #109


REPORT by Deputy Brad Korth

 

On December 24, 2013, I was requested by Deputy Menjivar to respond to his location to assist him with a traffic stop. He asked for a cover officer, which is highly unusual for Deputy Menjivar, both in the fact he requested it and that he used that wording.

When he was making the request a few other things stuck out to me. One was the tone of his voice. He sounded very stressed and I could hear quite a bit of noise in the background, like a large, loud group of people. I activated my overhead emergency lights and began responding from the area of Mullis Street and Spring Street.

As I approached Blair Street all the cars were getting out of the roadway, but a teenager, focussed on a phone in his hand, was crossing in the crosswalk and did not notice me approaching. I came to a complete stop, with my overhead lights going, and shouted out my window for him to stop, so he wouldn't walk directly in front of me.

My shout, and the bright lights he now noticed, startled him and he stopped. When I saw he had stopped I continued towards Deputy Menjivar's location, with my lights and siren activated. I did not experience any other people in the roadway and traffic moved out of my way.

I arrived at Deputy Menjivar's location and found a large group of people on a trailer lighted with Christmas lights and Deputy Menjivar's patrol car. I got out and noticed Deputy Menjivar was standing in the center of the road, parallel with the front of his patrol car with Mark E. McCutcheon very close in front of him. McCutcheon is much larger than Deputy Menjivar and appeared to be attempting to use his size to intimidate him.

In addition to McCutcheon I noticed approximately 4 to 5 other men getting off the trailer and approaching Deputy Menjivar, yelling at him. There were a large number of people on the trailer still, men, women and children. Many of the men and women were yelling at Deputy Menjivar and I noticed a child crying.

When I got to McCutcheon and Deputy Menjivar's position I could hear McCutcheon yelling at Deputy Menjivar and refusing to give him any of the documentation he had requested.

I stepped in and asked McCutcheon to please stop yelling and let me try to figure out what was going on. McCutcheon turned and looked at me, then addressed me by name and said he would talk to me but wouldn't "give Felix a fucking thing." He then went on to say, "I think it is bullshit to be having my civil rights violated by someone who isnt even from this country on Christmas night." He told me, "I can't even talk to him, but I will deal with you." I thanked him for dealing with me, then I turned to some of the other men who were approaching the location.

I loudly asked for them to go back to the trailer and let me deal with the issue. They shouted back at me about the traffic stop and began verbally assaulting Deputy Menjivar.

I again asked them to go back and get on the trailer with their kids and let me sort things out. At this point most of them complied. I turned back to Deputy Menjivar and told him it might be best if he were in his car doing his stuff while I dealt with the crowd.

They seemed to be very upset with Deputy Menjivar and angry about his ethnicity, so I felt I may be able to deal with the crowd more effectively than Deputy Menjivar. I was unsure Deputy Menjivar was able to hear me above the noise of the crowd, so I put my flashlight, which was in my left hand, into the center of his chest and began pushing slightly, pushing him towards his patrol car. When we got clear of the main crowd I asked what he needed from McCutcheon. He stated he needed the registration and proof of insurance. I left Deputy Menjivar in his patrol car and went back to McCutcheon, who was still yelling at Deputy Menjivar.

I asked McCutcheon if he would provide me with the registration and proof of insurance, and walked with him to the cab of his truck to retrieve them. As we arrived at the cab McCutcheon told me he had been the one that asked for back up to come to the scene because "I refuse to deal with that fucker." He was referring to Deputy Menjivar.

I told him I was glad to help, but that I needed him to stop yelling and would appreciate it if he could keep the other people on the trailer and have them stop yelling so I could deal with the situation. He agreed to do so and thanked me for coming.

I took the paperwork to Deputy Menjivar and handed it to him. Then, while he was in his car I went back to the back of the trailer.

Most of the people were back on the trailer and some were yelling about how the traffic stop had scared some of the kids and they were crying. I noticed a small child with a mohawk haircut sitting directly over where the right tail light was located and he was crying. I went to the child and was told it was a McCutcheon child.

I leaned down and asked if he was okay. Through tears he told me he was. I asked what his favorite Christmas song was and he told me it was "Frosty the Snowman".

I stood back up and had to talk loudly to get the crowds attention. I told them the child who was crying really liked that song and asked if they would all like to sing the song while they were waiting. They agreed to do so and began loudly singing Frosty the Snowman. They also invited me to sing along, which I thanked them for, but politely declined.

I went to Deputy Menjivar and asked what the reason for the stop was. He told me it was because the trailer had none, or non-operational tail lights and he was concerned about the safety of the occupants of the trailer if someone did not see them slowing or stopping and rearended the trailer.

I went back to McCutcheon and talked to him about the taillights. He told me he knew they weren't working and initially said something about the wiring. I asked him to show me the connection between the truck and the trailer. When we got to that area McCutcheon showed me the plug to the trailer lights, on the trailer side, which was not plugged into anything.

He then told me he had an adapter to plug the trailer into the plug on his truck, but he had left it at home. He was fully aware the trailer did not have tail or brake lights but chose to drive it in that condition with a full load of people.

Deputy Menjivar stepped from his car, so I went to his location. He replied he was ready to let McCutcheon go, but needed to talk to him first. I had McCutcheon go, with me, to Deputy Menjivar's location, on the driver's side of the patrol car. Deputy Menjivar explained the reason for the stop and let McCutcheon know he wasn't writing any citations.

At this point Deputy Menjivar handed the paperwork back to McCutcheon and McCutcheon again began insulting Deputy Menjivar and seemed to be attempting to escalate the situation again. I asked McCutcheon to stop and then turned to Deputy Menjivar and told him he could clear the scene if he wanted, that I would finish up with the crowd.

At that point Deputy Menjivar got back in his patrol car and cleared the scene. All the people on the trailer began clapping their hands and yelling.

I asked McCutcheon how far he had to go with no tail lights. He told me he was just going to drive to his house. I offered to follow him to provide tail lights and brake lights to assure their safety.

He asked, "Really? That would be great!" He then shook my hand and thanked me.

I talked to the crowd on the trailer and encouraged them again to sing carols and thanked them for contributing to the Christmas spirit. They had invited me to sing along earlier, to the tune of Frosty, and again invited me. I advised it would probably be best if they didn't have to listen to my singing voice. They laughed and seemed relieved and happy.

McCutcheon then began driving and the crowd began singing. He dropped some people off at the ferry landing and then proceeded to his house on University Drive. I followed him the entire distance and then stopped at the residence with them.

I got out and was approached by McCutcheon and approximately 4 other men. They wanted to thank me and shake my hand. I advised McCutcheon to get the lights working and to let me know if he needed help next year so he didn't have a repeat of this years Christmas experience. He thanked me again and I cleared the scene.

Throughout the incident on the street I continually tried to get the people to stay on, or get back on the trailer. I wanted to not have any of them going back to Deputy Menjivar's patrol car and wanted to keep them where I could see them.

They seemed fine talking with me but seemed to have personal issues with Deputy Menjivar which went far beyond the stop itself.

Deputy Brad Korth 12/30/2013


Menjivar's Letter

McCutcheon's statement

Sheriff Nou's statement

Letter from witness

 

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