RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) — Benton County commissioners are calling for a criminal investigation into 14,000 rounds of county-owned ammunition found last year at embattled Sheriff Jerry Hatcher’s former home.
The board on Tuesday said it will ask the prosecutor’s office to prepare a letter to Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Washington State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste, the Tri-City Herald reported.
Commissioner Jerome Delvin proposed the action which was agreed to by Commissioner Shon Small and Chairman Jim Beaver. They hope to have the letter ready to be approved and signed at their Sept. 1 meeting.
“I know when the information came to the public and to us, there was some back-channel efforts made by the prosecutors and others to try to get something like that done,” Delvin said during Tuesday’s commission meeting.
He said some agencies declined then, but it is time now for the county to make a formal request.
Hatcher told the Tri-City Herald he considers the commissioners’ action a witch-hunt, a vendetta and outside their scope.
He questions why the commissioners have never just asked him to come in and talk about the ammunition, and said they should worry about running their own office and not another elected official’s department.
“They’re just trying to make an example of me because they dislike me,” he added.
The county’s letter will ask the two state agencies to investigate the ammunition, more than eight months after it was discovered by Monica Hatcher as she was packing what was left of her estranged husband’s things in their Kennewick home.
A judge had previously granted a temporary protection order for Monica Hatcher, and as part of it the sheriff was ordered to relinquish his weapons to Kennewick police. That included his service pistol.
Monica Hatcher detailed the discovery in a February court filing and says guns were also found in the garage.
Jerry Hatcher says it was up to his wife to arrange for the hand-over to police since he no longer lived there and was ordered not to have contact with her.
In explaining why he had the ammunition, Hatcher told the Herald he has lots of sheriff’s office equipment at home to respond to calls or go to the shooting range.
He said having the property at his home is not illegal, nor does it violate department policy.
Last week, a Walla Walla County judge ruled that sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Erickson can move forward with an effort to recall his boss.
Hatcher said Tuesday his lawyers are working on an appeal of the recall ruling to the Washington state Supreme Court.
The sergeant, backed by nearly the entire membership of the Benton County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild, has accused Hatcher of intimidation, lying and theft. The union in March called for an outside criminal investigation into why the taxpayer-funded property was stored at Hatcher’s home.