PORT ANGELES — Inconsistent accounts were among the reasons that prosecutors decided not to file charges against three Port Angeles men accused of brandishing handguns and trashing a homeless encampment occupied by two adults in July, said Michele Devlin, Clallam County deputy prosecuting attorney.
Devlin said Friday she will not charge Shea Alan McDonald and Howard M. Reynolds, both 41, and David Lance Morse, 49, in the case referred to her Oct. 28 by the Port Angeles Police Department.
Police had recommended possible charges of misdemeanor unlawful carrying of a weapon capable of causing bodily harm, also known as brandishing, and misdemeanor harassment based on interviews with the alleged victims and their alleged tormentors.
In reaching her decision, Devlin said she weighed inconsistent accounts by “anyone who could potentially be called as a witness” in the case, including all those involved, as well as their credibility, and the possible defenses that could be employed by McDonald, Reynolds and Morse if they were charged.
“Consistency of accounts is one of the things I took into account when making the decision,” Devlin said.
McDonald said Friday that since the incident was publicized last week, his mother has been Facebook-stalked and his name and address circulated on “underground blogs” in a “feeding frenzy” of negative reactions over the incident.
“You wouldn’t believe how this has destroyed my life, and I did nothing,” he said, informed by a reporter Friday of Devlin’s decision, which said she reached Wednesday. “It’s been a major hassle.”
Police had said McDonald, Reynolds and Morse were carrying handguns when they entered a makeshift camping area off the parking lot behind Fresh Wok restaurant in the 1600 block of East Front Street.
Michael D. Lifflick, 27, and his sister, Amy Jo Zimmerman, 49, told police Aug. 2 that the men approached their campsite at about 8 p.m. July 25 or July 26.
They were staying on property owned by Rayonier Inc. and posted with a no-trespassing sign that Zimmerman said she knew about.
“Zimmerman said the men were very aggressive and threw all of their food around the camp site and were photographing her,” Officer Preston McFarlen said in his report.
Zimmerman said none of the men drew firearms, while her brother told police one of the men was pointing a gun.
“Lifflick stated he felt like the males were just looking for a reason to use their guns,” McFarlen said in his report.
Lifflick also told police the men were wearing camouflage clothing, which McDonald denied, also denying that the men drew handguns.
McDonald said he took photos of the site but said the men did not touch Zimmerman’s or Lifflick’s belongings.
“We were just going there as a brief reconnaissance to see if there was garbage there,” McDonald said Friday.
“I was under the impression it was city property. We did not realize people were living back there.
He refuted Zimmerman’s account of the men disrupting the campsite.
“Who would walk back there and dump stuff out? That’s a jerk thing to do. That’s not the person I am,” McDonald said.
McDonald told Officer Swift Sanchez that Morse had asked McDonald at a barbecue hosted by the community group Our Town if Shea “wanted to come check out a homeless encampment that he was wanting to get cleaned up,” according to Sanchez’s report.
McDonald also told Sanchez that people at the encampment might have firearms.
“I carry firearms in the woods or where it’s unsafe,” McDonald said Friday.
“For me, to pack a firearm is just a casual means of self-protection.”
In deciding not to charge the men, Devlin also considered “possible defenses and the likelihood of conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”
One of those defenses was if the men were actually trespassing on the property.
Morse told McFarlen that he knew the owner of the property and had been going there for years.
Morse said he gave Lifflick garbage bags “so they could clean up their camp and move,” according to McFarlen’s report.
In an interview last week, McDonald said he had received death threats over the incident.
“I don’t have a problem with being homeless,” he said.
“It’s the thieving and garbage and all the needles.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].