FORKS — By Monday, investigators expect to review a surveillance video they hope will determine if several people harassed a Spokane family at a West End store before allegedly cutting down trees, blocking their exit from a Forks-area campground.
Brian King, Clallam County Sheriff’s Office chief criminal deputy, said Friday the video should identify at least some of those who, on Wednesday, twice allegedly asked the multiracial family if they were members of Antifa, a diffuse movement of left-wing protesters whose name is short for antifascist.
Facebook posts had erroneously said that Antifa, which President Donald Trump has blamed for escalating nationwide protests against racial injustice into violence, was busing members into the North Olympic Peninsula.
King said the family — a husband and wife, their 16-year-old daughter and the husband’s mother — reported being confronted by several people in the Forks Outfitters parking lot when they stopped at the store for camping supplies.
West End Sgt. Ed Anderson said Thursday in a press release it was seven to eight carloads.
When the family drove away in their converted school bus, at least four vehicles, some with people who were reportedly armed, followed them to their campsite on U.S. Forest Service land 5 miles north of U.S. Highway 101, the family told deputies.
Someone illegally cut down alders to block the spur road off Sitkum Sol Duc Road, which is known locally as the A Road, preventing the family’s departure, according to the sheriff’s office.
Anderson said four Forks High School teenagers removed the obstruction, allowing the tourists to leave.
“The students used their chainsaw to clear the roadway for the family,” he said in the release.
Deputies escorted the family to the Forks sheriff’s detachment for interviews. Soon after they left, their bus broke down, and deputies helped them get it running again so they could travel, Anderson said.
King said the investigation, led by Anderson, will determine if criminal harassment occurred.
He said the family told deputies they were not threatened with bodily harm and were not called disparaging names.
“They reported feeling uneasy,” King said. “They felt unsafe, and then they were being followed.
“The crime that most often fits the intent of our investigation is, did criminal harassment occur here, and were there any crimes associated with the felling of the trees and not allowing them to leave.”
Forks Outfitters owner Bruce Paul said he did not witness what occurred in the parking lot.
“There really wasn’t any commotion that I know of,” he said. “I know an event happened, but I don’t know if you’d call it a confrontation.
“There were some curious people and some onlookers.
“My employees, they didn’t know if anything was happening until after the fact.
“That’s when everybody got excited.”
The sheriff’s office did not release the names of alleged victims or the high school students who cut through the trees felled to block them. Names of high school students published on Facebook have not been confirmed.
The trees were on federal land. King said whoever cut them could face charges of malicious mischief and disorderly conduct.
The harassment was “an isolated incident and does not represent the people of Forks, said Lissy Andros, the Forks Chamber of Commerce executive director.
“We are shocked and saddened by the encounter the family experienced on Wednesday,” she said Friday in a statement.
“We have full confidence in our law enforcement community to investigate this matter.
“All are welcome in Forks, and it brings tears to think that the family from Spokane were treated badly by certain citizens of Forks,” she said.
“As Chamber E.D., I hope to have the opportunity to apologize personally to the family and invite them back to have the experience they should have had.”
King said there may be area residents with cellphone videos and photos of the incident in Forks that could supplement the store video.
He urged them to submit information to the CrimeNet anonymous tip portal at www.tinyurl.com/PDN-CrimeTips.
Information also can be provided at 360-417-2259.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected]
Executive Editor Leah Leach contributed to this [email protected]