FORKS — Authorities are preparing numerous search warrants to determine who blocked a Spokane family’s exit from Forks with downed trees during their distressing June 3 camping trip to Forks.
Brian King, Clallam County chief criminal deputy, said Friday a judge would be asked to approve “dozens” of the court orders.
He said his June 21 plea for cooperation from about 10 Forks residents he believes have direct knowledge of the event fell on deaf ears (https://tinyurl.com/PDN-StalledInvestigation).
More than one person knows who felled five alders with a chainsaw to block the family’s exit from their A-Road campsite on U.S. Forest Service land near Forks, King said, emphasizing that people were there who did not take part in the crime.
On Monday, Forks Mayor Tim Fletcher issued a plea for cooperation.
By Friday, investigators completed their in-person interviews without breaking open the case, King said. The crime that most often fits the intent of the investigation is, did criminal harassment occur here and were there any crimes associated with the felling of the trees and not allowing the family to leave, King said in an earlier interview.
While some residents have agreed to be interviewed, those with first-hand knowledge of the event have refused to answer specific questions or will not cooperate at all, King said.
In effect, nothing has changed in the last week.
“We are in the same place as we were, as we are compiling court orders to start delving into phones and social media accounts,” King said Friday.
“Now we are moving into that second phase of the investigation.”
“We believe there is evidence that may exist based on our investigation, such as potentially deleted conversations or private conversations,” he said.
“Those are constitutionally protected unless we have probable cause and [if] a judge agrees we have probable cause to obtain them.”
The tree-cutting incident capped several hours of threatening behavior by townspeople suspicious the tourists were members of the leftist movement antifa, family member Shannon Lowe told Peninsula Daily News, saying that seeing the barricade made her fear an ambush (https://tinyurl.com/PDN-Spokane Family).
Earlier that day Lowe, her daughter, her partner, and her partner’s mother were confronted en masse, their converted white school bus surrounded by carloads of people at the Thriftway-Forks Outfitters store, Lowe said.
At first blocked from leaving the parking lot, they were followed to the A-Road by a several vehicles, including one occupant with a rifle, Lowe said.
Once at their campsite, they were intentionally sprayed with gravel by all-terrain-vehicle riders, then were prevented from leaving by the tree barricade before being escorted to safety — out of town — by two county and Quileute tribal officers, Lowe said.
King said it was important to prosecute the tree cutters, not only because it was a crime that occurred on federal land but to determine their intent, even though the board-feet value of the timber was $183.
Illegally felling trees on federal land is a misdemeanor in county and federal district courts, with additional charges possible depending on the intent of those who cut them down, King said.
“We are public servants,” King said.
“Not only the city of Forks, but the greater, our greater county public have wanted answers, and they want to see justice in this case, and so we are listening to that.
“There’s been a lot of public interest in this.”
False internet and social media reports claimed members of the movement, which confronts neo-Nazis and white supremacists, were coming to rural areas of the country to trash white-owned businesses and homes and travelling to their destinations in white buses.
Lowe and her partner live and travel in a converted white school bus they call Bertha.
Her partner, who is African American, was the main person in her group who was telling the crowd in the parking lot repeatedly that they were not in the antifa movement, Lowe said.
She did not feel the crowd’s actions were racially motivated.
Police Chief Mike Rowley said Friday he was out of town June 3 on family business when he received calls about antifa coming to Forks and threatening the town.
“People were calling me about what my stand would be,” Rowley said.
“My statement was very direct and, in short, that the police department does not condone vigilantism and that there are police officers that are paid money to do the job.”
Rowley said also received a call from City Council member Mike Gilstrap that day warning of possible trouble.
“He said antifa was coming to Forks,” Rowley said.
Rowley said he told Gilstrap that if people did come to Forks who were with antifa, it would not be a crime.
Gilstrap said at a June 8 council meeting that he was in the Thriftway-Forks Outfitters parking lot when the family was being confronted.
“I told everyone to leave them alone, even if they were from antifa,” Gilstrap said at the meeting.
Gilstrap did not respond Friday to a request for comment on his call to Rowley. A message was left on his phone after the call was disconnected when the reporter identified himself and Gilstrap did not call back.
Fletcher, who initiated the effort that led to the council’s public apology to Lowe and her family at the June 8 meeting, did not respond Friday to a call for comment on the Spokane family’s experience in Forks.
Fletcher addressed the events of June 3 in his daily message Monday posted on the city website, referring first to the parking lot incident.
“I have asked those involved in that event to apologize,” Fletcher said.
“That said, I have been asking for those that caused the other event on the A Road to step forward, take responsibility for their actions and tell their side of the story.”
In his daily message on Friday, Fletcher seemed to be addressing the investigation without referring directly to the Spokane family’s visit to Forks.
“If you know something, say something to the sheriff’s office,” Fletcher said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] news.com.