EDITOR’S NOTE: To protect the privacy of alleged victims and witnesses, the Chinook Observer assigned pseudonyms to several people in this story. They are denoted with asterisks.
RAYMOND — Sean Jarvis, a police officer who was assigned to Raymond High School, has spent two months on paid administrative leave, awaiting the outcome of a lengthy sexual misconduct investigation.
Allegations that Jarvis, 34, behaved improperly with teen girls first arose in April 2017. School and police officials acted quickly. However, the resulting Washington State Patrol investigation became a convoluted affair, involving eight detectives, dozens of locals and more than a few dead ends, skittish witnesses and changing stories.
After 11 months, detectives had collected lots of rumors and indications of potentially serious misconduct, but they could not determine whether Jarvis actually did anything illegal.
Some people who are close to the investigation think a young officer fell prey to vicious small-town gossip, while others think there has been a miscarriage of justice in Raymond.
Jarvis declined to participate in this story. Through his attorney, he issued a statement saying he “categorically” denies “all of the material allegations,” and looks forward to returning to active duty.
‘Things start to add up’
On April 10, 2017, Raymond Police Officer Ryan Miskell arrested a drunken 20-year-old man. In the back of the patrol car, he suddenly blurted out, “[Jarvis] f----- my best friend, and she’s only 16!” Miskell, who no longer works for RPD, emailed his bosses, according to a Washington State Patrol investigation report. Raymond Police Chief Chuck Spoor asked a couple of officers to see what they could learn.
Five days later, Raymond High counselor Jessica Verboomen approached Jarvis’ supervisor, Sgt. James Samplawski. She said there were rumors of Jarvis exchanging a lot of text messages with female students.
In early May, a 16-year-old boy asked to see Verboomen. At an Ilwaco High track meet, he’d overheard a group kids saying Jarvis had sex with two under-aged female students. Verboomen immediately notified child welfare authorities and Principal Dave Vetter, who called Chief Spoor.
With Verboomen’s report, the two allegations made in April suddenly coalesced into one potentially very big problem.
“This whole time, I’m kind of mulling what we have — second and third-hand statements, one where the veracity was in question. But these things start to add up,” Spoor said on June 28.
Spoor could have had his own department investigate, but knew it would be a bad idea. Raymond’s roughly 2,800 residents have complex family ties that can make it difficult for officials to conduct business without involving their own relatives.
“I wanted an agency that didn’t really know anyone around here. I didn’t want any perceived or actual bias, for or against the officer or the people involved,” Spoor said. He couldn’t ask South Bend officers, who regularly work with Raymond police, or the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office, where Chief Criminal Deputy Pat Matlock is Jarvis’ brother-in-law. On May 8, he wrote to Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste to formally request a criminal investigation.
Not ‘that type of guy’
Even the boy who spoke to the counselor struggled to reconcile the rumors with his own impression of Jarvis.
“He doesn’t come across as that type of guy,” he said, when detectives Krista Hedstrom and Matt McMillen, of WSP’s Bremerton-based Criminal Investigation Division, interviewed him in late May 2017.
People often notice Jarvis’ distinctive southern drawl — an artifact of his upbringing in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Jarvis came to the Northwest after enlisting in the Army in 2004, at age 20. According to his hometown newspaper, he trained to be a recruiter. He was later transferred to Washington.
In 2008, he married a Pacific County native and began working as a corrections officer at Pacific County Jail. Shoalwater Bay Tribal Police Chief and current candidate for sheriff Robin Souvenir hired Jarvis for his first police job. While attending police academy, he applied to Raymond Police Department and was hired in April 2012.
Jarvis is one of the county’s two police dog handlers. Deko, a highly-trained German shepherd, lives with the Jarvis family. Deko and Jarvis have helped with several high-profile cases on the Peninsula, including a 2017 drug raid at the go-carts in Long Beach.
Documents obtained through public records requests show that prior to May 2017, Jarvis had few disciplinary issues. He was counseled about drinking in public during his off-hours, urged to do more traffic stops and reminded to be more observant at crime scenes.
He was generally considered to be a good officer. In a 2016 job evaluation, Chief Spoor praised him for being punctual, thorough and helpful — and for putting in extra time to build relationships with youths.
Role model and friend
In February 2015, Jarvis was assigned to work as a school resource officer at Raymond High School. Resource officers address school safety concerns like drugs and gangs. They’re also expected to act as role models and mentors.
Jarvis played basketball with students, even when he wasn’t on duty. He sometimes brought Deko, which inevitably drew kids who wanted to pet the dog. The boy who disclosed the track-meet rumors said when he was in the midst of a crisis, Jarvis told him to reach him through social media if he needed to talk to someone.
Some people thought Jarvis was too friendly with students. Several current and former students said Jarvis sent them “friend requests” on social media. Verboomen began to hear other, more concerning rumors.
Vetter, the high school principal, never saw Jarvis flirt with students, but still thought he was too casual and spent too much time joking around. He was “pretty flaky and not the type of role model I want around kids,” Vetter told detectives. He asked for a different resource officer in March 2017.
The late shift
Several witnesses had serious legal problems of their own. Gossip, fear of speaking out against an officer and the subjects’ own tangled relationships further complicated matters.
Miskell, the former RPD officer, thought he knew which 16-year-old girl his arrestee had alluded to. Verboomen had heard rumors about Jarvis and the same girl, Jennifer*. But when Hedstrom, the lead detective, interviewed the arrestee, he spoke instead about Jennifer’s cousin, Mary*, who allegedly confided to him that she’d had sex with Jarvis in his patrol car. Mary was at least 18 at the time of the alleged encounter, so Hedstrom interviewed the young man again, this time pressing him to talk about Jennifer. According to Hedstrom’s report, “… he became agitated and said ‘he wasn’t looking for any trouble.’”
In late May, detectives talked to Mary, who was then 22. She said she began “an emotional relationship” with Jarvis as a 16-year-old student, after another cousin introduced them. Jarvis was “an acquaintance and friend” until March 2013, when he responded to a call where she was the suspect, she said. After the incident, he allegedly “friended” Mary on Snapchat, a phone app that allows people to exchange self-destructing messages. This occurred one month after Mary turned 18.
Mary said she often sat with Jarvis in his patrol car while he worked the late shift. According to the report, “She said Jarvis allowed her to drink alcohol in his patrol car while they talked. She said he would run license plates every so often through dispatch to appear as though he was working.”
Mary denied having sexual contact with Jarvis, other than one isolated exchange of nude photos. The friendship ended in 2015.
Several people said they never had problems with Jarvis and didn’t believe the allegations. But in other interviews, Jennifer, Mary and two other girls came up repeatedly.
In an August jailhouse interview, Jennifer said Mary had started her relationship with Jarvis at 17. Jennifer said she too was propositioned by Jarvis when she was 15 or 16, and said he tried to “friend” her on Facebook twice — once under his real name, and once under the assumed name, “Ralph Muarry.” Raymond and South Bend officers said they’d seen Jarvis using the Muarry account, which he claimed he’d set up to use in burglary investigations.
Amanda*, another of Mary’s cousins, spoke to detectives in August while she was incarcerated. She too claimed Jarvis frequently spent time with Mary during his shifts. She didn’t think it was a sexual relationship, and said Mary was 18, not 16, when she met Jarvis.
Another girl, Ella*, said that in summer 2016, Jarvis saw her walking home after going swimming and offered her a ride. She was 15 or 16 at the time. As he drove, Jarvis allegedly placed his hand high up on her bare thigh. Ella said she told him to pull over. As she tried to get out of his car, he allegedly turned and reached over her body. Ella said she told him “F--- you,” as she left, and Jarvis asked her not to say anything. Ella said she didn’t tell anyone about the incident until the investigation began.
Two boys asked to see the detectives in June. They said a female friend claimed Jarvis was having inappropriate interactions with teen girls whom he caught drinking or doing drugs. The boys named several of the same girls others had implicated. But they had only third-hand information, and Verboomen, the counselor, said one of the boys had been vocal about his dislike of Jarvis in the past.
Two detectives spoke to a male jail inmate who claimed to have incriminating content on his phone. However, he wouldn’t talk unless the detectives helped him get out of jail. Instead, they waited for him to be released and went to his home three weeks later. The man referred them to his girlfriend, who also said she had “proof” on her phone, but couldn’t show them because it was charging. She promised to get in touch later, but never did.
An Observer reporter asked to speak to a detective with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, WSP arranged an interview with Lt. Randy Hullinger, a spokesman for the Criminal Investigation Division. Hullinger said detectives may not have pursued social media or phone records for the witnesses who claimed to have “proof” because they didn’t have sufficient evidence to secure search warrants. A witness’ claim that they have valuable information is not necessarily enough to establish probable cause that a crime was committed, Hullinger said.
“Throughout the process, I think that was the big problem — ‘We can’t get a search warrant.’
I don’t think it was so much about not getting a search warrant, as not being able to get a search warrant,” Hullinger said.
‘Maybe I forgot’
From May to October, state detectives conducted numerous interviews, but recorded few of them. Some subjects refused to be recorded.
Hullinger said it’s not uncommon for detectives to do unrecorded interviews early in an investigation. However, the detectives needed audio or video. Without it, a defense attorney could claim the detectives fabricated or exaggerated parts of their report.
By November, the investigation was taking a toll on many of the people involved.
One of the alleged victims told Verboomen, the counselor, she was angry that Jarvis was still working.
“See?” she said, “I knew no one would believe me.” Several additional detectives began doing recorded follow-up interviews. But by then, people were changing their stories.
In July, Pacific County Jail Corrections Officer Tony Kimball, a close friend of Jarvis, had given an eyebrow-raising, but unrecorded interview. Asked if the allegations surprised him, he allegedly answered, “Yes and no.” Kimball told detectives he once asked Jarvis if any of the rumors were true, but “forgot” how Jarvis responded.
“Maybe I forgot,” Kimball told the detectives. “Maybe we’re friends.” When detectives tried to talk to Kimball again in early December, he refused to speak with them.
Hedstrom approached Jennifer while she was shopping with her grandmother in December. Jennifer promised to follow up later that day, but didn’t. When Hedstrom and another detective went to the grandmother’s home, the woman said Jennifer didn’t want to talk to them, and had made the whole thing up.
“[Jennifer] has a history of lying and making things up when she is using [drugs],” the grandmother said.
The Observer asked Hullinger to find out why detectives did not pursue this and some other leads further. He didn’t respond before the paper’s publication deadline.
“I would just reiterate these investigations go where they take us,” Hullinger said. “We are very careful not to make up something where there isn’t something, or make something bigger than it appears to be.”
Lots of smoke
By early 2018, detectives had a whole lot of nothing — allegedly incriminating phone and social media records they couldn’t view, disappearing witnesses they didn’t track down and many conflicting stories. They’d spoken to Ella again about the alleged groping incident. Her story was consistent, but her description of Jarvis’ vehicle had changed, and she said she had smoked marijuana before the incident. Hedstrom wasn’t sure the girl’s memory was reliable.
She closed the investigation in April 2018.
“The allegation that Officer Sean Jarvis had sexual contact with several Raymond High School students cannot be confirmed,” she wrote in conclusion.
Chief Spoor asked Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer to decide whether to press criminal charges against Jarvis. He also asked the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and a private attorney who specializes in workplace inquiries to determine whether Jarvis violated Raymond PD policies. The internal investigations concluded recently, but have not yet been released to the Observer.
“Certainly, there are some very serious allegations. However, the allegations that are criminal in nature cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Meyer wrote in a May 31 letter. “As a result, charges would not be appropriate.”
Spoor placed Jarvis on leave after the investigation concluded. He will remain on leave until Spoor decides whether to terminate him — a decision he expects to make soon. Spoor expects some citizens to criticize him for being too soft on Jarvis, others for being too hard on him.
“I’m open to criticism on that. People can disagree. I get it,” Spoor said. “I was trying to do the right thing for everyone involved.”
Follow-up reporting will look into the results of Raymond Police Department’s internal investigation and related matters.