Benton County Asks State Attorney General and State Patrol for Criminal Investigation of Sheriff


Benton County commissioners are calling for a criminal investigation into the 14,000 rounds of county-owned ammunition found late last year at 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 move was proposed by Commissioner Jerome Delvin and 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.

The 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 up what was left of her estranged husband's personal items in their Kennewick home.

The cases of ammo for several different types of guns were found in the garage.

Jerry Hatcher has not lived in the Badger Canyon home since early September, just before Monica Hatcher filed to end their eight-year marriage.

However, after a judge granted a temporary protection order for Monica Hatcher, the sheriff was ordered to hand over all of his weapons to Kennewick police. That included his service pistol.

Monica Hatcher detailed the discovery in a court filing in February. She included black-and-white photocopies of pictures of the ammo cases, along with guns she also says were found in the garage.

Jerry Hatcher previously told the Tri-City Herald he complied with the divorce court order, and made Kennewick police and his attorney aware of what was left at the house.

He claims 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 when available.

He said having the property at his home is not illegal, nor does it violate department policy.

Hatcher legal troubles

Tuesday's request is the latest in a string of investigations and legal matters involving Hatcher and the Benton County Sheriff's Office.

Last week, a Walla Walla County judge ruled that sheriff's Sgt. Jason Erickson can move forward with an effort to recall his boss.

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. Their statement at the time called the cache "extraordinary" and "somewhat mindboggling."

Commissioners have sent letters to the deputies union saying they support the employees in their no-confidence vote and then the recall vote. The county board has refused to pay Hatcher's legal fees to fight the recall.

Hatcher has accused the county commissioners of playing politics, though the sheriff and all three commissioners are Republicans. The board last fall removed the county jail from the sheriff's control.

Erickson now needs to gather 14,000 valid signatures of registered Benton County voters in order to hold a special recall election.

Hatcher is expected to appeal the judge's decision to the Washington state Supreme Court.

His attorney on the recall matter, George Telquist, argued last week that it's all an attempt by Hatcher's command staff to perform a coup d'etat and thwart the voters' will.

Telquist said the ammunition was purchased in 2016, months before Hatcher became sheriff, and there was no standard or rule in Benton County that was violated by him having the county-owned equipment at home.


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