A Chehalis Police Department officer submitted a police report containing inaccurate information after he misquoted a phone conversation with the owner of a protest bus that was wrongfully impounded on April 12.
While the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office declined to charge the officer, Beamer Dyas, with perjury, a letter disclosing the incident and investigation will be included in any future cases involving Dyas that are prosecuted through either the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office or the City of Chehalis Municipal Prosecutor’s Office.
Dyas had responded alongside Chehalis Police Sergeant William Ayers to reports of a protest bus belonging to Lewis County Lollipop Guild founder Kyle Wheeler parked in the plaza near Chehalis City Hall at 4 p.m. on April 12.
Wheeler’s Lollipop Guild is the progressive organization behind local “Rural Americans Against Racism,” “Love Thy Neighbor” and “Lewis County Welcomes Everyone” signs.
Wheeler had parked the vehicle, which bore a sign reading “Remove the Sign, Charge the Crime, KingChuckLives.com," to protest a sign that Wheeler says is improperly permitted. He accused the city of intentionally overlooking the issue because the sign was associated with former Chehalis City Councilor Chad Taylor.
Taylor resigned from the council in January after he and his wife purchased The Chronicle, where he now serves as publisher.
Based on the city’s code, Wheeler assumed he would be issued a parking ticket for being in violation of the city’s right of way and would then have 24 hours to move the vehicle before it was towed.
“So I figured sure, it may not be the most conventional thing and I may get a ticket, it’ll be 24 hours, but am I willing to pay a $250 ticket for 24 hours … that I need to stay there. I decided it was worth it,” he said.
Dyas and Ayers responded to reports that the bus was on the sidewalk at 4 p.m. on April 12 and Dyas called Wheeler to tell him to move the vehicle within half an hour or it would be towed.
Wheeler told Dyas he would be back to move the bus at 5 p.m., when the April 12 Chehalis City Council meeting was scheduled to begin, as he wanted the councilors to see the bus as they entered city hall for the council meeting.
But in Dyas’ written report of the incident, Dyas wrote “I asked him if he were able to move it and he stated that it would be a few hours before being able to move it.”
There was a note left on the vehicle that read “back in a few hours,” but the language in the report specifically referenced the phone call, which was made between 4:10 and 4:14 p.m., according to Chehalis Police Chief Randy Kaut.
Ayers’ report states “Ofc. Dyas advised he had contacted Wheeler, however said he wouldn’t be able to move the bus until a couple hours.”
Wheeler arrived as the vehicle was being towed.
He successfully contested the impound in District Court on May 5 on the grounds that the language of the city code at the time the incident occurred did not give the officers legal authority to impound the vehicle.
Wheeler later filed a complaint against Dyas and Ayers for making inaccurate statements in their reports — a claim which was verified by Wheeler’s audio recording of the phone conversation with Dyas on April 12.
“The only reason I was able to prove the false statement was because I wore a body cam that day,” said Wheeler. “If I wouldn’t have worn a body cam and been able to prove what was said on that phone call, it would have been my word against theirs, and we all know exactly how that would have gone.”
The complaint was investigated by the Yelm Police Department and was forwarded to the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office.
While the Prosecutor’s Office determined that Dyas submitted a police report that contained inaccurate information, Ayers was found innocent of falsifying information in his report.
“While his report is not accurate, (Ayers) simply included the information that was provided by Officer Dyas,” said Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer in a letter to Chehalis Police Chief Randy Kaut dated Aug. 11.
Kaut sent letters to Wheeler on Sept. 30 informing him the department was sustaining his complaints against Dyas and Ayers.
“I want to apologize for the inaccuracy of the report and let you know we will be taking appropriate action to ensure this does not happen again,” said Kaut in the letter on the complaints against Dyas.
Regarding the complaint against Ayers’ involvement in the impound, Kaut wrote, “In this case, other enforcement action would have been more appropriate, based on the circumstances of the incident … I also want to assure you we will be taking appropriate action to ensure this does not happen again.”
Wheeler told The Chronicle he is grateful for the apology and respects Kaut’s response and his willingness to listen to concerns, but he is frustrated by the department’s handling of the situation and the impound itself.
“It’s frustrating to me because these these false statements are just sort of a byproduct that was found as part of the sloppy work they did there,” said Wheeler, later adding, “I understand that they’re probably not going to run out and want to tell everybody ‘hey, we really screwed up here,’ but from my perspective, the way that we rebuild trust is for them to be the ones to run out and say, ‘hey, we really screwed up here. We’re sorry. Let’s talk about it.’”