Opinion

Christmas Eve traffic stop? The driver's side | Opinion

Far right; deputies question the driver of a trailer decorated with holiday lights and carrying Christmas carolers during a traffic stop in downtown Friday Harbor on Christmas Eve.  - Contributed photo/Brandli Law Firm
Far right; deputies question the driver of a trailer decorated with holiday lights and carrying Christmas carolers during a traffic stop in downtown Friday Harbor on Christmas Eve.
— image credit: Contributed photo/Brandli Law Firm

— Editor's note: The information below was submitted to the Journal by Brandli Law, attorney for Mark McCutcheon.

— Mark E. McCutcheon comments on the Christmas Eve traffic stop.

After dark on Christmas Eve, approximately 30 Christmas carolers on a “hay ride” through Friday Harbor were pulled over by Deputy Felix Menjivar.

During the ensuing 25-minute traffic stop, Deputy Menjivar, with his hand on his service weapon, angrily charged the driver, Mark E. McCutcheon, requiring Deputy Brad Korth to physically restrain Deputy Menjivar. The events of that evening were witnessed by the carolers and by numerous bystanders.

“We were just carrying on our family tradition of caroling through Friday Harbor on Christmas Eve,” states Mr. McCutcheon. “I am not sure what set off Deputy Menjivar. If it had not been for Deputy Korth, I do not know what would have happened. Deputy Menjivar was so angry that I was fearful that he would do something rash.“

The children on the hay ride were crying due to this event. Two days later, I was driving with my children when, upon seeing a patrol car, they crouched down in fear. This event was traumatic for all of us, but most traumatic for the children who were present.X-mas Eve traffic stop

“Deputy Felix Menjivar’s lack of self-control concerns me. I am concerned that Deputy Menjivar’s anger could cause a serious accident or could result in false criminal accusations if witnesses are not available. We are a small community who work together to solve problems. I hope that Sheriff Nou reviews this incident with our community in mind."

“I want to express my appreciation for Deputy Brad Korth’s actions Christmas Eve. In addition to restraining and calming down Deputy Felix Menjivar, Deputy Korth escorted us through the rest of our caroling route and back home. His actions Christmas Eve are what I would expect from our police.”

Mr. McCutcheon is represented by Stephen A. Brandli of Brandli Law. Please direct all inquiries to that office; 360-378-5544, One Front Street N. Ste D-2, Friday Harbor, WA.

(Editor's note: events below are presented as a "fact sheet" by Brandli Law/M. McCutcheon)

Fact sheet:

• Deputy Felix Menjivar pulled the carolers over due to inoperative tail lights on the trailer. The trailer was decorated with approximately five hundred Christmas lights.

• The carolers were sitting on hay bales with their feet to the inside of the trailer. The trailer had side boards and a tail gate to prevent the hay bales from sliding off of the trailer.

• The carolers had been caroling for about an hour throughout Friday Harbor prior to the stop. The truck and trailer never exceeded 10 MPH and mostly traveled at around 5 MPH.

• The carolers passed two churches engaged in Christmas Eve services. The church attendees joined the carolers in singing Christmas carols.• Prior to Christmas Eve, Mark E. McCutcheon had not had any significant contact with Deputy Felix Menjivar.

• In the first few minutes of the traffic stop, Deputy Felix Menjivar became angry. In response, Mark E. McCutcheon told him, “You need to get another officer. I cannot deal with you.”

• Apparently, Deputy Felix Menjivar put out an urgent request for backup. Deputy Brad Korth responded with lights and siren and arrived approximately two minutes into the traffic stop.

• During the traffic stop, with Deputy Brad Korth present, Deputy Felix Menjivar accused Mark E. McCutcheon of threatening to harm him. When Deputy Menjivar made this accusation, numerous witnesses exclaimed that Mr. McCutcheon had made no threats.

• Deputy Felix Menjivar charged Mark E. McCutcheon with his hand on his gun. He took three steps toward Mr. McCutcheon before Deputy Brad Korth physically restrained Deputy Menjivar. Deputy Korth was clearly exerting physical force on Deputy Menjivar to restrain him.

• Contrary to prior reports, most of the carolers remained in the trailer during the entire traffic stop. There were numerous bystanders, who may have been mistaken for carolers.

• There were 15 to 20 children among the carolers, ages 5 to 16. The children were crying during the traffic stop.

• At one point, one of the carolers asked Deputy Felix Menjivar to turn off his lights because they were scaring the children. Deputy Menjivar refused to do so.

• Toward the end of the traffic stop, Deputy Brad Korth had calmed down Deputy Felix Menjivar. Deputy Menjivar returned to his patrol car. At that point, the carolers, in an attempt to calm the children, began singing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Deputy Menjivar appeared to get agitated again. He grabbed his camera and took flash pictures of the trailer and scene. His actions further frightened the children.

• Mark E. McCutcheon has not been issued a citation.

 

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