Utah independent Senate candidate Evan McMullin has accused a motorist of brandishing a firearm and pointing it at him and his wife as the couple was driving home from a campaign event in April.
The allegation is described in a “victim impact statement” filed by McMullin in the District Court for Utah County, Utah, this week and obtained by CNN.
In the filing, McMullin accused the motorist, Jack Aaron Whelchel, of making unprovoked threats that included forcing the couple’s car into oncoming traffic, before aiming a firearm in a threatening manner.
Whelchel was indicted in April on misdemeanor charges of making a threat with a dangerous weapon and disorderly conduct. Whelchel pleaded not guilty to both charges. McMullin testified as a witness during a preliminary hearing in July, at which he identified Whelchel as the motorist, but the candidate has not publicly mentioned the incident.
McMullin’s statement to the court adds details about the April 10 incident.
“That night, we and Mr. Whelchel traveled along the same path for a number of miles through Utah County, which initially seemed to be happenstance or someone innocuously traveling along the same route as us,” McMullin wrote in his statement.
“Ultimately, however, Mr. Whelchel aggressively followed and chased us, pulled his truck alongside us and forced my wife and I into the oncoming lane of traffic. He then brandished a firearm, pointing it toward us in a threatening way,” McMullin added.
Whelchel’s attorney, Brixton Hakes, said his client disputes McMullin’s version of events, insisting a firearm was never aimed at the couple.
“He never brandished a firearm,” Hakes told CNN.
But during the incident, Whelchel did place a firearm on the center console of the vehicle, Hakes said.
According to Hakes, Whelchel “thought he was being followed” by McMullin, an incorrect assumption the attorney acknowledged.
Hakes said he expects the case to go to a jury trial after a scheduled hearing next month.
In his statement, McMullin pointed to Whelchel’s social media presence, which he said included accusations against politicians he opposes and about “guns being the tools with which to carry on this war against those he opposes politically.”
Whelchel’s Facebook page features several far-right memes.
McMullin also noted that, during the investigation, he learned that Whelchel has a military and law enforcement background.
“Mr. Whelchel must have been well aware of the danger posed by his actions and of their criminality that night yet he took them anyway,” McMullin wrote.
McMullin’s statement also asks the judge that any sentence against Whelchel, if convicted, include conditions to bar him from making any contact with the candidate’s family and campaign staff.
Hakes said his client no longer lives in Utah and will have to travel back to the state to stand trial.
Both men maintain they did not know one another prior to the incident.
McMullin, who is challeging Utah’s senior senator, Republican Mike Lee, said in an interview over the phone that the April incident should serve as a reminder of the danger posed by domestic extremism.
“I’m in a fight with the far right for American democracy,” McMulllin said.
A former CIA officer who sought the presidency as an independent in 2016, McMullin received the backing in April of Utah Democrats, who decided not to field a candidate in the 2022 midterm elections in order to bolster their efforts to unseat Lee.
Read from: https://edition.cnn.com/2022/08/27/politics/evan-mcmullin-utah-senate-candidate-threat-accusation/index.html