Utah Senate candidate accuses motorist of threatening him with a gun
The allegation is described in a « victim impact statement » filed by McMullin in Utah County District Court in Utah this week and obtained by CNN.
In the filing, McMullin accused the motorist, Jack Aaron Whelchel, of making unprovoked threats, including forcing the couple’s car into oncoming traffic, before aiming a gun in a threatening manner.
Whelchel was charged in April with felony threats with a dangerous weapon and disorderly conduct. Whelchel pleaded not guilty to both counts. McMullin testified as a witness at a preliminary hearing in July, during which he identified Whelchel as the motorist, but the candidate did not publicly mention the incident.
McMullin’s statement to the court adds details about the April 10 incident.
« That night, we and Mr. Whelchel traveled the same path for several miles through Utah County, which initially seemed like a fluke or someone innocently traveling the same route as us, » wrote McMullin in his statement.
« In the end, however, Mr. Whelchel followed and chased us aggressively, pulled his truck alongside us and forced my wife and I into the oncoming traffic lane. He then brandished a weapon fire, pointing it at us in a threatening manner, » McMullin added. .
Whelchel’s attorney, Brixton Hakes, said his client disputes McMullin’s version of events, insisting a gun was never pointed at the couple.
« He never wielded a gun, » Hakes told CNN.
But during the incident, Whelchel placed a gun on the center console of the vehicle, Hakes said.
According to Hakes, Whelchel « believed he was being followed » by McMullin, an incorrect assumption that the lawyer acknowledged.
Hakes said he expects the case to go to trial by jury after a hearing scheduled for next month.
In his statement, McMullin pointed to Whelchel’s social media presence, which he said included accusations against politicians he opposes and « guns being the tools with which to wage this war against those whom he opposes. » he opposes politically ».
Whelchel’s Facebook page features several far-right memes.
McMullin also noted that during the investigation he learned that Whelchel had military and police training.
« Mr. Whelchel must have been well aware of the danger posed by his actions and their criminality that night, but he took them anyway, » McMullin wrote.
McMullin’s statement also asks the judge that any sentence against Whelchel, if convicted, include conditions prohibiting him from contact with the candidate’s family and campaign staff.
Hakes said his client no longer lives in Utah and will have to return to the state for trial.
The two men claim they did not know each other before the incident.
McMullin, who is challenging Republican senior Utah senator Mike Lee, said in a phone interview that the April incident should serve as a reminder of the danger posed by domestic extremism.
« I stand with the far right for American democracy, » McMulllin said.