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Former police officer charged with on-duty sexual assault

A former Powell Police officer has been charged with a felony in connection with allegations that he had unwanted sexual contact with a woman while on duty.

 

 

Kirk B. Chapman is facing a count of third-degree sexual assault, which alleges he used his position of authority as a police officer to get a Powell woman to submit to sexual contact last September. According to charging documents filed in the case, the woman alleges Chapman touched her genitals, rubbed his groin on her rear end and kissed her after stopping by her residence early one morning under the auspices of checking to make sure she was all right.

Chapman has yet to enter a plea to the charge, but he repeatedly denied the allegations to Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agents when they questioned him about the incident a year ago, charging documents say. Chapman reportedly told the DCI agents he was not at the woman’s home at the time she says he was.

The case against the 39-year-old Chapman was bound over to Park County’s District Court last week after Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters found there was enough evidence for the case to proceed. As with all cases involving an allegation of sexual assault, state law required all court information about Chapman’s case to be confidential up until Waters’ decision to send the case to District Court. Sexual assault cases are the only cases in Wyoming where state law prohibits the release of the defendant’s name prior to the case reaching District Court.

Records in the recently-unsealed file show the charge was filed by the Park County Attorney’s Office in July. Deputy Park County Sam Krone is prosecuting the case.

During a Sept. 14 preliminary hearing, Krone noted that the woman accurately described personal information about Chapman, and he specifically highlighted the fact that the woman’s statement that Chapman bumped his mic while rubbing against her matches up with dispatch logs.

“That is hard to un-explain from the defense’s perspective how this person would know the mic was keyed during that period of time during the earlier morning hours,” Krone said during the preliminary hearing.

Questioning at the hearing from Chapman’s court-appointed attorney, Bill Simpson of Cody, indicated the former officer’s defense may include arguments that the woman has mental health problems that damage her credibility, that she was “extremely intoxicated” that night, that the timeline she has given doesn’t square up with records and that she’d been angry when Chapman arrested her on suspicion of a misdemeanor alcohol-related charge a year earlier. Simpson also said Chapman had once assisted with committing the woman to a hospital against her will because she had been deemed a threat to herself or others.

DCI agents Andrew Hanson and Dan Ladd of the agency’s Riverton office interviewed the woman last September, a couple weeks after the incident in question.

The events in dispute started a little before 2 a.m., when Powell police stopped to deal with two men they saw wrestling outside a downtown bar.

The woman told the DCI agents that she stepped outside looking for one of the men and saw Officer Chapman and Officer Chad Glick. Apparently having some concern she would get in trouble for public intoxication, the woman asked the officers for a ride home. Chapman agreed.

By both of their accounts, the conversation turned to the woman’s past on the way home — apparently relating to self-mutilation known as cutting — and she became upset and emotional.

Chapman, by both his and the woman’s accounts to DCI, consoled her, speaking with her in front of her house and giving her his personal cell phone number.

“It’s not unusual, it’s certainly not criminal and in fact it’s one of the things that a good officer should do to try to make sure that people are OK,” Simpson said of consoling a distraught individual. He noted that Chapman’s radio correspondence with dispatchers indicates he stayed at her house approximately six minutes, leaving around 2:13 a.m.

In contrast, the woman reportedly told Hanson that Chapman stayed more than 30 minutes and during that time hugged her and rubbed and patted her back before leaving.

But it’s what happened later that is really in controversy.

Chapman told the DCI agents he never went back to the woman’s residence that night, the affidavit says. The woman, however, said that about an hour after Chapman dropped her off, she awoke to find him knocking on her door and ringing the doorbell.

“According to (the woman), Chapman told her he was concerned for her welfare since she had been upset when he left. (The woman) assured Chapman that she was OK,” Hanson wrote.

The woman said Chapman came in and began talking about her past. The woman said she became upset again and Chapman began touching scars on her leg and massaging her body, including her breasts. When she was very uneasy and suggested he go back, the woman says Chapman told her to lay down and relax and rubbed her. She said Chapman put his hand up her shorts and touched her genitals, causing her to jump and him to apologize, but he touched her there again and rubbed her buttocks, the affidavit says.

The woman said she then stood and told Chapman he should return to work, but he bent her over the futon and began rubbing his groin against her buttocks, the affidavit says.

It was then, the woman reportedly told the DCI agents, that the officer accidentally bumped his mic — prompting dispatch to ask Chapman for his status.

The woman recounted that Chapman did not answer the first status check and raised his finger to his mouth in a “shhhh” motion. Chapman then told the dispatcher he’d inadvertently bumped the radio with his knee, the woman said.

The DCI agents later retrieved audio from the police department “that appear to to match the description of the events as provided by (the woman),” Hanson wrote.

At 4:46 a.m., an open mic is heard and a dispatcher checks on Chapman’s status, Hanson wrote. After the dispatcher asks for Chapman’s status a second time, Chapman responds that he is OK and explains that “I think I was riding around and I might have hit it (the mic) with my knee.”

Agent Ladd, the only witness called at the preliminary hearing, testified there is a voice that can be heard in the background of Chapman’s conversation with dispatch. However, under questioning from Simpson, Ladd acknowledged that a DCI report referring to the voice on the recording as female is inaccurate, as “there’s a voice on there; I can’t say for sure it’s a female voice.”

When the DCI agents asked Chapman about the open mic last September, Chapman reportedly said he’d been riding in another officer’s patrol car that night — a fact the agents confirmed — and said the different set-up led him to bump the mic, the affidavit says.

When asked how the woman would know about his radio traffic, the officer asked “does she have a scanner?” and otherwise said he wouldn’t know, Hanson wrote.

After the alleged rubbing, the woman said she told Chapman she needed to go bed and they walked to the door. At that point, the woman told the DCI agents, Chapman grabbed her and kissed her. The officer then had her turn off the porch light, and he left, the woman reportedly said.

DCI confirmed that she told a number of friends about the alleged incident that next day, including calling one friend at 5:01 a.m.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office had asked for DCI’s assistance in investigating the allegations. The affidavit does not say how or when the incident came to the attention of the sheriff’s office.

The affidavit does say that the woman told Hanson and Ladd that prior to the touching, Chapman showed her a tattoo on his arm he said he’d partially removed with a blowtorch, along with showing another on his right calf. While showing that tattoo, the woman said she saw a knife in his right boot.

Chapman later confirmed the location of those tattoos and the knife.

Hanson wrote that he “asked Chapman if there was any reason that (the woman) would know about the knife or the tattoo he had on his right leg. Chapman responded by saying, ‘I don’t know.’”

Chapman told Hanson he showed the woman the tattoo on his arm and later said he “might have” shown the tattoo on his leg when he dropped her off, the affidavit says. Chapman consistently told the DCI agents he had not gone back to the woman’s residence, the affidavit says. Simpson said the 26 miles Chapman put on his patrol car between 3 a.m. — when he left a fuel pump — and 5 a.m. — when he arrived at the police station — meant he’d done quite a bit of patrolling during that time frame.

Chapman reportedly told Hanson that Officer Glick could attest to where he’d been, but Glick told the agents he could not.

Judge Waters bound the case over to District Court following the Sept. 14 hearing. Before doing so, the judge said the biggest legal issue is whether the state’s allegations are enough to support the contention that Chapman used his position of authority to make the woman submit to sexual contact.

Waters noted there is no allegation that Chapman threatened the woman, but he said there’s an argument to be made that Chapman was letting the woman know the knife was there by showing the leg tattoo.

“That (allegation) is certainly unusual to say the least, because I think we can safely say that police officers generally don’t want the public to know what they’re carrying,” Waters said, referring to a secondary weapon.

The woman reportedly told Hanson that she believed Chapman showed her the knife to intimidate her.

“At the conclusion of the interview, (the woman) told the agents that she was ‘very scared of Chapman’ because ‘he used his position’ against (her) to ‘violate’ her,” Hanson wrote.

An arraignment hearing for Chapman, where he will enter a plea, has not yet been set in District Court.

In a Wednesday interview, Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt said that after the department was made aware of the allegations last year, Chapman was placed on administrative leave while investigations were pending. Eckerdt said Chapman did not return to duty before resigning in November. Eckerdt would not comment further — including on the findings of an internal investigation — saying it was a personnel matter confidential under state law.

Chapman is currently living with his family in Wisconsin and working at a hardware store, court records say. He is free on a $2,500 cash bond.

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