Our Town founder, Chelsea Ward had a grand idea during the latter part of 2015. She wanted to create a group that could band together to fight some of the problems facing Port Angeles including rising crime and homelessness.
It started out simple enough, an invitation to a bar-b-que and the people come to hear what she had to say.
Ward’s chief concerns seemed to be the increasing number of homeless in town and the need to do something to end homelessness. It began with a blanket exchange program and then a county sponsored needle exchange program. This morphed into a system of viewing photos of poverty stricken individuals on Our Town’s Facebook page.
Enter Adam Chamberlin. Chamberlin, a sometime truck driver, sometime process server and, allegedly often time harasser of the homeless, appeared and changed the trajectory of the nascent Our Town group. Chamberlin and others from Our Town would photograph people as they came to pick up a blanket or turn in dirty needles. These photos ended up on Our Town’s Facebook page. Naturally this drove the homeless back into the woods to save what dignity they have left.
Allegedly, Chamberlin already had a beef with someone who happened to be homeless. Most of the homeless on the streets of Port Angeles are longtime residents and some graduated high school here. There are some petty animosities that go back decades. Someone stole someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend sometime in the past.
Allegedly, Chamberlin decided to use the cover provided by “Our Town” to exact vengeance on those with whom he had a beef. Seems it became so much fun for him he decides to visit his wrath on anyone who is homeless or even if they merely appear homeless. Those viewing Our Town’s Facebook page from home are above the fray on the street and do not know one poor person from another. What is the attraction of viewing people suffering? Only they know.
Thus the rise in reports of homeless individuals being harassed as they came into town for a meal at the Salvation Army. Poor or homeless people began reporting being shot with paint-ball guns, having roofing tacks thrown in their face from a speeding car and being pepper-sprayed while driving on a public road. Another popular pass-time for Our Town devotees is to drive at high speed toward homeless people and swerve at the last minute scattering them from the sidewalk hurling insults.
Naturally this juvenile behavior began to spread and more and more began to join in the “fun’ of harassing the most vulnerable people in town. Soon they began to use Our Town’s Facebook page to recruit and alert members of “hunting parties” where Our Town devotees would all dress up on camouflage, strap on side arms and go into the ravines in town and harass the homeless camping on Rayonier property.
According to a recent police report three armed men, after discussion on the Our Town Facebook page, went into a camp and began tossing peoples belongings around and throwing their food in the mud. When a woman came out of the tent to complain they began taking photos of her saying, “this is your 15 minutes of fame baby.” Police spent 90 days investigating this incident. According to the statements made to police by the gunmen, there is sufficient evidence for conviction of the crime of harassment.
County Prosecutor, Mark Nichols took just a few days to determine there is two sides to the story and his office is incompetent to take the case to trial and win.
Our Town devotees have a strange fascination with photos of poor and downtrodden people. Chamberlin’s claim to fame, at least within the Our Town group, is his penchant for chasing the police scanner, showing up about the time a police car does, and begins taking photos of the cops making an arrest for an outstanding warrant or some such. Then he rushes back to his computer and posts the photos onto the Our Town Facebook page amid high-fives all around.
Not content with these photos Chamberlin needs more “product” for the growing appetite of the Our Town Facebook aficionados. Next Chamberlin and his posse reportedly begin stealing the cell phones of their homeless victims. Either taking them off the people physically in a strong-arm type robbery or just pocketing them during their “hunting parties” in the homeless campsites. According to police reports Chamberlin had a “sack full” of data cards from stolen cell phones.
This latter addition to the mix may have been Chamberlin’s downfall. According to police reports he took someone’s cell phone and pried into the data card on it. Using a computer he allegedly uploads the contents of the stolen cell phone data card which happens to be an intimate encounter with the owner of the stolen phone and her partner. Charging documents say Chamberlin posts these to his Facebook page and even enters risqué remarks about the performance onto the video. When the owner of the video realized her intimate act with her intimate partner was put on the internet for the entire world to see she went to police. Thankfully the police immediately made an arrest and sought a search warrant of Chamberlin’s residence. There they found a dozen other stolen cell phones and sixteen guns–one a sawed-off shotgun–ownership of which is a felony in Washington. Chamberlin is arrested and charged with two felonies and several misdemeanors including possession of “a sack full of cell phone data chips.”
In the run-up to charging Chamberlin with these felonies there was even more sinister intrigue being discussed on the Our Town Facebook page. Seems there was a small travel trailer sitting on the side of Highway 112. The owner of the trailer had allegedly been evicted from a nearby property and had nowhere to park her travel trailer which acted as her only home/shelter.
Our Town Facebook page lit up with passersby complaining about the trailer sitting on the side of the highway. The state highway patrol was already in the process of having it moved to a safer site. The owner of the trailer was identified by the Our Town Facebook posters and determined to be a worthless human being. Then the Facebook chatter suggested burning down the travel trailer–knowing someone lived in it. Photos of the travel trailer were posted on the Our Town Facebook page.
After dozens of posts on the Our Town Facebook page someone posting under the name of Brian Frazier, said to be a supervisor with the Washington Department of Corrections, suggested tossing a flare into the travel trailer. As you may expect, 12 hours later the travel trailer was burned to the ground. Luckily the owner was not asleep in the trailer at the time someone set it afire. None of the viewers on the Our Town Facebook page chimed in to suggest they re-think their intended criminal actions. All posts were in agreement.
Against this backdrop of serial bad behaviors by Our Town devotees County Prosecutor Mark Nichols refuses to press charges against the three armed men who entered into a homeless camp on Rayonier property and destroyed their camp and threw their food on the ground. Nichols excuse, “there’s conflicting reports.” One would wonder if there has ever been a trial when there was NOT conflicting reports.
With Nichols abdication of his authority this sends a signal to the vigilante community that the county prosecutor is okay with their criminal behavior. Otherwise, with the background of illegal assaults on homeless, the most vulnerable in the community, Nichols could have taken even a weak case to trial and allow that trial to act as a catharsis for the community. During the trial let the people see the activities of the Our Town gang and allow the jury to decide if this is how our community will behave. Even a losing case could be valuable to the community so long as the bad actors get some kind of “comeuppance.”
With Nichols shrug of his shoulders the plight of the homeless becomes much more dangerous.
(Original story begins here)
Port Angeles Police Department recently referred charges to Mark Nichols, Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney, against three armed gunmen accused of entering a homeless encampment, brandishing pistols while tossing the belongings of the homeless campers and throwing their food into the mud. There is evidence the three gunmen planned their “hunting party” on the “Our Town” Facebook page.
Nichols office refused to prosecute the three saying there were “inconsistent accounts” of the event. The victims tell one story and the accused tell another. Nichols office did not think they could make the charges stick so they dismissed them.
The three accused all admitted they entered the camp armed with hand guns. One of the campers said they brandished the guns while another said they never pulled the guns. Both campers agreed the three men were dressed in camouflage and were extremely aggressive and disruptive of their campsite and ruined their food.
Port O Call cannot remember a trial where there was not inconsistent stories. One offered by the victims and one denied by the accused. This is of course the reason we have juries in the criminal justice system. Each side lays out their arguments and the jury decides on the “inconsistent accounts.” Sadly, Nichols denied the jury an opportunity to sort out the stories.
Perhaps Nichols is unsure of the abilities of the prosecuting attorneys on his staff. If the only cases they will prosecute are those they think are a “cake-walk” then we may be in for a long two years before we have an opportunity to select a county prosecutor who will protect the rights of the most vulnerable among us.
Be alert to other decisions coming out of the prosecutor’s office. Another “Our Town” leader is charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors. Charges include possession of a sawed-off shotgun and possession of dozens of stolen cell phones and data cards. There will likely to be “inconsistent accounts” in this case too. Let’s let the jury sort it out.