- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A Washington State Patrol trooper who has guarded the state’s past three governors has been charged, along with his wife, with evidence-tampering in their son’s vandalism case.

Trooper Daniel Tindall, 51, served in the patrol’s Executive Protection Unit, where he helped provide security for former Govs. Chris Gregoire and Gary Locke, as well as current Gov. Jay Inslee.

After their 18-year-old son, Wyatt, was accused of attempted arson and vandalism, Tindall and his wife, Melissa, hid or destroyed the clothes the boy was wearing in a surveillance video, Thurston County prosecutors said. Police said they found some of the items secreted away in the family’s second home, in the north-central Washington town of Winthrop, but it appeared some had been burned in the woodstove.

The couple were charged late last month and pleaded not guilty on Monday to tampering with evidence and rendering criminal assistance, gross misdemeanors that could bring up to a year in jail, deputy prosecutor Heather Stone said.

Daniel Tindall’s attorney, Sunni Ko, said Friday that the Tindalls had turned themselves in at the Thurston County Jail on Monday after learning an arrest warrant had been issued and were released pending trial. Ko said she had not yet reviewed the evidence turned over by prosecutors in the case and could not immediately comment further.

Tindall served on the State Patrol’s protection unit for about 12 years until being reassigned in January over issues concerning his work performance, patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said. He has now been placed on administrative leave.

The trooper was awarded the Washington State Patrol’s highest award, the Award of Honor, in 1993 for his actions after a state Department of Transportation worker was shot and others were threatened on the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge across Lake Washington.

Inslee called the news “disappointing and sad” and said that during time Tindall was on his protection unit he found him to be “professional and a nice person.”

According to police, the case began in March when the father of one of Wyatt Tindall’s classmates reported that his car had been repeatedly vandalized, with offensive notes left on it and the tires slashed. After spending $1,500 for new tires, the man, Stephen Owens, bought a new surveillance camera.

The video soon captured a suspect placing a stick and paper into the gas-tank opening and lighting them on fire. The car did not catch fire, but from the video, Owens’ daughter said she could identify the suspect as Wyatt Tindall - even though the suspect was wearing a ski mask over his face. She had previously been friends with the boy, but she had since stopped speaking with him, a deputy prosecutor wrote in a probable-cause statement supporting the charges.

Two days after the attempted arson, the suspect came back again, but Owens chased him away before any further damage was done.

In interviews with police, Wyatt Tindall’s best friend identified him as the perpetrator, according to the probable-cause statement. The friend showed investigators a Facebook message from Wyatt Tindall.

“My mom and dad found my mask and coat,” it read. “They hid them but my dad wanted to go to the cops. My mom convinced him otherwise. If I’m convicted I could go to jail for 7 years minimum.”

Wyatt Tindall has pleaded not guilty to attempted arson and malicious mischief, both felonies, and stalking, a gross misdemeanor. An officer said that in interviews that he admitted all five vandalism incidents at Owens’ house.

When an officer demanded Daniel Tindall’s phone pending a search warrant application, the trooper was reluctant to hand it over and “was observed pushing buttons on the phone,” the probable-cause statement said.

___

Johnson reported from Seattle.


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