The Criminal Justice Training Commission’s investigation into former Morton Police Chief Roger Morningstar has turned up evidence Morningstar sexually harassed fellow employees and citizens at both the Morton Police Department and his previous police jobs, lied on his application to the Morton Police Department, misused public funds, and mishandled an investigation into an attempted burglary by a registered sex offender.
While the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) case into the complaints filed against Morningstar, who resigned in lieu of termination on June 2 after he failed a polygraph exam, remained open as of Tuesday, the investigation itself was formally wrapped up on April 27 and the lead investigator’s report has subsequently become public record.
The Chronicle received a copy of the investigation report on Tuesday.
CJTC formally referred the investigative material, which includes recommendations for possible disciplinary action, to the state Attorney General’s Office on May 25, according to the documents.
The investigation began April 11 after a citizen filed a complaint with CJTC alleging Morningstar “has an association to extremist organizations” and “had been involved in something unethical while employed by the Quinault Nation Police Department,” according to the documents. The same citizen filed a separate complaint against Morningstar in January.
While CJTC ultimately did not find substantial evidence linking Morningstar directly to extremist organizations, CJTC did confirm Morningstar resigned from the Quinault Nation Police Department in lieu of termination due to unethical conduct and then lied about it on his application to the Morton Police Department, according to the documents.
The investigation also unearthed a disturbing pattern of alleged unethical behavior by Morningstar spanning his law enforcement career in Washington.
Morningstar served in the U.S. Air Force from 1996 to 1999, when he started working for the Arizona Department of Corrections and serving in the Army National Guard as a military police officer. He worked for a tribal police department in Fallon, Nevada, from 2007 to 2012. At some point after 2012, he worked for the Sauk Suiattle Police Department, then for the Quinault Nation Police Department, from which he resigned in 2015. He then worked for the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen before he was hired as Morton’s chief of police in December of 2016.
Sexual misconduct within the Quinault Nation Police Department
In 2015, a citizen and two female Quinault Nation Police Department employees accused Morningstar, who was a sergeant at the time and their superior, of sexual harassment. The department’s investigation into those allegations resulted in Morningstar resigning in lieu of termination on April 1, 2015, according to the documents.
One of the employees, who was a corrections officer at the time, reported an incident where Morningstar showed up at her residence without prior notice, “bringing her temporary uniforms to try on,” and insisted on coming into her residence and “waiting to see if they fit,” according to the documents. She additionally claimed Morningstar often made inappropriate comments to her, including repeatedly insulting her boyfriend and telling her she could make up for lost points on a test for a police officer position by showing him pictures of herself on her phone.
The other employee, who was an officer at the time, was reportedly in a sexual relationship with Morningstar “that was similar to a quid pro quo because Morningstar was making a lot of promises to her to continue the sexual relationship,” according to the documents. When asked by a CJTC investigator in 2023 “if he believed that Morningstar used his power of position over her to obtain a sexual relationship,” one of the officers who conducted the 2015 investigation said, “absolutely,” and added, “that guy should not be in law enforcement,” according to the documents.
The officer reportedly confirmed Morningstar sent “inappropriate texts” to the employee on his department-issued cellphone, which was part of the reason why he was put on administrative leave from the Quinault Police Department on March 9, 2015, according to the documents.
Days prior, on March 3, 2015, a citizen who worked as a barista in Pacific Beach filed a written complaint against Morningstar alleging he had become a regular customer at the coffee shop she worked at and had started harassing her. Morningstar allegedly left her large tips, offered to buy her tickets to a show in Las Vegas and was “constantly telling her she was so amazing and beautiful” and bringing her food at work, despite the citizen asking him to stop “because it was constant, and he was married and she was engaged,” according to the documents. After she blocked Morningstar on social media, Morningstar allegedly found her phone number online and began texting her. After leaving a $20 tip one day, Morningstar allegedly texted her to ask for a photo of her cleavage and later informed her he knew where her house was. The citizen additionally reported an incident when she told Morningstar she and her fiance had an argument and Morningstar allegedly “went around town telling people they were not going to get married.” She confronted him and, after apologizing profusely, he allegedly made another request for a photo of her cleavage.
“She refused and he eventually left her alone,” according to the documents.
In his report of Morningstar’s April 2015 resignation, the Quinault Nation police chief at the time wrote a report, which was quoted directly in the CJTC documents, reading, “Morningstar told me he had made a mistake with his involvement with (the officer) but denied the information about the barista’s statement. He did confirm some of the information about the conversation with (the corrections officer). I explained to him that I could not give him a good reference for any other position in law enforcement and he said he understood.”
Applying to the Morton Police Department
Morningstar was hired as the Morton police chief in December 2016, the same time the previous police chief and current mayor of Morton, Dan Mortensen, retired from the position.
As part of its investigation, CJTC completed a records request to the City of Morton for Morningstar’s background information.
“Based on the information I received, it appears Morningstar falsified and omitted information to the employer when he applied for the Morton police chief position” a CJTC investigator wrote in the investigation report.
Specifically, CJTC confirmed Morningstar omitted information about the citizen complaint and the complaint from the corrections officer and, in his interview with the background investigator, Morningstar claimed “he never saw any written complaint” and blatantly lied about the Quinault Police Department’s internal investigations. According to the documents, Morningstar claimed “he felt that no investigation was even occurring,” wrongfully stated the officer he was in a relationship with “promptly resigned” when shown the inappropriate texts, and claimed he resigned after a couple of months with no movement on the investigation.
In his application, Morningstar falsely wrote his reason for leaving the Quinault Police Department was “family reasons, after dealing with harassment,” according to the documents.
Morningstar additionally lied about his reason for leaving the Sauk Suiattle Police Department, where he also resigned in lieu of termination for unethical conduct, including sexual harassment and stalking, according to the documents. In that case, he was given the option to take a polygraph but resigned instead, according to the documents.
Misconduct within the Morton Police Department
Over the course of its investigation, CJTC documented three reports of sexual harassment by Morningstar while he was employed with the Morton Police Department, in addition to allegations that Morningstar misused public funds and mishandled an investigation into an attempted burglary.
Multiple people CJTC interviewed during the investigation into Morningstar’s conduct in Morton indicated they knew more people who had been sexually harassed by Morningstar but would not come forward due to fear of repercussions, according to the documents.
On April 9, 2023, a City of Morton employee who runs the city’s youth mentor program reported there were “money issues between her and Chief Morningstar,” who she identified as her supervisor. She reported she had tried to write a $15 check for her program only for the check to bounce, after which she learned “there were thousands of dollars missing” from the account.
When the employee reported the money issue to city hall, a clerk reportedly confirmed “Morningstar is not (the employee’s) supervisor” and set up an account for the program Morningstar did not have access to, according to the documents.
In addition to the financial issue, the employee reported Morningstar had repeatedly made inappropriate sexual comments to her and had repeatedly showed up to her house unannounced when her husband wasn’t home.
When interviewed by a CJTC investigator, the employee also recalled an incident that happened a couple years prior when she reportedly saw Morningstar “yelling and screaming” at a juvenile girl who had come in to report sexual abuse by her stepfather. The employee claimed Morningstar was “throwing things across the room to scare her” before he called the parents to pick the girl up. When the employee vocalized concern, Morningstar allegedly told her “it was fine because the minor had made up accusations like this before,” according to the documents.
On April 19, the CJTC investigator took a report from a citizen who reported Morningstar came into the store she worked at in 2021, grabbed her by the pigtails and said, “giddy up, giddy up,” according to the documents. The citizen also reported Morningstar behaved “very flirtatious” toward her, had been “very ‘handsy” with her and texted her in the middle of the night, “which she finds odd since they are not friends,” according to the documents.
CJTC also took a recorded statement from a former officer with the Morton Police Department who reportedly left the department because she was being harassed by Morningstar.
The officer reported an incident in 2019 when she received a photo of naked genitalia via text from then-training officer Chris Fulton, who has since resigned from the department for unrelated reasons. The officer told CJTC she reported the incident to Morningstar and asked him to handle it, but Morningstar allegedly “laughed it off and said, ‘well, maybe he did that because he likes you,’” according to the documents. Aside from that incident, the officer said Morningstar repeatedly made inappropriate sexual comments to the officer, despite her asking him to stop.
“She did not know who to go to (to) report his behavior,” according to the documents.
The officer also recalled an incident where she entered Morningstar’s office and found him with a woman “pinned up against the wall” while the woman’s child was alone in the squad room. Morningstar allegedly told the officer “the woman was reporting an incident,” according to the documents.
All three parties interviewed by CJTC about harassment by Morningstar told the investigator they had reported the inappropriate behavior to Morton Mayor Dan Mortensen, but said they did not believe action was taken.
Mortensen declined The Chronicle’s request for comment on the investigation report on Wednesday.
Mishandling attempted burglary investigation
While the bulk of CJTC’s investigation stemmed from the citizen complaint filed in April 2023, investigators also looked into a separate complaint filed by another citizen in March 2023.
In that complaint, the citizen accused Morningstar of mishandling an investigation into an attempted burglary that took place at her Mossyrock residence on Feb. 22, 2023.
The citizen was reportedly walking her daughter home when she said she saw a man standing at the bottom of her steps, staring at her. That man was later identified as Rupp W. Freece, 32, a level 3 sex offender who was most recently convicted in 2014 for sexually assaulting a woman after she allowed him into her home to use the phone.
The citizen reported asking Freece if he needed help, to which he allegedly replied, “I have been wanting to say hi to you for a while now,” according to the documents. He allegedly repeated the statement before walking back toward his truck, at which point the citizen ran inside with her children and called 911.
While she was inside, Freece allegedly knocked on the door to the residence and then turned the doorknob and pressed against the door in an attempt to enter the residence, according to court documents cited in previous Chronicle coverage.
The citizen’s husband reportedly returned home while Freece was still on the property and confronted him, at which point Freece allegedly got into his truck and fled the scene, with the citizen’s husband following.
The citizen’s daughter reportedly took a photo of the truck’s license plate, which was provided to Morningstar.
Morningstar reportedly responded to the 911 call and, “at some point,” was patched through to the husband’s cellphone.
“Due to the poor weather conditions and the fact that Morningstar did not believe he had probable cause for a crime, he told (the husband) to stop following (Freece),” according to the documents.
Morningstar reportedly classified the call as a “suspicious person” instead of “attempted burglary” in his report.
Morningstar reportedly conducted a records check and confirmed the truck belonged to Freece. He then reportedly took the citizen’s statement, gave her husband information on how to obtain a protection order and allegedly told the citizen, “he didn’t get inside the home, so there’s nothing that can be done, but I’ll tell you what, I can send one of my officers over there and we can just have him trespassed and tell him he can’t come on your property,” according to the documents.
The citizen reportedly visited the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office the next day, Feb. 23, and spoke to a deputy and the detective who oversees the sex offender unit.
The citizen contacted the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office again on Feb. 24 after receiving no updates from the Morton Police Department. A deputy then reportedly followed up and confirmed Morningstar’s report had not included the detail that Freece had allegedly attempted to enter the home. At that point, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office stepped in to conduct its own investigation and arrested Freece on Feb. 25. On Monday, Feb. 27, he was charged in Lewis County Superior Court with one count of attempted residential burglary, to which he pleaded not guilty.
The state attorney general’s office has since filed a petition to have Freece involuntarily committed as a sexually violent predator due to his alleged re-offense.
A current officer with the Morton Police Department who CTJC interviewed as part of the investigation said he recalled Morningstar had “minimized the case” at the time and “was very upset” when the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office intervened, according to the sheriff’s office.
When asked why he believed Morningstar minimized the severity of the incident, the officer stated, “I know exactly why. He and I have a couple instances I can even point at this. He goes to handle a call. He doesn’t want to do a thorough job or a thorough investigation. He wants to simplify it and, ‘Oh, hey, nothing we can do here,’ and then be done with it. Maybe write a couple paragraph report and then be done with it. He doesn’t want to go further into any kind of investigation,” according to the documents.
A former Morton reserve officer reportedly confirmed Morningstar “just completely minimized, for lack of better terms,” that attempted burglary call, according to the documents. The reserve officer additionally claimed Morningstar “is often untruthful, and the department is a mess because of the lies by Morningstar.”
While the CJTC’s investigation into Morningstar’s alleged connections to extremist groups turned up “an absence of facts linking Morningstar directly to an extremist organization,” the investigator did find some evidence online indirectly tying Morningstar to extremist groups the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer and Constitutional Sheriffs and Police Officers Association.
Specifically, the investigation turned up a photo of Morningstar posing with Proud Boys associate Dion Thompson in September 2020 after a Morton City Council meeting and found Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibsen’s Facebook friend list included Morningstar. A Chronicle photo from a freedom rally held in Mossyrock in December of 2020 shows Gibsen filming Morningstar during a speech, the investigator noted.
Morningstar faced public backlash in September of 2020 after he erected an 8-foot-tall, gold painted three-dimensional structure on his front lawn to show his support for then-President Donald Trump. At the time, Morningstar told The Chronicle “that any idea suggesting he supports white supremacy is ‘ridiculous,’” according to previous Chronicle reporting.
At a Sept. 28, 2020 Morton City Council meeting, two Morton residents called for Morningstar to be fired for refusing to enforce mask mandates, but, “In the end, the city council did not allow those two items to be heard and the chief retained his job,” according to the documents.
The next day, Sept. 29, 2020, Morningstar spoke at a conference for the Constitutional Sheriffs and Police Officers Association, which the Anti-Defamation League defines as “a large anti-government extremist group whose primary purpose is to spread anti-government propaganda and to recruit from law enforcement personnel," according to the documents.
In his presentation, Morningstar spoke about how he “took a stand” against an initiative that made it illegal for people under the age of 21 to buy a semiautomatic rifle and “said he would not be enforcing that law because it is unconstitutional and a violation of the second amendment,” spoke “about the constitutional education that they are providing in the city of Morton as well as the Trump tower that he built in his front yard” and spoke “about how the Black Live Matter (BLM) and SWARM groups called for his firing” at the Sept. 28 city council meeting, according to the documents.
The investigator also noted the public criticism Morningstar received in 2021 after he shared a video with a doctored photo of President Joe Biden with a noose around his neck and the text “hang him up” at the thumbnail. Morningstar eventually deleted the post, and Mortensen stated Morningstar did not know the post contained something offensive, according to the documents.
Ultimately, the investigator determined “Due to the absence of facts linking Morningstar directly to an extremist organization and the ambiguity of the law regarding extremism, I do not have a conclusion regarding Morningstar’s association with any extremist organizations.”
Morningstar serves as the state committeeman for the Lewis County Republicans and still held the position as of Wednesday morning, according to the organization’s website.
The Chronicle was unable to make contact with a Lewis County Republicans representative for comment Wednesday morning.
At the conclusion of its report, the CJTC investigator explained they had established a statutory basis for Morningstar’s decertification under Revised Code of Washington 43.101.105, which dictates circumstances under which an officer’s certification can be denied, suspended or revoked.
Specifically, CJTC found evidence that Morningstar violated 43.101.105 (3)(f), which prohibits officers from committing sexual harassment; 43.101.105 (3)(c), which prohibits officers from knowingly falsifying or omitting material information on an application to an employer; and 43.101.105 (3)(iv), which prohibits officers from engaging in conduct that fails to meet the ethical or professional standards required of a peace officer.
With that statutory basis established, CJTC “may deny, suspend or revoke certification or require remedial trailing of an applicant or officer,” according to the documents.
CJTC’s case was still active as of Tuesday.
“Although our investigation has wrapped up, the case is still not concluded,” a CJTC representative told The Chronicle via email Tuesday afternoon.