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Spokane Sheriff: ‘I do have concerns’ about Rep. Matt Shea

Washington State Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

When Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich heard the latest controversy about Washington State Republican lawmaker Matt Shea, he wasn’t surprised. It’s just the latest in a long list of concerns the sheriff has had about the Eastside representative.

Responding to his latest controversy, Shea told told the Jason Rantz Show that he performs background checks on people who may pose a threat to him or his family. He explained away a recent news story that detailed a private, online chat which involved threats of violence to political opposition (Antifa, communists). Shea did not propose violence in his portion of the chat. But Sheriff Knezovich counters Shea’s explanation, arguing that the lawmaker is not telling the whole truth.

“It’s troubling that a representative is even having those kinds of conversations,” Sheriff Knezovich said. “But the proper context is that this was over an encrypted chat line that Matt Shea set up. These were people who were very, very close to Matt Shea – his inner circle. The individual that turned (the chat messages) over (to the Guardian) was head of Matt’s security team. So these were people who once had his trust. The individual that released these documents, he has told me this very bluntly, ‘I’m very concerned about the direction it’s going and somebody is going to get hurt one of these days.’”

Sheriff Knezovich is a public figure who has garnered headlines in his own way — supporting President Donald Trump, not supporting Washington’s I-1639 gun control initiative, or giving presentations on extremism. Like Shea, he is a Republican. But he says “Shea is an embarrassment to the Republican Party.” The sheriff has followed extremism from the left and the right throughout his career. He knows the players and he says “The people who Matt associates with are very concerning.”

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Beyond that, the sheriff says that the background checks which Shea performs on individuals is part of how the representative conducts “character assassinations.”

“If you get on the wrong side of Mr. Shea, you suddenly become his enemy and he does come after you,” the sheriff said. “I’ve watched it happen to many people. It’s happened to me.”

Matt Shea and background checks

Shea told the Jason Rantz Show that background checks are the responsible thing to do, for his safety and the safety of his family. The example he pointed to was a man who threatened him at an election night event. That man went on to commit a triple murder.

“I talked with one lady yesterday and I’ve tried to get her to come forward,” the sheriff said. “She has information that Mr. Shea actually had someone watch her home. It just happened to be the (murderer) he was so worried about on your show. Because the individual that was responsible for those three homicides was in Matt Shea’s inner circle for a very long time, until Matt used him and that individual took it very personal.”

It’s not just one instance of community members talking about Shea’s conduct. The sheriff says he has forwarded a lot of information to the FBI regarding suspicious activity. The background checks are among that activity. Sheriff Knezovich says that “They could be left, right, it doesn’t matter. If you don’t agree with Mr. Shea 100 percent, you are his enemy.”

“I received an email from an individual who attended one of Matt’s 51st state seminars … in 2016,” he recalled. “He challenged Matt, going ‘I’m all for a 51st state, but not a theocracy-based, dictatorship you are talking about Matt.’ Next thing he knows is that Mr. Bosworth (one of the other men in the recent controversial chats) is hanging around and doing threatening actions. I turned that email straight over to the FBI when I got it.”

The 51st state issue that the sheriff is referencing relates to Shea’s efforts to secede Eastern Washington from the state.

“The bottom line is … Matt is an elected official,” Knezovich said. “The only people who can hold him accountable are the electorate. My only question to the electorate, especially in the 4th District is: How long are you going to allow Matt Shea to embarrass you and this community? And to Republican leadership, and I am a Republican, my question to them is: When are you going to hold him accountable? When are you going to censure him, or sanction him, and remove him from leadership?”

“He does not represent the values of the Republican Party, nor the values of the people who he represents,” he added. “I am so tired of hearing people say ‘Ya know, he votes the way I want him to. I don’t care about his character.’ Well folks, if you don’t start caring about peoples’ character who you elect, this republic is doomed.”

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