PROSSER, Washington – A Prosser police officer recently fired for misconduct was accused of sexually molesting a handcuffed woman in his patrol car.
A multi-agency investigation into Officer Shane Hellyer focused on allegations he groped the woman while she was in the back of his patrol car.
The December 2016 incident was just one of many times Hellyer harassed women during his 15-year tenure with the department, according to investigations by Benton County sheriff’s detectives and Prosser police.
Documents related to Hellyer’s firing were obtained by the Herald through a public records request.
Three other Prosser women told the investigators Hellyer, 43, made them feel uncomfortable with his flirtations, sexual innuendo and discussion of sex toys and lingerie while he was on duty.
Investigators also discovered an app on his work-issued cellphone that conceals incoming and outgoing calls. Hellyer admitted downloading the app.
Benton County prosecutors reviewed the sexual assault allegations and determined there isn’t enough evidence to charge him with a crime.
But Prosser Police Chief Dave Giles wrote in his internal investigation that Hellyer violated a slew of department rules, including immoral conduct, using city equipment for personal use and failing to meet basic performance requirements.
“It is more likely than not that there are other members of the general public who (Hellyer) has had similar inappropriate contact and/or conversations with,” said the report.
Giles said those people likely haven’t come forward because of Hellyer’s position as an officer.
He was fired March 29.
The most serious allegation came from a woman, now 23, who contacted Benton County deputies last August about being touched inappropriately by Hellyer eight months earlier.
He and Officer Raul Sabalza had responded to a disturbance at 1 a.m. Dec. 19, 2016.
The woman was drunk and pounding on her boyfriend’s door when the officers arrived.
Sabalza later said he believed Hellyer handcuffed the woman and put her in his patrol car and apparently headed back to the police station.
The woman said Hellyer took her instead to a Prosser High School parking lot, where the officer got into the back seat and groped her, she told investigators.
She said he then took her out of the car, put her face-first against it and pressed against her body inappropriately while making a lewd comment.
Instead of taking her to the police station, he took her home.
Dispatch logs showed 14 minutes passed between when Hellyer arrived at the disturbance and when he took her home. The trip normally would take two to three minutes, said investigators.
Hellyer also failed to write up a report on the incident.
Benton sheriff’s Cpl. Mathew Clarke told investigators that Hellyer admitted the night of the disturbance that he knew the woman and had spent a couple hours with her the previous night.
Hellyer shared that he parked and talked with the woman at the Prosser Food Depot “under the lights because he knew they had cameras.”
Clarke told investigators, “There was no way he or other deputies would have a female sitting in their cars for any period of time, especially if they already knew that they needed cameras to protect them.”
Hellyer denied touching the woman, making sexual comments or calling her phone.
As for the 14-minute gap, Hellyer said that he might have stopped in front of the police station. He then told investigators he dropped the woman off in the high school parking lot near the trees.
The woman said it wasn’t the first time she’d had a run-in with Hellyer.
He would “stop her anytime he saw her walking,” the police chief said in his report.
Hellyer once pulled up to her parents’ home and had her come out to his patrol car.
While they talked in the car, Hellyer showed her pictures of lingerie on his phone and he wanted to buy some for her. She said he also touched her thigh as he scrolled through the photos.
She said he wanted to go to the soccer fields — an offer she believed was about sex.
Hellyer admitted he talked to her but was just trying to help her find work at a coffee shop.
The woman’s parents told investigators that their daughter was in the car for at least 40 minutes.
Investigative reports show Hellyer called her home about a dozen times using his city-issued mobile phone.
However, Giles said the phone record was not complete because Hellyer used the call-erasing app.
During the investigation, Hellyer admitted to looking up personal phone numbers in the police database in violation of department policy.
The sexual assault allegations were reviewed by Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller and Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra, who concluded that a crime would be difficult to prove because the woman was drunk. They also noted she took months to report the incident to authorities.
Investigators interviewed three other Prosser women about Hellyer.
Each said the officer was overly flirtatious when he contacted them at their workplaces.
One, who is married, said Hellyer used his patrol car’s computer to show her lingerie for carrying guns. He also showed her a type of personal lubricant and said he would pick it up for her from a store in Kennewick — an offer she declined by saying she or her husband would get it.
A third woman said that Hellyer would visit her workplace at closing time to check on them. When she or other employees told him they were fine, “he would not leave and simply hang around.”
The woman said Hellyer repeatedly stopped by her house uninvited. It got “to the point that if she saw him coming, she would go into the house to keep from being contacted,” said the chief’s report.
She said that “pretty much anything (Hellyer) said was inappropriate, as everything seemed to have a sexual innuendo.”
Another woman said Hellyer made comments about her being cold and seemed to be talking about her chest. He would tell her to dress more warmly.
The women said Hellyer did not talk about such things when he met them with his wife. When alone, Hellyer allegedly talked about being dissatisfied with his sex life.
Hellyer told the police chief that he talked about the lingerie and other items with one of the women, but believed he was “providing community assistance.”
Other comments were meant to be jokes and were taken the wrong way by the women, he said.