2.12.2008

ER - Blue Lake police chief accused of multiple assaults

Blue Lake police chief accused of multiple assaults
By EMILY WILSON, The Eureka Reporter
Published: Feb 11 2008, 9:35 PM · Updated: Feb 11 2008, 11:16 PM

Following the arrest of Blue Lake Police Department Chief David Ray Gundersen on suspicion of spousal rape Friday, Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos called a news conference Monday to discuss the investigation.

Gallegos and his chief investigator, Mike Hislop, divulged that the investigation began at 11 a.m. Friday when the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office asked them to take over the case.

The alleged victim reported to the HCSO Friday that the alleged spousal rape had been occurring for a couple of years, Gallegos said.

“(It was) not a one-time occurrence,” he said.

It is The Eureka Reporter’s policy not to name alleged victims in sexual assault cases.

The two have been married for several years and were living together in McKinleyville.

“At this point, ... we expect there may be additional charges,” Gallegos said — adding that there may be more than one felony count.

Gundersen served as Trinidad Police Department chief before he began his 10-year run as BLPD chief, according to BLPD personnel.

He hasn’t been charged, but was arrested on suspicion of violating Penal Code 262 (a)(2), which is rape of a spouse by use of an intoxicating or anesthetic substance, or any controlled substance.

Some of the alleged offenses may have taken place in Blue Lake, Gallegos said. Whether there was only one alleged victim is also being investigated.

A search warrant was obtained for Gundersen’s home, which law enforcement officials searched. They did not reveal what they seized from the residence, though Gallegos said “it is usual to seize computers.”

Gundersen’s bail was set at $500,000 — an amount based on the nature of the alleged charge and a schedule set by the county, Gallegos said. If he is found guilty, the offense is punishable by three, six or eight years in state prison.

Gundersen has been placed on administrative leave, according to personnel at the BLPD, and is in custody at the Humboldt County jail.

If Gundersen is found guilty, he will probably lose his job, Gallegos said. Blue Lake City Manager Wiley Buck said no decision will be made regarding Gundersen’s position until more information is received.

“We’ll back our officers 100 percent until information is provided that we shouldn’t be,” he said — adding that the District Attorney’s Office is “really holding the key to this one.”

The investigation is ongoing and more information may be available after the preliminary hearing, Gallegos said. An arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Buck said the city will not pay for any attorney fees because it is a criminal case. Local governments generally pay for a police chief’s attorney fees in civil cases.

This isn’t Gundersen’s first run-in with the law as chief. A criminal investigation into allegations that Gundersen falsified Department of Motor Vehicles records was dismissed by a court last year.

Gallegos said he couldn’t comment on whether his office has received other complaints about Gundersen.

Two other BLPD officers are on leave, so the HCSO will respond to any emergency calls made in Blue Lake.