Former Skagit County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Under Investigation For Improper Relationships, Unbecoming Conduct

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A recent internal affairs investigation into now-former Skagit County Sheriff’s Deputy, Josafat “Joe” Gutierrez, has revealed that Gutierrez had inappropriate relationships with at least three women. According to records obtained by Skagitbreaking.com via a public disclosure request, the internal affairs investigation found that Gutierrez violated multiple departmental policies. These violations include the unwelcome solicitation of a personal or sexual relationship while on-duty, or through the use of one’s official capacity, as well as the failure to act in the apprehension of a woman who had been accidentally released from the Skagit County Community Justice Center (SCCJC).

Gutierrez was officially placed on paid administrative leave as of January 2, 2018, which included expectations that he remain at his residence during work hours, available at all times by telephone. Gutierrez was then scheduled for an interview on January 4, 2018. About 20 minutes prior to the start of the interview, the Sheriff’s Office received Deputy Gutierrez’ resignation. He had been employed by the Sheriff’s office since 2016, and prior to that he was active-duty Navy.

The Sheriff’s office had the Skagit Multiple Agency Response Team (SMART) investigate Gutierrez for potential criminal wrongdoing. That investigation is complete and the reports have been submitted to the Skagit County Prosecutors Office.

An accident made by a corrections officer led to the findings of Deputy Joe Gutierrez’ wrongdoing. On December 21, 2017, a 30-year-old woman was being held at the SCCJC on a charge of possession of a stolen vehicle. She was accidentally released after she claimed to be an inmate who was due to be released. Subsequent investigation and search for the escaped inmate led the Sheriff’s office to make contact at the suspect’s mother’s home. The mother was aware that the suspect was out of jail, but not that she had escaped. In conversation with the suspect’s mother, it was found that the suspect had informed her mother that she was dating a cop, and that his name was Joe. The suspect had recently used her mother’s phone to converse with Joe, and the mother offered to let the Sheriff’s office review her phone log. Sheriff’s Deputies were then able to confirm that the communication was made to Deputy Joe Gutierrez’ department-issued cell phone. Verizon records indicated that Gutierrez had deleted several hundred text messages from his work cell phone.

Additionally, the investigation found that the suspect had called Gutierrez’ work cellphone immediately after her escape, and asked what she should do. Gutierrez reportedly advised the suspect to turn herself in on the day after Christmas, five days after her accidental release from the SCCJC. The report states that “(Gutierrez) was in contact with her as a known escapee and did absolutely nothing to facilitate her apprehension. All the while watching his co-workers’ efforts to do so.”

The woman was re-arrested in early January, and was booked into the jail on additional charges related to her escape. During subsequent interviews with this woman, it was revealed that she and Deputy Gutierrez had initially met when he responded to a call at her residence. Later, Gutierrez returned to the scene of the initial call while on-duty, and the two had sex. The woman admitted that she and Deputy Gutierrez had about a dozen additional on-and-off duty sexual encounters.

As a result of the woman’s release, the Sheriff’s Office has reiterated its release procedures with corrections officers. It was made clear that no inmate is to be released without at least two deputies having examined the inmate’s wristband.

The report also detailed that in December, Gutierrez received a sexually explicit letter from an inmate, which he showed to other deputies. When that inmate was questioned by investigators as to why she sent the letter specifically to Gutierrez, she said that he had previously given her a ride after responding to the scene of a motor vehicle accident that she was involved in. He later returned, looking for this woman. The woman felt that Gutierrez was flirting with her. They reportedly had a conversation about addictions, where Gutierrez told that woman that he was addicted to sex.

The third woman met Gutierrez when he responded to a welfare check at her home in November. During a follow-up visit to her home, the woman found Gutierrez in her bedroom, looking at a sexually explicit book. He then made sexual advances towards the woman, and asked her about the type of clothing she wore to bed. The woman reported to investigators that she felt violated by Gutierrez, and that he repeatedly showed up at her home while on-duty, but without reason. The visits became so frequent that the woman would hide and pretend to not be home until Gutierrez would leave. Vehicle records confirmed that Gutierrez had visited this woman’s home at least 11 times between November and December.

These are not the first allegations against Gutierrez, with concern to his conduct. However, this was the first internal affairs investigation involving Deputy Gutierrez within the Skagit County Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff’s office has also begun the process of having Gutierrez’s peace officer certification revoked. Without that certification, Gutierrez would be unable to work in law enforcement in any capacity within Washington State.

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