HIGHLAND, Utah, Aug. 27, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah Senate candidate Evan McMullin, a 2016 presidential candidate now running for the seat held by Sen. Mike Lee, revealed on CNN on Saturday that he was threatened by a Utah man after a campaign event in April.
Jack Aaron Whelchel, 44, was charged in April with threatening with or using dangerous weapon, a class A misdemeanor; and disorderly conduct, an infraction. Utah court documents show has pleaded not guilty to both charges.
In a statement released to Gephardt Daily Saturday McMullin described the encounter.
“In April, my wife and I were returning from a campaign event in southern Utah when we were followed, chased and threatened by a man brandishing a firearm,” McMullin said. “We later learned that the man has a history of promoting political violence on social media, though we do not know if that played any role in this incident. Regardless, he put my life and the life of my wife at risk and I am cooperating fully with law enforcement authorities who have charged him with related crimes.”
A CNN story says the news agency obtained a victim impact statement filed by McMullin in the District Court for Utah County.
“In the filing, McMullin accused the motorist, Jack Aaron Whelchel, of making unprovoked threats that included forcing the couple’s car into oncoming traffic, before aiming a firearm in a threatening manner,” the CNN story says.
“That night, we and Mr. Whelchel traveled along the same path for a number of miles through Utah County, which initially seemed to be happenstance or someone innocuously traveling along the same route as us,” McMullin wrote in his statement, according to CNN.
“Ultimately, however, Mr. Whelchel aggressively followed and chased us, pulled his truck alongside us and forced my wife and I into the oncoming lane of traffic. He then brandished a firearm, pointing it toward us in a threatening way,” McMullin reportedly wrote in the statement.
Whelchel’s attorney, Brixton Hakes, told CNN his client disputes McMullin’s version of events, insisting a firearm was never aimed at the couple. But during the incident, Whelchel did place a firearm on the center console of the vehicle, Hakes said.
According to Hakes, Whelchel incorrectly “thought he was being followed” by McMullin.
In his statement, McMullin pointed to Whelchel’s social media presence, which he said included accusations against politicians he opposes and about “guns being the tools with which to carry on this war against those he opposes politically.”
McMullin’s statement also requests that if Whelchel is convicted, the judge bar him from making any contract with the candidate, his family, and his campaign staff, the CNN story says.
Hakes said he expects the case to go to a jury trial after a scheduled hearing next month. He also said Whelchel has moved from the state, but will return for the trial.