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WA teenager arrested after camping selfie with gun ended up online. His parents file a complaint

Pasco parents are filing a lawsuit after their son was arrested at Chiawana High School and held for 24 hours over a selfie showing the teen holding a gun during a camping trip.

The lawsuit filed in Eastern Washington District Court names the Pasco Police Department, the city of Pasco and the Pasco School District, as well as several school and police employees.

It says the parents are asking for more than $1.5 million.

Pasco officials deny most of the parents' accounts of what happened and that the 14-year-old's rights were violated, but have not given their version of what led to his arrest , according to information filed in federal court.

Jon and Sheila Hudnall say their son, who is not named in the lawsuit, had a 3.6 grade point average, was an athlete and had no history of disciplinary action before his arrest.

He went camping with his father, other adults and another child on the Tucannon River in June 2021. The teenager was staying in a tent with his father and another adult when he used his cell phone to take a photo of him holding the gun.

After the camping trip, he sent the selfie to four friends via Snapchat, Instagram or a text message, according to the complaint filed in federal court.

Six months later, three school resource officers entered a Chiawana classroom and told the teen to come into the hallway, where he was searched, according to the lawsuit.

At the school resource office, Curtis King, a Pasco police school resource officer, showed the teen the photo of him holding a gun posted on the Instagram page “CH_Hotties1,” according to the lawsuit. It was captioned “date me or die.”

The teen gave King the name of the student he said owned that Instagram page. That student was not among the friends he initially sent the selfie to, he said.

The student who apparently owned the account had approached the teen a few days earlier and showed him the selfie with the gun. Their teen said he walked away without responding, according to court documents.

Officer King ordered the teen in the selfie to turn over his phone to be searched, the lawsuit states. The student initially refused, but was told he had to unlock it and put it back, which he did, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit says King then made several phone calls to people not identified in the lawsuit, claiming the student posed a threat to the school and that even though he did not post the photo and caption on Instagram , King reportedly said he “wanted” it. go to jail, the lawsuit says.

King later told Sheila Hudnall that his sergeant ordered him to arrest his son.

School resource officers also showed the teen a short video made by one of his four friends to whom he had sent the selfie. According to the lawsuit, there was “one silly image, the campsite image, and four memes.” The teenager maintained that he did not ask his friend to make the video.

The lawsuit claims King only read the teen his rights after he was questioned and checked the phone.

King asked the teen and the boy believed to own the Instagram account to write statements about what happened.

That student said the Hudnalls' son did not post the photo or write the caption. The student called the post “an accident gone wrong,” according to the lawsuit.

The Hudnalls met with two top Chiawana administrators that same day who told them an emergency eviction of their son was planned, according to the lawsuit.

Chiawana student arrested

Their son was arrested that afternoon and escorted from the school in a police car, according to the lawsuit.

He was booked into the Benton County Juvenile Justice Center on suspicion of threatening to kill, a felony. He was held overnight until bail was set at $1,000 and posted by his parents.

Ten months later, in October 2022, the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office officially decided not to file charges.

His parents said that since his arrest, the teenager had suffered from fear, anxiety, depression and humiliation. His grades dropped significantly in several classes and his phone was also not returned.

The student was wrongly questioned without being informed of his rights or having access to an attorney and his phone was seized without a warrant, according to the lawsuit.

He says the student's expulsion was extreme, egregious and outrageous given his lack of disciplinary history and the absence of reasonable suspicion to justify his arrest.

U.S. Judge Thomas Rice in April granted a motion to dismiss much of the lawsuit against the Pasco school district. accusedfinding legal issues in the original complaint.

However, he allowed parents to file an amended complaint this month naming the Pasco school district, Chiawana High School and two assistant principals in 2022 — Tony Rubalcava and Bryan Meredith.

The Pasco school district responded in a court document, denying it had done anything illegal. She disputed that the student's rights were violated or that his expulsion was extreme.

The family is seeking damages that are both punitive and also cover past and future medical expenses, counseling fees, lost income, pain and suffering, and interest and attorney's fees.

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