Utah Candidate Says He Was Threatened With a Gun

Man pleads not guilty to brandishing a gun at Evan McMullin
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2022 10:55 AM CDT
Candidate Says Driver Threatened Him on Road
Evan McMullin in April in Salt Lake City.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, file)

A driver faces charges after he was accused by Evan McMullin of threatening the US Senate candidate along a southern Utah road after a campaign event in April. In a court filing, McMullin said the driver, Jack Aaron Whelchel, pulled alongside and forced the car in which McMullin and his wife were riding into oncoming traffic after mimicking their route for miles, CNN reports. "He then brandished a firearm, pointing it toward us in a threatening way," McMullin said in a victim impact statement. Whelchel's lawyer describes the encounter differently. "He never brandished a firearm," said Brixton Hakes, though he conceded that his client had put a firearm on the center console of his pickup truck. He said Whelchel at first thought he was the one being followed.

Whelchel, 44, was indicted in Highland and pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge of making a threat with a dangerous weapon, as well as to disorderly conduct. "My wife and I did nothing to threaten, harm, or provoke [the man] throughout this incident," McMullin wrote, per the Salt Lake Tribune. McMullin, who's running as an independent in an attempt to unseat Republican Sen. Mike Lee—with the support of Democrats—testified at a preliminary hearing last month. McMullin pointed out that Whelchel has attacked politicians on social media and endorsed the use of guns against political opponents. The candidate said his campaign has increased security. Both men say they didn't know each other that night. Another hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 2. (More Utah stories.)

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