WALLA WALLA — The murders of law enforcement officials in Colorado and Texas have prompted a change in how people can search for property tax information in Walla Walla County.
County Treasurer Gordon Heimbigner said the ability for people to search for property information by name has been turned off on the county’s TaxSifter Parcel Search engine. Searches can still be done online by using the address or tax parcel number.
“After consulting with the prosecuting attorney’s office we decided to turn off the search by name function,” Heimbigner said.
Heimbigner said he had received an email from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jesse Nolte relaying questions raised by county Undersheriff Edward Freyer about the issue.
Freyer said he specifically had not requested the search by name function be disabled, but simply wanted to visit the issue of how to protect officials, particularly law enforcement officers, from having their home addresses revealed through the county’s TaxSifter system.
“You’re looking at people who have been murdered in their homes,” he said, referring to the murders in Colorado and Texas. “I just wanted to pose the question.”
Heimbigner said people can still call or visit the Treasurer’s or Assessor’s Offices to request property information searches by name.
“The information is still available, you’ll just have to call or visit the office to get it by name,” he said.
The ability to search for property information by name, address or tax parcel number varies from county to county, Heimbigner said. Benton County, for instance, disabled the ability to search by name only some time ago while other counties do allow searches by name, address or tax parcel number.
County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle said today he could not immediately say if the disabling of the search by name function possibly violates state law regarding accessing public records.
“I can’t comment on this until I’ve been able to do some more research,” he said.
Authorities today are continuing the investigations into the murders in Colorado and Texas.
In Colorado, the state’s Department of Correction’s Director Tom Clements was murdered on March 19 as he answered the doorbell at his home outside Colorado Springs. Evan Spencer Ebel, a white supremacist and former Colorado inmate suspected of shooting Clements died in a shootout with Texas deputies.
That shootout was about 100 miles from Kaufman County, where District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found shot to death in their home on Saturday. The deaths came about two months after the shooting death of Kaufman County Assistant Deputy Attorney Mark Hasse, who was killed in a parking lot near his courthouse office. No arrests have been made in the Jan. 31 killing.
On Wednesday in West Virginia, Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum was gunned down in downtown Williamson. A suspect was apprehend after he allegedly pulled a gun on a pursuing deputy. Crum was a staunch foe of drug dealing in the area and had helped indict dozens of suspected dealers in recent months.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.