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Former police chief on the hook for vandalism

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A retired Atascadero police chief is facing a charge of vandalism stemming from a neighbor who says he has the evidence on tape.

Richard “Bud” McHale, who also worked for the SLO County Probation Department, will be arraigned for a misdemeanor charge of vandalism of more than $400 in relation to damage sustained to an SUV.

McHale was scheduled to be arraigned May 28. His attorney, Jeff Stulberg, said he hadn’t yet seen any evidence in the case and it was too early to make specific comments.

“What I can say is that from what I understand from my client, who I’ve known for quite a while, he did not commit any criminal offense,” 
Stulberg said.

Mark Walton disagrees. His Ford Excursion was keyed three times, he claimed, and said he captured McHale on video the night before the third scratch appeared. Walton said the car had been vandalized while parked in front of his garage in Cayucos. He filed claims with his insurance company and was advised to install a surveillance camera.

Walton installed a camera. Sure enough, he found a new scratch. When he looked at the footage he recognized McHale, he said, who appeared to reach over and touch the car while out walking a dog.

“I’ve never met this guy other than one time professionally during Fourth of July stuff,” Walton said. Walton is a volunteer captain with the Cayucos Fire Department.

A representative from the Office of the District Attorney confirmed that McHale can be seen on the video walking by the car and appeared to touch the car.

Stulberg said he was aware of a tape, but believed it did not prove there was any vandalism, only that McHale had walked by the car. He added he believed McHale would be proven innocent in court.

Walton said he lives a few blocks from McHale. Stulberg agreed the two men had no prior relationship.

Although a court representative could not say how much the damage amounted to, Walton said the latest insurance claim was $1,144. The previous scratches cost about $900 and $800.

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