Chris Harrell, the former executive director of the Tulare Historical Museum and a Tulare civic leader, was arrested over the weekend along with 12 other men for allegedly soliciting sex with a minor. According to an anonymous source, Harrell has not worked at the museum for two months.
Harrell was released from custody just after 9am on Monday, October 5, after being arrested during a sting conducted by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) over the weekend.
He is accused of contacting a TCSO deputy posing as a teenager in order to exchange money or gifts for sex. Besides serving as head of Tulare’s museum, he has also served on the boards of the Tulare Methodist Church and the Tulare Masonic Temple Association. In 2018, Harrell made a bid for the Tulare City Council seat currently held by Dennis Mederos.
Harrell did not return a request for an interview.
Harrell’s Father Reacts
Harrell’s father, Steve Harrell, is currently a trustee for the Tulare Local Health Care District. He is also seeking a seat on the Tulare City Council, running against Carlton Jones. He says his son’s arrest will not affect his own campaign.
“I don’t see why it would,” Steve Harrell said. “I’m the one running for office, not him.”
Harrell, who spent three decades in law enforcement, including becoming second in command at the Tulare Police Department prior to his retirement, says he is not ready to reach any conclusion.
“Thirty years in law enforcement,” he said. “There’s always two sides.”
Steve Harrell says he will support his son through the legal process. Meanwhile, Chris Harrell is attempting to take events in stride, his father says.
“He’s just continuing on as always,” Steve Harrell said.
Chris Harrell and 12 other men were arrested while attempting to contact officers posing as one of several teenagers aged 14 to 17 for whom the officers created social media accounts to attract alleged sexual predators. Those arrested allegedly offered money or gifts to the officers before agreeing to meet them at a home somewhere in Tulare County.
“The suspects used pedophile grooming techniques to arrange to meet up and have sex with our undercover decoys,” a TCSO statement said. “All 13 men arrived at the home thinking they were meeting with a teenager, only to be met by law enforcement officers.”
Those arrested include Harrell, 43, Adam Lathrum, 25, Andres Duenas, 34, Alberto Falcon Leiva, 52, Jorge Rojas, 34, Roger Garcia, 21, Usiel Rebolledo, 41, Fernando Campos, 43, Alvino Rivera, 22, Kyle Adams, 27, Jesus Gomez, 23, and David Safrazian, 24.