For the past week, Robert "Torch" Harvill and other bikers have stood guard near Sacajawea Elementary School as children arrive for class and when they leave in the afternoon.
Some of the bikers are Richland residents, but none live in the small house kitty-corner from the school at the intersection of Catskill Street and Rainier Avenue in north Richland.
Instead, Harvill and other members of Bikers Against Child Abuse were outside the school to make sure registered sex offender Jerry Sharp didn't encounter any students in the 600 block of Catskill.
"People weren't feeling safe, so we showed up," Harvill said.
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Their efforts appear to have paid off. Sharp, 61, told a TV reporter Wednesday morning that he was tired of the scrutiny and was leaving the area.
Harvill said he and other bikers watched Sharp pack his belongings. Sharp told the TV reporter that he was going to live in his vehicle, and the vehicle is gone.
A woman who answered the door at the house told the Herald that Sharp moved out.
No allegations were made against Sharp while he lived at the home, but his short stay in the neighborhood raised questions about how a registered sex offender could be allowed to live so close to a school. And it also showed that parents, teachers and the community are committed to youth safety.
"I think it's becoming more and more common," said Donnie "Mr. Breeze" Landsman, a biker whose fifth-grade daughter attends Sacajawea. "People aren't leaving everything to the authorities."
School officials and residents were notified of Sharp's arrival in the neighborhood within the past two weeks. His criminal convictions began in 1971 and include charges of third-degree rape, attempted kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment of a juvenile victim.
More recently, Sharp was sentenced to six months in jail in October 2010 for second-degree criminal mistreatment and domestic violence for failing to properly care for his elderly mother and letting her live in filth.
As a Level 3 sex offender, Sharp is required to notify authorities where he is living. He also is banned from school property, city parks or the library.
"Sharp is very aware of his restrictions," said Richland police Capt. Mike Cobb.
However, Sharp no longer is under supervision by state corrections officials, and none of his sexual offense convictions came after 2004. That means he is not required to live a certain distance from a school, which is required of some sex offenders under more recent state laws.
Sacajawea Principal Jim Bruce said staff was notified and notes sent home to parents when police informed him that Sharp was living near the school. Teachers began reinforcing safe behavior patterns with students, warning children about talking to strangers.
Parents also posted fliers with Sharp's face on telephone poles around the neighborhood.
"This is probably the closest we've had an (offending) individual," Bruce said.
The bikers showed up Sept. 12 after hearing news reports about Sharp. They shared their plans with Bruce.
"The first morning we showed up, everyone was real nervous," said Tommy "Two Guns" Jaggar. "Parents were holding their kids close."
Nancy Lightfoot said she was curious when she first saw the bikers outside the school when she picked up her daughters, but she was relieved to know they were there. Lightfoot said she picks up her daughters every day, but other kids walk home.
"I think it's awesome to have all these extra eyes," she said.
On Wednesday, despite reports that Sharp had left, the bikers showed up. They greeted the students, distributing stickers and temporary tattoos with the BACA logo on them. One female biker handed out the small, colorful pins she had on her vest to a few children.
"We're going to come back now and then to make sure (Sharp) stays to his word," said Sande "Meema" Payne.
Members of BACA, parents and staff said they were impressed by how the community reacted to Sharp's presence. Bruce said he was grateful for the bikers' presence as was Maribel Madison. She has daughters in the first and second grade.
"That was very comforting as a parent," she said.
Richland police said they have not received notice that Sharp has changed his address.
Cobb said that one benefit of Sharp's home was that authorities knew exactly where they could find him.
It's not over, though. Some remain upset that a sex offender was able to live so close to a school because of loopholes in state law.
Landsman, the legislative affairs director for the local chapter of biker group A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments, said he's sent messages to state Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, and state Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland.
"Our work's not done," Landsman said. "We've got to fix the legislation."
-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org