An attack on a Los Alamos nuclear lab auditor outside a bar was unrelated to his status as a whistleblower, authorities said Thursday, calling into question the man's allegation that he was beaten to ensure his silence.
Tommy Hook, 52, suffered a broken jaw, a herniated disc and missing teeth in the attack outside the Cheeks nightclub in Santa Fe early Sunday. He has said the beating was carried out by thugs intent on keeping him from talking about alleged financial irregularities at the nuclear lab.
But investigators disputed that account Thursday, saying the attack occurred after Hook's car struck a pedestrian while leaving the club.
"Facts, evidence and information obtained during the course of this investigation has led investigators to believe that the altercation involving Mr. Hook is an isolated incident and is in no way related to Mr. Hook's whistleblower status at the Los Alamos National Laboratories," Santa Fe Deputy Police Chief Eric Johnson said in a statement.
The investigation is "leaning toward a fight in the parking lot as a result of Mr. Hook backing into a pedestrian," Johnson said. He said after Hook hit the pedestrian, he exited his vehicle, "at which time the confrontation escalated into a physical attack."
Police said they have identified people involved in the attack and were sending the case to prosecutors. They did not release the identities of anyone involved.
"It's going to go to the D.A. and they're going to have to decipher who should be charged with a crime," Johnson said.
Hook did not return calls Thursday. A colleague and fellow whistleblower, Chuck Montano, said Hook had secluded himself to recover from his injuries.
At a press conference Tuesday, Hook's wife, Susan, said her husband had been lured to the bar by a late-night phone call from an unidentified man requesting a meeting. She said her husband told her the man never showed up but as he was leaving the topless bar's parking lot, a group of men pulled him from his car and beat him.
"This individual was telling me I should keep my (expletive) mouth shut," Hook told CBS News on Tuesday, describing what happened during the beating.
Hook, an auditor and 15-year lab veteran, has sued the University of California, which manages the Los Alamos lab, alleging whistleblower retaliation. He had been preparing to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week.
Los Alamos has been under intense scrutiny since November 2002, when allegations surfaced about purchasing fraud, equipment theft and mismanagement. The ensuing scandal prompted an overhaul of lab business policies and a culling of top managers.