Oregon SWAT take man into custody after he commits no crimes

Thursday, March 11, 2010



In the Minority Report, technology exists that allows authorities to arrest someone before they commit a crime. Oregon Police took a man into custody that was recently placed on administrative leave and lawfully purchased 3 guns. He was disgruntled, which I suppose most people would be after they were placed on administrative leave. According to the article he bought:

Heckler & Koch .45-caliber universal self-loading handgun, a Walther .380-caliber handgun and an AK-47 assault rifle


Ok, he bought an overpriced trendy German pistol, James Bond's gun, and a cheap semi-auto. I doubt it was a real AK-47, which has been banned from import and, by it's definition, would be a machine gun.

It is quite possible that this man may have intended to go on a shooting spree. Before I get totally pissed off, I would like to know more about what prompted:

Medford police watched the man's home overnight, starting at about 9 p.m. Sunday, Hansen said.

Because he was known to have weapons, police wanted to defuse the situation and ensure the man wasn't a danger to himself or others before the neighborhood awakened and people started their daily activities, Hansen said.

Medford's hostage negotiators and SWAT team were called in at 3 a.m. Monday and arrived on the scene at about 5:45 a.m., he said.

About a dozen officers responded. They closed the street for about an hour and evacuated three homes to protect neighbors and prevent bystanders from gathering, he said.


What kinds of statements did he make to co-workers? Did he threaten anyone. He has purchased guns in the past, so it may not have been all that unusual for him to buy stuff like he did. Does he have a history of violence? Is there anything more than buying 3 guns and being "disgruntled"?

It appears he was taken into protective custody and involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility for an evaluation. I have participated in these (though not in Oregon) and have worked at several facilities. While not as bad as jail, this is not a pleasant experience. He also had all of his guns confiscated. In my experience, it is very unlikely he will get them back unless he is willing to spend probably more than they are worth in legal fees to get them back.

I guess the thing that bothers me is that it appears all of this happened to someone based on several legal purchases and no actual threats or actions.

9 comments:

Rickey Henderson 7:42 AM  

Worth mentioning: no criminal charges have been filed yet. Yes, there's no way of knowing 100% if he was intent on committing a crime, but he certainly sounds a little unhinged. Just to be clear, nobody purchases weaponry like that to go hunting. Rickey thinks the cops did the right thing--they're getting a troubled man the help he needs. Sorry if that sounds a little "big brother" to you Steves.

Sopor 9:44 AM  

I REALLY hope there is a LOT more to this story than we are hearing right now. As it stands right now, it simply sounds to me like a gross abuse of police power.

Regardless of whether or not criminal charges have been (or ever will be) fired... This man was taken, by SWAT teams, in the night. They shut down his road, they evacuated his neighbors! If this had happened to you... could you show your face with any amount of pride in front of your neighbors, ever again?

Hey may have been stupid and unhappy, but he was NOT yet a criminal, and I don't believe a citizen of this country deserves to be treated as such without breaking any laws.

Streak 9:46 AM  

This is that tough part of our society, right? When the VA Tech guy went nuts, we went back through the steps before and realized there were numerous opportunities to intercede. That may not have stopped the ultimate outcome, but there were steps that could have been taken. I think I am with Rickey here.

Smitty 10:24 AM  

I think I'm with Steve on this one. When we have cops making assumptions about crimes that are about to be committed, we are in deeeep shit.

Rickey Henderson 11:23 AM  

Like Rickey said, they haven't charged him (as there's nothing to charge him with). They're just getting someone who sounds deeply troubled some help. The bigger question is, were this guy's friends and family aware of this? If so, why didn't they step in and get involved?

Streak 3:37 PM  

Just got the "like Rickey said" reference. Well done. I am slow. :) One of my favorite stories is about Rickey Henderson and Jon Olerud. You probably know the story.

I think there is no doubt this is a difficult case, and this kind of thing should never be done lightly, nor without serious oversight. I just wonder if we live in a world where we need to be cautious about deeply troubled individuals arming up.

Would there be any concern if instead of buying guns, he purchased a large amount of fertilizer?

steves 6:02 PM  

I am willing to wait before I get seriously pissed off to see if they have more information than the media is reporting. It is possible that he may have made some overt threats, which may have justified some kind of intervention. If I had to guess, I am leaning towards no overt threats because that would have constituted a crime and he would have been arrested.

I just wonder if this could have been handled differently. Instead of acting as they did, they could have contacted a family member and sent them with a counselor and some plain clothed cop and just asked if he was doing ok. They could have had him watched to see if he loaded his guns up and headed to work.

Besides the shame he feels, under federal law he will never be able to own a firearm again because the evaluation was involuntary.

Just to be clear, nobody purchases weaponry like that to go hunting.

True, but I will admit that I own a fair amount of firearms that are not of the hunting type. I would hate to think that, in and of itself, makes me suspicious.

B Mac 10:36 PM  

To play Devil's Advocate (as I am known to do):

I find the alternative more troubling than what happened in this case. The police, having been tipped off that a disgruntled former employee has just purchased some serious firepower (at least for a civilian), come to the conclusion that he is likely to shoot someone. However, if they can only act when he breaks the law, that means they literally have to wait until he squeezes the trigger and actually starts cappin' asses. What's wrong with stepping in before things escalate?

How often do we shake our heads in dismay after a plane flies into an IRS building, or after some nut goes Yuppy Rambo on his accounting firm, and ask, "why didn't the police put 2 and 2 together?" (I seem to remember a certain incident a few years back where some Saudis asked to learn how to fly jumbo-jets, but didn't care about being able to land). Here, they did exactly that, and did so in a way that guaranteed the safety of everyone involved (including the suspect).

If he had purchased 1,000 pounds of fertilizer and some diesel fuel, or some gunpowder, steel piping, and fuses, would you have expected the police to wait? And if not, is the 2nd amendment so strong that it requires the police to wait to act on a potential plot or conspiracy because the potential perpetrator chose to go apeshit with traditional arms?

If they are wrong here, what has really happened? He hasn't been charged with a crime, and if he's not nuts he faces no loss of liberty. The irreversability of the gun confiscation creates some problems, but that's a different kettle of vodka.

steves 7:33 AM  

I find the alternative more troubling than what happened in this case. The police, having been tipped off that a disgruntled former employee has just purchased some serious firepower (at least for a civilian), come to the conclusion that he is likely to shoot someone.

How did they come to this conclusion? As I indicated before, I am interested as to what they found out. Is this information reliable or does the former employee someone that never liked the guy in the first place?

Again, how do they come to this conclusion? In a previous career I worked as a family therapist. The agency I worked for also had a contract to provide emergency mental health services to the county. Myself, along with the rest of the staff, were on-call at various times where we would be called upon to make evaluations. This either took place in the ER or the police would bring someone to our office.

Sometimes it was pretty easy. The person made a specific threat regarding a specific person and they had the means to carry it out:

"I am going to shoot my cousin with my shotgun that is out in my car."

I inform the police, cousin is warned, and the system does it's job. Making threats like that is a punishable crime. Other times the person made bizarre threats:

"I am going to shoot missiles up Ronald Reagan's butt." (Yes, I actually had someone tell me this)

This one is also easy. Person gets referral for services and may or may not be admitted to hospital for observation.

Many other times, the person may have made vague threats, but it was hard to tell what they were going to do. Despite how the movies portray some psychologists, they aren't Nostradamus and it is very hard to predict people's behavior, absent an extensive history of repeated behavior. There have been a fair number of studies done showing that "expert" prediction are as reliable as flipping a coin or guessing.

How often do we shake our heads in dismay after a plane flies into an IRS building, or after some nut goes Yuppy Rambo on his accounting firm, and ask, "why didn't the police put 2 and 2 together?"

Unfortunately this will always happen. Hindsight is 20/20. I attended a lecture given by the head of Michigan's Child Protective Services and she said it was damned if you do, damned if you don't. If a child was hurt or killed by parents, people asked why didn't the authorities do something. If they took the child, then people would ask why the authorities were taking children away from their parents.

If he had purchased 1,000 pounds of fertilizer and some diesel fuel, or some gunpowder, steel piping, and fuses, would you have expected the police to wait?

No, they could probably get him on some kind of conspiracy charges, plus I believe you probably need a permit to buy that much fertilizer.

If they are wrong here, what has really happened?

Besides never being able to won a firearm at any point in his life? Besides having his lawfully owned property confiscated? Besides being confined to mental health facility? His reputation, while maybe not all that great, is probably shit now. Do you think he will ever be able to get any kind of job again?

I think you ask some pretty good questions, but it still looks like this could have been handled better. I also don't want to head down that road where we have people being taken into custody that haven't done anything.

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