The Second Declaration of Indepencence

Monday, March 15, 2010

Department of Pre-crime?

Man Arrested For Buying 3 Legal Guns
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By reporter Anita Burke Tribune at 541-776-4485, or e-mail

Concerns about an Oregon Department of Transportation employee who purchased several guns after being placed on leave prompted law enforcement across Southern Oregon to step in.

Negotiators and a SWAT team from Medford police safely took a man — whose name wasn't released — into protective custody Monday morning in the 500 block of Effie Street, Medford police said in a news release.

He was taken to Rogue Valley Medical Center for a mental-health evaluation.

The man recently had been placed on administrative leave from his job and was "very disgruntled," the news release said.

ODOT Communications Director Patrick Cooney said there were administrative, personnel matters involved that limited what the department could discuss.

However, the state agency had reported concerns about the man to law enforcement agencies, who started monitoring him, officials said.

"We had concerning information regarding a personnel issue and were watching the subject," Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said.

In two days, the man bought a Heckler & Koch .45-caliber universal self-loading handgun, a Walther .380-caliber handgun and an AK-47 assault rifle, Medford
police Lt. Bob Hansen said. All of those firearms were purchased legally, with required record checks by the Oregon State Police.

Authorities were "extremely concerned" that the man may have been planning to retaliate against his employers, the news release said.

"Instead of being reactive, we took a proactive approach," OSP Sgt. Jeff Proulx said.

Douglas and Jackson County sheriff's departments, OSP officers based in both counties and police in Medford and Roseburg collaborated, he said.

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.

After a phone conversation with negotiators, the man — who was alone in the home — agreed to come out, Hansen said.

Police seized the recently purchased firearms, as well as another .45-caliber Heckler & Koch handgun and a 12-gauge shotgun. Police are holding the weapons for safekeeping, but no criminal charges have been filed.

Related Stories; Man, guns held by police spur controversy ODOT worker wants guns; police say they'll comply. Kw enforcement officials say he could have been a 'danger to others' and his surrender was voluntary

By Anita Burke Mail Tribune

MEDFORD — A phone call from a police negotiator that jolted David J. Pyles awake in the predawn hours of Monday continues to jangle the nerves of observers monitoring the way authorities took the Medford man into protective custody and seized his firearms.

Pyles came forward Thursday to reclaim his legally purchased weapons, publicly identifying himself in an e-mail sent to Medford police and forwarded to state legislators and selected media outlets.

He also said he has contacted the Oregon Firearms Federation for possible legal assistance. Pyles directed questions to that group and said he would make only limited statements until he had consulted with an attorney.

Kevin Starrett, director of the Canby-based lobbying organization — which also has a foundation for protecting gun rights through court cases — had been monitoring the incident that landed Pyles in the hospital for a mental health evaluation and resulted in five of his guns being held by police for "safekeeping."

"It's chilling," he said. "I don't know if this is just a gun case," Starrett said. "It's about whether your freedom can be taken away without a criminal case or charges against you."

Starrett recounted the details of the case that Pyles shared with him. The federation had agreed not to identify him, so Starrett didn't use Pyles' name, but in the wake of Pyles' own public statements, the Mail Tribune is naming him.

Pyles told Starrett that he had a conflict with a superior at work, but was working to resolve it through union processes.

The Oregon Department of Transportation confirmed that Pyles has worked there as a planner since February 2004. ODOT Communications Director Patrick Cooney said the department couldn't discuss personnel or security matters.

Pyles told Starrett he initially thought the early morning call must be a prank, but looked out to see his yard surrounded by police.

"They asked him to come out and said they wouldn't handcuff him, arrest him or take him off the property," Starrett recounted.

However, Pyles said, he then was handcuffed and taken to Rogue Valley Medical
Center for evaluation.

"Because we had information that he could be a danger to others, we wanted a medical professional to evaluate him," Medford police chief Randy Schoen said.

Police have maintained that Pyles' surrender was voluntary, but Starrett noted that an intimidating presence of officers with rifles and SWAT gear can force people to agree to things they wouldn't normally do.

"The thing that is really troubling to us is that this was not an arrest," he said. "People in protective custody don't even have the rights a person who has been arrested does."

When undergoing a mental health screening, a person doesn't have a guaranteed right to an attorney, for example, he said.

The evaluation took several hours and Pyles was released before noon on Monday.

Starrett expressed concern that police hadn't offered a clear explanation of what prompted their action.

David Fidanque, executive director of the Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said his organization wasn't likely to get involved in an incident of this type, but said Pyles could have a case against police if he were taken into custody improperly.

He noted that police can't take people into custody based only on a concern, but said he understood their worries that someone could be hurt.

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