Police act swiftly after gun purchases
ODOT worker who'd been put on leave is mentally evaluated after buying handguns, AK-47
By Anita Burke
March 09, 2010 5:00 AM
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.
Reach reporter Anita Burke at 541-776-4485, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org