DA concludes that officers' use of force was justified
An investigation into an officer-involved shooting that occurred around 11:15 p.m. on Nov. 2, on U.S. Highway 97, near L Street in Madras, has found that the officers' use of force was justified.
An 18-year-old man, Christopher James Thomas Sweeney, of Sunriver, remained hospitalized as of Tuesday, and neither officer had returned to work.
The Central Oregon Major Incident Team, comprising law enforcement agencies from Jefferson and Deschutes counties, included Oregon State Police, the Jefferson County and Deschutes County sheriffs' offices, Madras, Bend and Redmond police departments, and Jefferson and Deschutes County district attorneys' offices.
On Nov. 7, Jefferson County District Attorney Steve Leriche released the results of his review of the shooting, which resulted in serious injury to Sweeney. Six days earlier, Sweeney had walked away from J Bar J Ranch, where he had been placed in an independent living program after having been paroled from a youth correctional facility for unrelated matters, Leriche noted.
"Sweeney walked away from the program approximately six hours after arriving. Upon learning of Sweeney's escape, Sweeney's grandparents, who were out of the area, became concerned that he may attempt to burglarize their residence in Deschutes County and asked other family members to check on the residence," Leriche reported.
"Family members checked the residence and discovered that the residence had been burglarized and two vehicles, a 2007 Toyota Highlander and a 2004 Chevrolet Venture minivan, were missing from the residence. The vehicles were reported stolen on Nov. 2, and both vehicles were spotted by a Deschutes County Sheriff's deputy on Highway 97, near Lava Butte, shortly thereafter.
"Officers from the Bend Police Department assisted the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office in an attempt to stop both vehicles. The Toyota Highlander stopped on the Parkway near Robal Road. The driver of the vehicle was taken into custody without incident during a high-risk traffic stop."
The driver of the Toyota, Corey Joseph Gallagher, 19, of Portland, was lodged at the Deschutes County Jail for criminal conspiracy, first-degree theft, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He was arraigned Nov. 3, in Deschutes County, and his bail was set at $10,000. He posted 10 percent of the bail and was released Nov. 4.
"The Chevrolet Venture continued north on Highway 97, disregarding multiple police attempts to stop the vehicle," Leriche continued. "Law enforcement successfully deployed spike strips multiple times throughout the pursuit, but the Chevrolet Venture continued northbound on Highway 97 into Jefferson County."
"As the pursuit entered Jefferson County, deputy Joseph Aldred joined the pursuit and ultimately took the lead position in the pursuit, followed by Oregon State Police Sgt. John Russo, and other law enforcement personnel.
"The minivan continued into Madras, where it lost control at L Street and Highway 97. The investigation revealed that deputy Aldred approached the front of the minivan while Sgt. Russo approached the rear.
"Deputy Aldred gave multiple commands to Sweeney, who did not comply. Instead, Sweeney, holding his pistol with both hands, pointed his pistol at deputy Aldred. It appears Sweeney fired his pistol at deputy Aldred. Both deputy Aldred and Sgt. Russo fired upon Sweeney, wounding him. A senior trooper assisted in securing Sweeney on the ground, and then the senior trooper and Sgt. Russo immediately began first aid on Sweeney.
"Paramedics arrived after the shooting and transported Sweeney to St. Charles Madras, and from there, Sweeney was transported by Air Life to St. Charles Bend. Sweeney's loaded firearm was recovered at the scene with a damaged bullet casing still in the chamber, indicating a possible malfunction. None of the officers involved in the incident suffered physical injury."
"The Central Oregon Major Incident Team is continuing their investigation into possible charges against Sweeney in Jefferson and Deschutes counties."
Leriche pointed out that one of his duties is reviewing incidences in which police officers use deadly force, in order to determine if the use of force meets the standards required by Oregon law.
"Upon review of this incident, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that Sgt. Russo and deputy Aldred were justified in using deadly physical force under the circumstances they encountered and it was reasonable for them to believe that their lives and the lives of others were endangered," concluded Leriche, who expressed appreciation for the "thorough and detailed investigation of this event."