Police: 60-year-old appeared to threaten cops with knife

Photo Credit: MARK MILLER - The Best Western Oak Meadows Inn, in front of which Rogelio Rodriguez Rocky Martinez was shot by police early Saturday morning.A 60-year-old St. Helens man was hospitalized in critical condition after being shot by St. Helens police and Columbia County deputies in an altercation early Saturday, July 20.

Police say Rogelio Rodriguez “Rocky” Martinez was carrying a long knife when he was confronted by St. Helens Police Sgt. Rick Graham, Officer Stephanie LaVallee, Columbia County Deputy Bill Haas and Reserve Deputy Tyler Miller outside the Best Western Oak Meadows Inn in St. Helens.

St. Helens Police Chief Terry Moss said police received a concerned call about Martinez in which he was described as carrying a knife and a bottle of alcohol.

According to police, Martinez did not respond to officers’ attempts to converse with him and charged at them with his knife. An officer unsuccessfully attempted to subdue him with a Taser stun gun, the police account continues.

Officers then shot Martinez with their service weapons.

“They had no other choice,” Moss said. “They feared for their lives.”

Martinez was transported to Legacy Emanuel Health Center. As of press time, his condition had been upgraded but was listed as serious.

“[Martinez’s] behavior was certainly very erratic and suggested some sort of emotional distress or some sort of intoxication,” said Moss, although he noted that until all the evidence has been analyzed, he cannot be certain what Martinez’s mental state was or whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Asked Monday whether he stood by his officers’ actions, Moss answered, “Absolutely. These men and women had absolutely no choice to do what they did.”

Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson had no comment when asked the same question.

Moss declined to go into detail after the names of the officers involved were released Wednesday about who attempted to stun Martinez, who shot him, how many rounds were fired and other details of the officers’ actions, citing a request by Columbia County District Attorney Steve Atchison due to the ongoing criminal investigation.

The officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave in accordance with the county’s deadly force response plan, Moss said.

While Moss said he thinks Martinez will face charges, Atchison said Tuesday that he is waiting for more information before deciding what he will do. The Major Crimes Team is investigating the incident, he said.

“They’ll look at not only what the officers did, but what the person who was injured did, and how those things interact with each other,” Atchison explained. “So until I get that report, I cannot tell you who at all might be charged. The options are Mr. Martinez ... could be charged, any or all of the officers could be charged, no one could be charged — just depending on what the facts show.”

“From our perspective, in terms of the police department and the Sheriff’s Office, certainly there is information that will suggest criminal behavior and criminal charges, but that ultimate decision will be Steve’s,” Moss added Wednesday.

Saturday’s incident was the second officer-involved shooting in Columbia County this year.

Another St. Helens man, 27-year-old Josiah Max Fischer, was shot dead in Warren by an Oregon State Trooper after a high-speed chase in May.

Dickerson said he believes law enforcement personnel are having more violent encounters with “the criminal element” in Columbia County than they did before in recent years.

“It seems that violence is increasing on the part of some of the criminal element in this county in ways that we haven’t seen before. But I don’t have any statistics,” said Dickerson. “It just seems that way to me.”

Atchison said Tuesday that he can remember only a few officer-involved shootings in the county during his time as district attorney. He has held that position since 1998.

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