Jury finds man guilty of attempted murder
After a four-day trial, a 12-person jury found 19-year-old Christopher James Thomas Sweeney, of Sunriver, guilty of attempted aggravated murder for a November 2017 incident.
The jury deliberated about an hour before returning unanimous guilty verdicts on two counts of attempted aggravated murder, two counts of unlawful use of a weapon, and one count of reckless driving.
The charges were a result of a police pursuit that began south of Bend, and ended on U.S. Highway 97, near L Street in Madras, around 11 p.m., on Nov. 2, 2017.
Sweeney and a friend stole items valued at about $30,000 from Sweeney's grandparents, and then took two of their vehicles, a 2004 Chevrolet Venture, driven by Sweeney, and a 2007 Toyota Highlander driven by his friend.
Deschutes County Sheriff's Office deputies spotted the vehicles, which had been reported stolen, and attempted to stop the vehicles. The driver of the Toyota stopped in Bend, and was taken into custody, but Sweeney continued on to Madras.
DCSO deputies and Oregon State Police followed the vehicle to Jefferson County, where Deschutes County stopped, and Jefferson County Sheriff's Office joined the pursuit. Spike strips were deployed numerous times, but Sweeney failed to stop, until he lost control in Madras.
Once the vehicle was stopped, Brentley Steele Foster, chief deputy district attorney for Jefferson County, told the jury, "The defendant was willing to do whatever he had to do to escape."
Armed with a handgun, Sweeney got out of the vehicle in a crouch and drew his gun as an OSP officer approached. "If it hadn't been for deputy (Joe) Aldred, he might have (escaped)."
According to Foster, OSP Sgt. John Russo testified that Aldred saved his life by firing at Sweeney, whose gun misfired. After Aldred shot Sweeney three times, the officers provided medical assistance as they waited for an ambulance.
"It's an amazing dynamic," said District Attorney Steve Leriche. "Police have to go from a situation where their own lives are being threatened to saving the life of a person who threatened theirs."
"Kudos to the Major Incident Team from the Bend Police Department," he added. "They spent days, weeks, months working on this case; they were very thorough. We're very grateful for their work."
Circuit Court Judge Annette Hillman will sentence Sweeney on Friday, Feb. 15, at 10:15 a.m. Attempted aggravated murder is an unclassified felony, subject to Oregon's Measure 11 mandatory minimum sentencing. The minimum for the charge is 10 years in prison.