Grand jury adds more charges against shooting suspect
After three and a half hours of testimony and deliberation, a Jefferson County grand jury increased the number of charges against Rafael Gomez, 29.
Law enforcement arrested Gomez Friday, July 22, after a shooting incident that began at the fairgrounds during the annual Jefferson County Fair.
The grand jury added two counts of attempted aggravated murder, bringing the total counts of aggravated attempted murder to three.
The two new counts name Jefferson County Sheriff Jason Pollock and Deputy Stephen Witherow as targeted victims.
The grand jury added three counts of unlawful use of a weapon, bringing the total number of unlawful use of a weapon to eight, also naming Pollock and Witherow as potential victims, and another previously unnamed victim, Kristen Farrester.
The grand jury confirmed the original charges against Gomez, including felon in possession of a firearm and first-degree theft.
Shortly before 5 p.m. July 22, Gomez allegedly reached into an unlocked pickup and took an AR-15 rifle. A Madras man, Dan Comingore, witnessed Gomez by the vehicles and saw him pull the weapon out. Comingore called out that Gomez had a weapon, then he and four other men pulled their handguns on Gomez, and they were situated between Gomez and the interior of the fairgrounds. Witnesses say Gomez then slipped through a fence and ran to the Towne Pump gas station at the corner of Fairgrounds Road and U.S. Highway 97.
Two employees there, Ken Corbin and Dean Staten, say Gomez pointed the rifle at them and pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed.
Gomez then ran across the street and headed northward, witnesses say, and he shot at Sheriff Pollock and Deputy Witherow, who were pursuing. Gomez then entered the KFC/A&W restaurant. As he did, the officers shot and injured Gomez. Gomez was treated at the scene and eventually charged and lodged in the Jefferson County Jail.
Authorities had released Gomez from the same jail one day before the shooting took place. He had been living with his girlfriend and her roommate in an apartment near the Jefferson County Courthouse.
According to the roommate, Gomez has been in and out of jail most of his life.
"He grew up in a gang in California, South Side 13, and that's all he ever knew," said the roommate, who declined to be named. "He was nice to talk to, just seemed to really have a hard time adapting to society, getting out of all the gang and jail stuff. When that's all you know, and it's wear the colors or get shot, it's hard to get out of it."
The roommate added that Gomez had been trying to find a job and was not having any luck. He told his girlfriend and the roommate he was trying to return to his job in lawn maintenance but was turned away.
The roommate said Gomez had been increasingly discouraged in the days leading up to the incident.
"He was having a really hard time. He was upset he couldn't keep a job," said the roommate. "He said, 'I just don't know what to do anymore.'"
The roommate added that Madras has a lot of gang activity.
"I hope the new sheriff does something about it."
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