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Managing partner at Newberg Ford agrees to unlawful use of a firearm charge in Washington County court

A prominent local businessman has pleaded guilty to a July 2018 confrontation with police at his home in rural Newberg.Kerekanich

John Kerekanich, managing partner at Newberg Ford, entered a guilty plea of unlawful use of a firearm in Washington County Circuit Court on May 7. The presumptive sentence for the crime, according to the petition filed with the court, is three years of probation and a maximum fine of $125,000. In addition, Kerekanich has agreed to forfeit firearms seized during his arrest and to not possess any firearms.

"On or about July 25, 2018, in Washington County, Oregon, I did carry and possess a firearm with intent to use (it) unlawfully against Washington County Sheriff's Deputies Jason McLaughlin and Thomas Bowler," Kerekanich wrote in pleading guilty to the weapons charge.

Kerekanich, 68, was due to be sentenced May 16 in Washington County Circuit Court, but court files had not been updated as of press time Tuesday morning to determine his exact sentence.

The incident started, according to a probable cause affidavit filed by the WCSO, near midnight on July 25, 2018, when the agency received a pair of complaints of a suspected drunken driver in the 23000 block of Mountain Home Road northeast of Newberg. One area resident said he saw an inebriated Meri Krekanich sitting in his driveway for an extended period, then drive into a ditch as she exited the scene. He followed her, the report said, at sometimes high speeds to her home miles away on Mountain Home Road. The witness later identified the woman in a photo provided to him by a WCSO deputy.

WCSO deputies responded to the Kerekanich's residence and found what they characterized as a clearly inebriated Meri Kerekanich, who said she had only begun drinking after reaching her home.

When the deputies attempted to arrest her, the affidavit said, she began yelling for her husband, who appeared on stairs near the front door holding a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun and threatening to shoot the deputies if they didn't unhand his wife.

"Mr. Kerekanich told us to let his wife go or he will shoot us to protect his wife and his property," McLaughlin wrote in the affidavit, adding that John Kerekanich's pistol was pointed at the ground and his finger was off the trigger.

After John Kerekanich refused repeated orders to drop the gun, the deputies withdrew and called on the Washington County Tactical Negotiations Team, who convinced John Kerekanich to surrender. Meri Kerekanich surrendered several hours later.

Meri Krekanich disputes the deputies' account of that night.

"My husband awoke from a deep sleep because I was on the ground screaming for help in my own home and my husband protected me," she said in an interview with the Oregonian. "He kept (his gun) aimed at the ground the whole time and never threatened anyone. What they're saying happened is all lies."

John Kerekanich was charged with unlawful use of a weapon and first-degree escape. Meri Kerekanich, 58, was charged with DUII, third-degree escape and resisting arrest.

The cases against the Kerekanich's were consolidated a few weeks later, although John Kerekanich pled guilty as an individual earlier this month. The fate of Meri Kerekanich's case remains to be seen.

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