DA: Accused Woodburn man committed suicide
The report included photographs of bullet holes in the sides of Silverton Police vehicles, another in a grill and one that appeared to glance off a Marion County Sheriff's Office vehicle.
There was also debris scattered about rustic Silver Falls Highway 214, where Kenneth William Peden III of Woodburn crashed into a trailer pulled by a truck going in the opposite direction during the May 12 police pursuit.
Peden was facing multiple charges, including one for the kidnapping and murder of a Gervais teenager, when deputies found him hanging in his cell at Marion County Jail on Sept. 22. Paramedics reportedly spent 40 minutes attempting resuscitate him before they declared him dead.
A Linn County Sheriff's Office investigation determined the cause of death to be suicide. Peden's trial was scheduled for May 16, 2022. The criminal case has been dismissed.
Months after the tragedy that shook the small community of Gervais, Marion County District Attorney's Office released a lengthy report on the details of that horrific day, incidents from the weeks immediately preceding it and investigative reports from outside agencies.
On Tuesday evening, Nov. 23, Marion County Deputy District Attorney Amy Queen released the report, which justified law enforcement officers in firing their weapons and placed the cause of death for Molly "Oliver" Taylor, 17, in the hands of Peden.
Suspect, victim knew each other
The DA's report begins last April 20, when Taylor's parents reported their 17-year-old child missing and possibly a runaway. Molly Taylor identified as a transgender teen and went by the name of Oliver.
Marion County Sheriff's Office, Gervais Police and Deschutes County Sheriff's Office investigated the report, which was also reported locally on social media, and Taylor was found with Peden eight days later in Redmond and returned home.
Peden, 20, was cited for custodial interference.
MCSO deputies responded to a call at the Taylor family home in Gervais on May 8, where Peden showed up and refused to leave after being told to stay away from Oliver Taylor. Gervais Police subsequently investigated the incident and cited Peden for criminal trespass.
The report notes: "Peden was advised by officers, and again by Oliver's parents, that he was not allowed to return to the Taylor residence or have any contact with Oliver."
May 12 return
The most detailed part of the DA's report describes the incidents of May 12.
Oliver Taylor, his mother Erin Taylor and a friend, Arik Reed, 22, of Gervais were preparing to drive from the Taylor's home at roughly 4:47 p.m. Peden, who had parked his truck a few houses down the street, walked up to the driver's side of the vehicle and demanded that Oliver get out.
Erin Taylor got out of the passenger side of the vehicle and confronted Peden, telling him to leave. Peden said the only way he would leave would be with Oliver. Erin Taylor yelled to Oliver's brothers, who were inside the house.
Peden walked away and into the street, pulled out a handgun, walked back to the car and continued his demands. Both Taylors screamed, while Oliver locked the car doors as Peden was trying to open them. Peden broke the front passenger side window by hitting it multiple times, then pulled Oliver out of the driver's seat.
Reed exited the back seat and confronted Peden with a knife. Peden shot Reed in the abdomen and dragged Oliver toward his truck, while Erin Taylor pleaded with him to stop. He forced Oliver into the truck and sped away with him in the passenger seat.
Several witnesses called 911 as Reed made it to the front porch of the Taylor home and slumped to the ground, where Oliver's mother and brothers tried to help him.
The report notes: "At 4:53 p.m. officers from the Gervais Police Department arrived at the Taylor home, rendered aid to Reed and continued to relay information to dispatchers about the details of the shooting and kidnapping."
MCSO deputies and Silverton Police located the truck, which was pursued from Mount Angel into Silverton. Peden was reported to be driving recklessly, nearly hitting other vehicles and firing multiple rounds toward the pursuing law enforcement officers.
Many innocent bystanders, including children, were in the vicinity.
The report said: "Multiple casings were located in Silverton on 2nd Street and a resident on the corner of 2nd Street and High Street reported finding a bullet hole in his garage door from the shooting. At no time did officers have an opportunity to safely return fire toward the speeding truck. As Peden drove toward Highway 214 out of Silverton, a witness who was in his front yard watched Peden speed by with Oliver in the front passenger seat, signaling for help."
The pursuit ended and a standoff ensued on Silver Falls Highway near Forest Ridge Road. Peden's truck swerved into the oncoming lane and struck a truck pulling a trailer, damaging the trailer significantly. Peden initially continued to drive before his damaged truck came to a stop.
Police stopped a few feet behind the truck, and Peden continued to shoot at them. Officers took positions behind the opened doors of their vehicles and returned fire. Other officers arrived and took positions behind the pursuing officers.
Surrender and discovery
The report said Peden eventually surrendered and was detained by police. He had minor visible injuries on the side of his face and ear from shattered truck window glass, but none of the law enforcement shots struck him or Taylor.
Officers and medics found Taylor slumped over in the front passenger seat in the truck with life threatening injuries from a gunshot wound to the face.
Aid was immediately rendered, and Taylor was transported by Life Flight helicopter to Doernbecher Children's Hospital, where he died on May 19.
Oregon State Police led an investigation and presented it to the Marion County grand jury.
"The grand jury, in applying the legal standard to the testimony and evidence presented, found that each officer was justified in using deadly force against Peden," the report concluded.
That same grand jury had indicted Peden for the intentional murder and kidnapping of Oliver Taylor, the attempted murder of Reed, the attempted murder of four law enforcement officers and the felony attempt to elude a police officer.
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