Wednesday
July 18 2018
9:05 PM
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No criminal charge to be filed against Marion County Sheriff's Deputy
by Oregon State Media, Inc.
  Saturday June 30, 2018 - 1:34 AM
 
Statement from Marion County Sheriff's Department:

After a thorough review of the June 4, 2018 arrest of Kevin Straw, 28 years old, the Marion County District Attorney's Office has determined that Marion County Deputy Jacob Thompson will not be charged with any crime for his role in that arrest.

The review included the following materials: the video of the arrest taken by KGW8; the recorded interviews of 16 civilian witnesses; the unrecorded statements of two other civilian witnesses who were interviewed at the scene immediately after the arrest; all reports from the Marion County Sheriff's Office, case # 18012901, including reports written by the five deputies involved in the arrest - some of these reports also reference a prior contact between Kevin Straw and Deputies of the Marion County Sheriff's Office that occurred on June 2, 2018; photographs of the injuries sustained by Kevin Straw and two of the deputies; photographs of items either in the possession of or worn by Kevin Straw at the time of his arrest (namely, a large, fixed-blade knife, home-made armor, and fingerless gloves similar to those used in Mixed Martial Arts fighting); e-mail correspondence from May 28 through May 31, 2018, concerning an incident unrelated to Kevin Straw's arrest, but dealing with two other individuals who had recently interfered in a search and rescue operation and the effect of such interference.

The following facts are from the materials listed above:

Contact between Kevin Straw and the Marion County Sheriff's Office began on June 2, 2018, two days prior to his arrest. On that day at approximately 2:15 p.m., Deputies Mark Ferron and Derrick Ramseyer of the Marion County Sheriff's Office responded to a call of a suspicious person at the Idana-Detroit Fire Station.[1] Once the deputies arrived they located the subject of the call, later determined to be Kevin Straw.[2] The deputies noticed that Kevin Straw had stacked various items, including clothing, wood, and a fire station sign on top of a large city planter box. They also noted that Kevin Straw was wearing multiple pairs of pants, padded fingerless gloves, and random pieces of metal that he had affixed to his legs from his ankles to his calves.

Upon contact, Kevin Straw claimed that he was gardening and that he was a volunteer fire fighter at that station. When deputies attempted to inquire further, Kevin Straw became very loud and demanding. His behavior was erratic and bizarre. He made nonsensical statements and grew angry when his statements were challenged or not accepted as true.[3] The deputies requested a Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT) to respond since they believed that Kevin Straw was exhibiting signs of suffering from mental health issues. Sergeant Shane Burnham arrived on scene and spoke with the original complainant. Eventually, it was determined that Kevin Straw's actions amounted to minor criminal activity, and that based on his erratic behavior he would likely respond physically if deputies tried to arrest him. The deputies left the scene though Deputy Ramseyer remained in the area and returned when the MCRT arrived on scene to assist them in contacting Kevin Straw.[4] Throughout his contact with the MCRT and Deputy Ramseyer, Kevin Straw was aggressive and hostile, yelling loudly, raising his arm and shaking his fist at Deputy Ramseyer. Finally, Kevin Straw calmed down and he told the MCRT and Deputy Ramseyer that he was not suicidal. He declined services from the MCRT and they cleared the scene. Deputy Ramseyer told Kevin Straw to obey the law and be on his way and then he cleared the scene as well.

Later that evening, staff at Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat Center (approximately 10 miles from the fire station) reported that Kevin Straw was creating a disturbance and had been told to leave. There was no law enforcement action at that time.

The following day, June 3, 2018, a father and son went fishing at Leone Lake which is near Breitenbush Hot Springs and approximately 14 miles from Detroit. The pair told family members that they would return by 4:00 pm that day but they did not. At approximately 10:00 pm that evening their family reported the men missing and shortly thereafter a search and rescue operation got underway.

By the morning of June 4, 2018, a number of Marion County Sheriff's Deputies had responded to Detroit to assist in the search for the missing father and son. Their vehicle had already been located near Leone Lake but there was no sign of either man. It should be noted that due to both men having medical issues their "missing" status was extremely concerning.

The Marion County Search and Rescue Team established a command post at the Idanha-Detroit Fire Station because of its proximity to Leone Lake. Due to the urgency of the situation, outside agencies including Polk County Search and Rescue, Corvallis Mountain Rescue, the Oregon Army National Guard, and the US Air Force were asked to help with additional resources.

Local media outlets learned of the situation and also responded to the area to cover the story. Police tape was set up around the entrance to the command post to limit access and to allow clear communication with searchers and other field units to maintain focus on this operation.[5]

At approximately 9:00 a.m., Kevin Straw arrived at the front of the command post and began speaking loudly about a cougar. Deputies Mark Ferron and David Zahn responded to this distraction. Deputy Ferron immediately recognized Kevin Straw from two days before and alerted Deputy Zahn that he had been uncooperative and would likely fight. The two deputies asked Kevin Straw to leave several times and to not interfere with the search. Though Kevin Straw initially argued with them, he eventually left.

At approximately 9:10 a.m. a communications unit from outside the command post reported that Kevin Straw was now interfering with their ability to assist in the search and asked for a deputy to remove him. Deputy Zahn responded and again tried to explain to Kevin Straw why he could not interfere with the operation and asked him to leave multiple times. In response Kevin Straw grew angry and loud, he spoke over Deputy Zahn and told him that he could be there. During this encounter, Deputy Zahn asked for dispatch to send a patrol unit to assist him in removing Kevin Straw.[6] After about 10 minutes of arguing, Kevin Straw left the area though he would return.

In the interim Deputy Zahn learned that Kevin Straw had been arguing with another communications team member and eventually became angry and began cursing at her. This distraction was so loud that she was unable to hear and log radio traffic from the searchers in the field.[7]

The decision was made to arrest Kevin Straw for Interfering with a Peace Officer when he returned and the patrol units arrived.[8] While waiting, Kevin Straw returned and walked into the post office. By the time he came out, all of the deputies were present and they moved towards him to place him under arrest. It is at this point that the KGW8 video begins. Deputy Ramseyer approached Kevin Straw from the front and told him that he was under arrest while at the same time grabbing Kevin Straw's right wrist and elbow. Right after this, Deputy Zahn grabbed Kevin Straw's left arm. Kevin Straw clenched his fists and attempted to pull his hands towards the front of his waistband. Both deputies attempted to put Kevin Straw's hands behind his back but neither was successful. Deputies Ethan Griffith and Jacob Thompson moved in to grab Kevin Straw and assist taking him into custody. As Kevin Straw refused to follow instructions the deputies took him to the ground in an effort to control Kevin Straw and to limit his ability to resist them. When the group went to the ground they were able to prone Kevin Straw out though he continued to struggle and refused to comply with their commands. In the initial struggle Deputy Zahn lost his grip on Kevin Straw's left arm and then moved to Kevin Straw's legs where he and Deputy Griffith tried to control Kevin Straw's lower body. Deputy Ramseyer worked to control his right arm and Deputy Thompson attempted to control Kevin Straw's left arm. Deputies told him to "stop resisting" and to "put his hands behind his back." In response, Kevin Straw repeatedly yelled, "I'm not resisting" though he refused to put his hands behind his back.

It is at this point that Deputy Jacob Thompson began to hit Kevin Straw in the back of the head with a series of "focused blows." His stated purpose of these blows was to distract or disable Kevin Straw from reaching under his body and to allow deputies to place his hands behind his back. Deputy Thompson was able to articulate that due to his positioning in regard to Kevin Straw, the only three options for a strike were on Kevin Straw's back, the side of his torso, or the back of his head. However, because Kevin Straw was wearing multiple layers of clothes and had both a backpack and shoulder bag Deputy Thompson did not believe that blows to the side or back of the torso would be effective. Therefore, he assessed that the back of Kevin Straw's head was the only target likely to have any effect.

Deputy Thompson first hit Kevin Straw approximately fifteen times, he paused briefly and then struck him approximately two more times in rapid succession.

As noted, the entire event, from just before deputies told Kevin Straw he was under arrest to when he was finally handcuffed and taken from the scene was captured on video by KGW8. The video includes all of Deputy Thompson's blows to Kevin Straw. There is no doubt that the video is graphic, even difficult to watch and it was an important part of the District Attorney's review of the case. However, the video was only able to capture the arrest from one vantage point, that of Kevin Straw's left side. What the video does not show is Kevin Straw's right side where Deputy Ramseyer was struggling unsuccessfully to place his right hand behind his back. Instead of complying with the orders to "stop resisting" and "to put his hand behind his back" Kevin Straw continually fought to get his right hand under his body and to his waistband. The deputies articulated that such behavior is very concerning because Kevin Straw was actively resisting, they could not see his right hand when it was under him and because he didn't put his right hand near his chest, as people often do when they are fighting to keep from being handcuffed.[9] Instead, Kevin Straw continually tried to get his right hand to his waistband, a common location for people to carry, conceal and retrieve weapons. Kevin Straw was wearing clothing that could have easily concealed a weapon and none of the deputies knew if he had weapon(s) or not.

On the left side (the side that was captured on the video) Deputy Thompson was unable to gain control of Kevin Straw's left arm. The video also shows that Kevin Straw had some sort of "wrap" on his free left arm. However, due to the distance, the video is not able to clearly show that the "wrap" consisted of two large pieces of sheet metal, roughly molded to the shape of Kevin Straw's arm and that, when taped together as they were, created a type of armor. Additionally, these pieces of metal had sharp, uneven edges and one of the pieces had 2 bolts protruding from it to create makeshift spikes.[10]

As the struggle continued, Deputy Ferron came to assist the other deputies by kneeling over Kevin Straw's head and placing his shin across the back of Kevin Straw's neck and base of his head. This action further limited Kevin Straw's ability to move and the deputies were able to see that Kevin Straw did in fact have a large fixed-blade, bowie style knife, in a sheath in his waistband.[11] One of the deputies was able to pull the knife out and throw it to the side and out of reach. Shortly thereafter, Kevin Straw relaxed his arms and allowed them to be grabbed and placed behind his back.[12] Kevin Straw had a bloody nose and other scrapes as a result of his arrest. Immediately after Kevin Straw was taken into custody medics responded to examine him and cleared him. Kevin Straw was then transported in a patrol vehicle to Salem Hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Kevin Straw was given a citation for Interfering with a Peace Officer and Resisting Arrest, however, the Marion County District Attorney's Office has declined prosecution of Kevin Straw for this criminal conduct. Instead we are attempting to connect him with mental health services in the community. This decision is consistent with our practice and procedure regarding individuals struggling with mental illness.

The Marion County District Attorney has determined not to file criminal charges against Jacob Thompson by applying the facts of this case to legal principles regarding use of force in making an arrest or in preventing an escape. The legal principles that apply, set out in ORS 161.235 are as follows:

Jacob Thompson had to reasonably believe using physical force upon Kevin Straw was either:

Necessary to make an arrest or to prevent an escape from custody of an arrested person unless the peace officer knows that the arrest is unlawful; or For self-defense or to defend a third person from what the peace officer reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of physical force while making or attempting to make an arrest or while preventing or attempting to prevent an escape. The Marion County District Attorney's review is limited to whether criminal charges are appropriate. Whether Marion County Sheriff's Office policy was appropriately followed is outside of our review. Therefore, this matter will now be returned to the Marion County Sheriff's Office for review consistent with their policies and procedures.

[1] The complainant stated that the suspect had been wandering around the area for the last couple of days and she had witnessed him yelling at people. She also said that he was currently piling up garbage and rolling a log up to the fire station.

[2] The suspect originally claimed that he did not have a name but then stated that he was Special Forces and not at liberty to give the deputies his name. Later he told deputies that his name was Tessa Lovelace.

[3] Kevin Straw claimed that his Special Force's mission was to kill a blind cougar by hand. He also repeatedly stated that he had authority over everyone and was going to build a monument out of the planter at the fire station.

[4] The MCRT responded from Woodburn and therefore their arrival on scene was not immediate.

[5] As referenced in the beginning of this press release, and documented in e-mails from May 28-May 31, 2018, the Marion County Sheriff's Office was very aware of how detrimental interference with a search can be. In that instance, people talking loudly caused several calls from search units to be missed by command because the radios could not be heard.

[6] Deputies participating in Search and Rescue do not wear a standard uniform. Typically they wear cargo pants, a polo shirt identifying themselves as deputy sheriffs, and carry only their firearm. They do not wear ballistic vests or their duty belts with taser, handcuffs, baton, etc.

[7] In every instance on this day Kevin Straw was upset about a cougar that he believed posed a danger and that he wanted law enforcement to deal with.

[8] ORS 162.247 (1) A person commits the crime of interfering with a officer if the person, knowing that another person is a peace officer (a) intentionally acts in a manner that prevents, or attempts to prevent, a peace officer from performing the lawful duties of the officer with regards to another person; or (b) refuses to obey a lawful order by the peace officer.

[9] Placing or even locking one's hands at the chest is the most powerful way to resist being handcuffed behind the back.

[10] Photographs of this makeshift armor are included with this press release.

[11] Photographs of the knife taken off of Kevin Straw during the arrest are included with this press release.

[12] The video shows that Kevin Straw was not immediately handcuffed and taken from the scene. The delay was due to the fact that he was wearing multiple items that needed to be removed before he could be handcuffed and placed into a sheriff's car. Specifically, his right hand had 2 gloves on, 1 of which was similar to a MMA glove, and a hand / wrist wrap typically worn by boxers or fighters. His left hand had a MMA style glove and the previously described armor. He also had a backpack, shoulder bag, scarf and some rope that all had to be cut off of him before he could be safely detained.