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Grand Jury Rules Use of Deadly Force Justified
The Oregon Herald Staff
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Today a Marion County Grand Jury unanimously found that Oregon State Police Troopers Caleb Yoder, Michael Iacob, Joseph Sousa and Linn County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Rathelegurche were justified in their use of deadly physical force on Brad Tyler Masters, 27, on December 8, 2020.

The Grand Jury convened today to hear testimony from 6 witnesses, including the involved officers, Salem Police Department detectives who led the investigation, and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. The Grand Jury also reviewed video recordings from law enforcement sources, as well as photographs, scene diagrams, dispatch recordings, and autopsy conclusions. 

The following is a factual summary of evidence found by the Grand Jury:

On December 8, 2020, Bradley Tyler Masters, brandished a black, semiautomatic pistol[1] and demanded money from a Dutch Brothers in Bend, Oregon.  Shortly afterwards he also robbed a Dominoes pizza restaurant and demanded an employee’s vehicle in addition to the cash he stole. The Bend Police Department and Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office responded, were able to locate Masters in the stolen vehicle, and he fled.

Masters drove at a high rate of speed towards Santiam pass, heading westbound on Highway 22.  At approximately Suttle Lake, the Deschutes County Sheriff Deputies terminated their pursuit and sent a “Be on the Look Out” (or “BOLO”) for an armed robbery suspect to nearby patrol units. The deputies provided identification details such as the vehicle’s description, including color, model, license plate, and the vehicle’s distinctive Texas sticker on the rear window. They also included that Masters was the sole occupant of the vehicle and that he was armed.  

Linn County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Rathelegurche was working patrol in the general area between Mill City and Lyons, Oregon, when he heard the “BOLO” over his radio. He was operating a standard, appropriately marked, patrol SUV with lights and sirens.  

Deputy Rathelegurche responded despite his limited ability to communicate with other law enforcement agencies due to his radio’s geographic limitations. He was able to determine the general area of Masters’ location and direction of travel (west on Highway 22).  Deputy Rathelegurche set up on a strategic curve in the road, turned off his overhead lights, laid out spike strips to stop Masters’ vehicle, and waited for Masters to drive towards his location.

By the time Masters approached Deputy Rathelegurche, a Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy had also located Masters’ vehicle and was closely pursing Masters. The Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy was also in a standard marked vehicle and was following Masters with lights and sirens.

Deputy Rathelegurche was able to spike the tires of Masters’ vehicle.  However, due to the speed of the pursuit, Deputy Rathelegurche was unable to “pull in” the spike strip before the Marion County Deputy also drove over it.[2] The Marion County Deputy pulled over, and after Deputy Rathelegurche confirmed that the Marion County Deputy was uninjured, Deputy Rathelegurche took over law enforcement’s pursuit of Masters, who was continuing his attempt to elude police as the tires of his stolen vehicle deflated.

Deputy Rathelegurche pursued Masters for several miles westbound on Highway 22. As they passed Detroit Lake and approached the Big Cliff Dam area, Deputy Rathelegurche learned via radio that three Oregon State Police Troopers were at that location. Troopers Caleb Yoder, Joseph Sousa, and Michael Iacob had all responded from the Salem area upon the “BOLO” call.  All three were also operating standard patrol vehicles with lights and sirens.

By the time Masters approached Big Cliff Dam, the three Troopers had coordinated their response, and Trooper Caleb Yoder had laid out another spike strip. 

Again, Masters drove his stolen vehicle over the spike strip.  Deputy Rathelegurche slowed down, giving the Troopers time to pull in the strip before he continued following Masters.  At that time, all three Troopers joined the pursuit.

Masters continued his attempt to elude for several more miles; however, the condition of his tires caused him to significantly slow down as he was now driving on the rims of the stolen vehicle. All four law enforcement vehicles pursued with lights and sirens in a diamond pattern spread out across the road behind Masters. As they did so, Trooper Iacob gave repeated commands over his loudspeaker for Masters to stop his vehicle.

Eventually, several miles east of Gates, Oregon, Masters pulled his vehicle perpendicular to the flow of traffic on the west-bound lane of Highway 22.  He exited his vehicle and quickly walked to the center of the roadway.  He ignored law enforcement’s commands to “put your hands up!” Instead, he raised both hands in a shooter stance towards the officers, and then bladed his body, dropping one arm while firing at the officers.[3]  

All four officers returned fire. In total, they fired 16 rounds at Masters, who was struck 3 times.  None of the officers were hit.  

Masters collapsed to the ground, and didn’t follow the officers’ commands to show his hands (he was likely deceased); however, the proximity of the gun to Masters’ hands required the officers to make a slow, tactical approach. Once they had done so, they moved the gun away from Masters and determined that medical aid was futile.  Masters was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Later, when Salem Police began their investigation of the scene, investigators learned that Masters’ “gun” was in fact a bb or pellet gun.  A picture of that weapon can be seen here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1k6s8Uh-QnFIJnCoNj5mmpoQKWGsrHuW3/view?usp=sharing

An autopsy was conducted by Oregon State Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Rebecca Millius.  Dr. Millius determined that Masters’ cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head. Preliminary toxicology results revealed that Masters tested positive for amphetamines and cocaine.

As is common practice in Marion County, the investigation was conducted by an un-involved, outside police agency; in this case, the Salem Police Department.

The Grand Jury applied the facts of this case to the legal principles dictating circumstances when deadly physical force can be used. Specifically, the Grand Jury found that all four officers reasonably believed the following:

  • Brad Tyler Masters had committed and attempted to commit felonies involving the use or threatened use of physical force against a person;
  • Deadly physical force was necessary to defend a peace officer or another person from the use or threatened imminent use of deadly physical force;
  • Brad Tyler Masters had committed felonies or attempted to commit felonies and under the totality of the circumstances existing at the time and place, the use of such force was justified, and;              
  • The officer’s life or personal safety was endangered in the particular circumstances involved.

 

The Grand Jury's decision required reviewing all the facts and evidence available and applying them to the legal principles above.  The Grand Jury unanimously concluded that the actions of Oregon State Police Troopers Caleb Yoder, Michael Iacob, Joseph Sousa and Linn County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Rathelegurche were justified and lawful. 

District Attorney Paige Clarkson stated that: “I would like to thank the Grand Jury for their review of this incident. Their thoughtful, thorough, and careful deliberations in such an important case is essential for our community’s continued confidence in our law enforcement officers. The transparency that occurs by a Grand Jury review of these investigations is critical for that confidence. Their service was especially remarkable given the public health crisis within our community.

We further extend our thanks to the Salem Police for their dedication to this investigation and to our Marion County Use of Deadly Force investigatory process.

But, I am most thankful that Troopers Yoder, Iacob, Sousa and Linn County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Rathelegurche were not injured or killed. This case highlights the very dangerous work our police officers engage in every day. I am proud of their work, their professional collaboration, and our continued relationship with local law enforcement agencies. Although the weapon used was ultimately not a firearm, these officers responded to a dangerous situation, and I am thankful that they returned home on that dark, rainy, and cold night.”

 

Dash camera video can be located here:

Warning Graphic:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ab9PftMLg7FsABM4mLG-gn8MCak7xAyb/view?usp=sharing

 

 

Any questions can be addressed to Deputy District Attorney Brendan Murphy at [email protected]">[email protected] or (503) 588-5222.