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Redmond man jailed, accused of trying to rob hemp farm


A Redmond man who pulled a weapon and tried to rob an industrial hemp farm north of Redmond on Tuesday, mistakenly thinking it contained marijuana, was held at gunpoint by the victim but fled before Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies arrived. Deputies said he was captured after a vehicle pursuit, manhunt and chase on foot, but a female companion remains at large.

Deputies were dispatched around 12:25 p.m. to the reported trespass in progress in the 500 block of Northeast O’Neil Way, Sgt. Kent Vander Kamp said.

The victim told 911 dispatchers he was holding two trespassers at gunpoint after confronting them on the licensed industrial hemp farm, Vander Kamp said.

When confronted by the property owners, suspect Mitchell Bruce Ballard Jr., 31, allegedly produced a weapon (Vander Kamp would not be more specific, citing the ongoing investigation) and threatened the owners.

The black Dodge pickup truck driven by Ballard had become stuck on some rocks during the confrontation, but he was able to free it and leave before deputies arrived.

“The property owners lawfully defended themselves with firearms and attempted to detain Ballard and the woman until law enforcement arrived,” Vander Kamp said in a news release.

Ballard also crashed into the property owner’s vehicles as he fled, causing substantial damage, the sergeant added.

An Oregon State Police trooper spotted the pickup leaving the area and pursued it for several minutes before discontinuing the chase in the interest of public safety, Vander Kamp said.

Sheriff’s deputies and detectives saturated the area in a manhunt that located Ballard and the woman with the pickup on public lands behind the Negus Landfill Transfer Station. Ballard was detained after a brief chase on foot, Vander Kamp said.

The woman, who remains at large, has been identified, but her name is being withheld as deputies and detectives attempt to contact and interview her for the continuing investigation.

The initial investigation determined Ballard and the woman had entered the hemp firm with the intent to steal what they believed was marijuana. Vander Kamp noted that industrial hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for industrial uses of derived products.

“Although it does contain minute amounts of THC, industrial hemp does not have the impairing effects of marijuana,” Vander Kamp noted in a news release.

Ballard was lodged in the Deschutes County Jail on charges of felony attempt to elude, first-degree robbery, three counts of reckless endangering, two counts of first-degree criminal mischief, two counts of misdemeanor failure to perform the duties of a driver and second-degree criminal trespass. He was being held late Tuesday on initial bail of $151,000.

More information may be released when available, Vander Kamp said.

Ballard made the news in 2012 when he was the last of six people arrested in a Redmond ATM fraud and theft case. A tip led to an apartment where he was arrested without incident. Police said a Redmond police K-9 was deployed, but he came out after the dog barked.

Court records show he pleaded no contest the following May to first-degree theft and two counts of computer crime and was sentenced to nearly two years in prison. He also pleaded guilty in 2015 to fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, recklessly endangering another person and reckless driving and received a 60-day jail term and 18 months probation.

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