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Deschutes DA: Bend officers justified in shooting woman after lengthy, wild chase

Report details sequence of events that led to 14 gunshots off Hwy. 20

(Update: Adding video)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Two Bend police officers were legally justified in firing 14 shots and wounding a Bend woman who was speeding backward toward a third officer and his K-9 partner in her minivan after a wild pursuit that ended on snowy U.S. Highway 20 about 40 miles east of Bend a month ago, Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said Friday.

Hummel also said in his 10-page report that Danielle Nicole Bower, 29, will be charged in late May – a delay prompted by the COVID-19-related court limits – with DUII, fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, reckless driving and six counts of recklessly endangering another person.

“Danielle Bower’s decisions to drive while impaired by alcohol, and to flee from law enforcement officers in her minivan, constituted crimes,” Hummel said. “However, the mere fact of committing a crime should never, standing alone, result in a person being shot by law enforcement officers.

“Ms. Bower was shot by two Bend Police Officers because when her car was stopped off the roadway after a pursuit, three officers approached Ms. Bower on foot with guns drawn and yelled at her to stop, yet she put her minivan in reverse and floored the accelerator, propelling her minivan toward one of the officers and his K-9 partner.  Fortunately for all involved, the three officers were not injured, and Danielle Bower, while shot, survived and is recovering.” 

The district attorney steps in his report through the sequence of events that led to Bend Police Sgt. Tommy Russell and Officer Tim Williams firing on Bower’s minivan, striking her four or five times.

The incident began early Monday morning, March 9, as two other officers, Jacob Koehler and Tiago Oliveira, were at St. Charles Bend, executing a search warrant to draw blood from a suspect in an impaired driving investigation.

Russell heard a radio call from Koehler, seeking immediate help at the hospital, as a white minivan with a female driver was heading toward the hospital exit, ran over curbs and almost hit security guards.

Hummel said Bower drove up to the emergency room at 2:45 a.m., entered the ER with blood on her face, shirt and hands and waved security personnel out to her minivan. She opened the passenger door, showing two empty child car seats and said, “My family left me. They jumped out. They left me.” She got in the driver’s seat, but the guard stood in the open door, preventing her from closing it.

As Oliveira approached the minivan, she closed the door and put it in drive, while the officer told her not to drive away and yelled “stop!” He tried to grab the keys out of the ignition, but she drove off, soon encountering and swerving toward Russell on the loop road. And the pursuit began, with Bower at least twice “flipping off” pursuing officers.

Along the way, on various Bend streets, attempts were made to use spike strips or use the Pursuit Intervention Technique. At one point, a sheriff’s deputy, Jason Wall, asked Lt. Mike Sundberg for permission to use the PIT maneuver, but Sundberg denied it because he believed Bower was driving an SUV and sheriff’s office police does not allow the maneuver to be performed on vehicles with high centers of gravity.

Sundberg later realized Bower was driving a minivan with a low center of gravity and authorized the PIT maneuver, but a curb prevented the full spinout of the minivan the maneuver is designed to achieve. The chase all over Bend never encountered spike strips due to her frequent changes of direction, eventually heading east on Highway 20, reaching speeds topping 70 mph, weaving across lanes and driving recklessly.

After Bower swerved her minivan into the oncoming lane in front of an oncoming car, then swerved back into her lane at the last second., Russell contacted Corporal Jeff Frickey to discuss whether to call off the pursuit, Hummel said. Frickey told Russell it should continue to the danger she posed to others on the road.

Twice, Bower swerved into the path of oncoming semi-trucks, causing drivers to have to serve to avoid a collision. She drove into a ditch but was able to get back on the road and keep heading east.

Eventually, Bower drove off the north side of the highway, down a small embankment and ended up apparently stuck, her front-wheel-drive minivan’s tires spinning in the dirt.

Umnitz and his K-9 partner, Rony, approached the minivan from the rear driver’s side, expecting she could jump out and run, Hummel said. After he yelled for her to “Get your hands up now!”, when he was 5-6 yards behind the minivan, Umnitz saw the backup lights come on and heard was sounded like the driver flooring the gas and saw it jerk backwards toward him, Hummel said, adding that Sundberg witnessed the same.

Williams and Russell said they saw Bower put the minivan in reverse. Russell drew his pistol and yelled “Stop!” while Williams had his rifle deployed. Both saw the minivan quickly accelerate backwards toward Umnitz and his dog.

Russell shot eight rounds and Williams shot six, around 4 a.m. Bower was hit by 4-5 bullets, as well as shrapnel from shattered bullets and windshield and side-window glass.

The officers quickly moved to render aid to Bower and learned an air ambulance could not fly to the scene due to the weather. Deciding it would take too long for an ambulance to reach the scene, Russell and Williams put her in the back of Williams’ patrol car and sped west, with Russell driving and Williams in the back, rendering medical aid and telling Bower to hang on. “Ms. Bower was telling him she wanted to see her kids again,” the DA wrote.

After 17 miles, Russell met up with the Bend Fire ambulance and Bower was transferred to it.

Hummel steps through the legal analysis and said the physical evidence supported Russell’s and Williams’ assertions that they fired their weapons to stop Bower from striking Umnitz. He noted the van was still in reverse when OSP forensic experts examined it, “and tire tracks from the minivan show deep divots in the dirt, indicating hard acceleration, and show that the minivan was backing up and pivoting its rear end toward the north, or away from the highway."

At Bower’s home, police had found her fiancé, Stephen Horne, and another man, Joshua Mondragon, as well as two small children, ages 6 and 2, and blood on the ground in the living room and other blood elsewhere in the house. Horne said Mondragon had come over to their home and all had been drinking.

At some point, Hummel said, Horne said Mondragon had become “wasted” and started “going crazy,” trying to fight him and at one point attacked Bower as well. “Horne said that he had to choke Mr. Mondragon out,” Hummel wrote, and Bower left during the fight.

Bower’s blood alcohol level at the hospital, about three hours after she left home, was .277, more than three times Oregon’s .08 legal limit, Hummel said. Bower’s nose was broken at some point.

With all three people at the home “extremely intoxicated,” Hummel said, “At the end of the day, we don’t know what happened.” He noted no drugs other than alcohol were found in any of the three people’s systems.

Looking for why Bower fled officers at the hospital, Hummel said Bower told officers in the hospital that she did not want to be arrested for DUII. He also said the head injury and the alcohol use “resulted in her acting irrationally.”

In his conclusion, Hummel wrote, “Danielle Bower, her fiancé, and their friend got together to enjoy some cocktails and to catch up.  What should have been an enjoyable evening among friends turned into a dangerous and near-deadly incident that put the lives of numerous law enforcement officers, drivers on our roads, security guards and Ms. Bower at risk, all because of the abuse of alcohol.

“ I encourage all involved, and everyone in our community who is struggling with their use of alcohol, to reach out for help.  In the past are the days our community viewed those who seek help for an addiction as somehow ‘weak.’  Community members who acknowledge they need help controlling their use of alcohol or drugs are to be commended for taking the steps necessary to better their lives. “

During an in-depth interview with NewsChannel 21, Hummel said some questions have proven hard to answer.

"Why did somebody without a criminal record, a law-abiding citizen who was injured in a fight, why did she flee when the officers were there to help her?” he asked. “It could be one of two reasons. One could be as simple as she drove to the hospital impaired and she didn't want to get arrested for drunk driving. That could be one, also though, she had a head injury, and I saw this in the medical records. We believe it could've been from the assault that happened at her house. It could be that the combination of the injury she had to her brain and the alcohol intoxication had her acting irrationally." 

But the evidence was clear on other elements of what took place.

"Each officer complied with the law and acted appropriately,” the DA said. “Whether things could have been done better or differently is outside of my purview. I trust that the Bend Police Department will conduct that review." 

"At this time, I am not filing any criminal charges to anyone related to that incident at the house. This is because I am not confident what happened at the house. 

"There were two kids in that home. The Department of Human Services is involved, and the safety of the kids is being protected."

"I think we may have become complacent in our community with the rise of opioid addiction and the problems we've always had with methamphetamine. And then with marijuana being decriminalized, we've talked about that. Alcohol has always been the drug that’s most abused in our community and most leads to criminal activity.

“I want to just say that anyone who is struggling with their use in alcohol, gone are the days that we would look down on someone who asked for help. We would think someone is weak if they asked for help. Our community is not like that anymore. if you feel like you need help and may be using alcohol a little too much, and affecting your family or work, please reach out. We will not shun you, but help and support you on your journey." 

"I was struck by the length of this pursuit -- it went all throughout the city of Bend, then 34 miles east of town. It's rather striking that someone with that level of impairment could keep their car going for that long. Sometimes what people can do while impaired is really shocking. So that stood out at me." 

"Then you ask yourself, should the police have called off the pursuit? Pursuits, when there is a dangerous driver, who is fleeing, those are kind of damned if you do, damned if you don’t (situation). If they called off the pursuit, and Miss Bower continued and struck a car full of kids and killed them, I think we would’ve said, ‘Hey, maybe we should have continued the pursuit.' So it’s difficult."

"The officers reported -- and reports are consistent on this - is that once the minivan stopped moving, the officers stopped fire. Six shots, for example, can happen real quick -- bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. I mean, within two seconds, or 1 1/2 seconds.

“The officers knew their colleague was behind them. He was five to six yards behind the minivan. and that minivan moved 12.5 feet in reverse. and that’s from the tire tracks, so that minivan was going right in the direction of the third officer, and his canine partner, it was moving fast and a far distance." 

"These cases are heart-wrenching, for so many reasons. Lives are impacted. Certainly when someone gets shot, their life is irreparably impacted. But the lives of the officers are also involved. No officer goes out and starts his or her shift and says, ‘I hope I get to shoot someone.' But in this case, they did show their valor after they made the decision to shoot. they immediately went into ‘Save Ms. Bower's life’ mode. That was their sole mission, and they had a heroic rescue of Ms. Bower." 

--

Bend Police Chief Jim Porter issued this statement regarding the results of the district attorney's investigation:

“In the early morning hours of March 9th, Sgt. Russell, Officer Williams and Officer Umnitz served with honor and distinction as they protected the citizens of Bend. Russell, Williams, and Umnitz were faced with an exceptional set of dangerous circumstances , which District Attorney John Hummel has accurately pointed out in his findings.  Russell and Williams only responded with force after Ms. Bower’s actions placed Officer Umnitz at risk of serious physical injury. 

"There is little doubt the swift actions of the three officers on scene were crucial to Ms. Bower’s survival.  They immediately administered advanced first aid while calling for an air ambulance.  When it was determined the air ambulance was unable to respond, they quickly moved Ms. Bower to their police vehicle and transported her back to the Bend area while continuing to provide her with medical care. 

"Immediately following the incident, there were things reported in the media that were later proven to be incorrect.  One of the most significant facts that was reported incorrectly was that Ms. Bower was shot in the back during this incident.  Based on the information provided by the investigative team and Mr. Hummel we know that this was incorrect. 

"It is the rare and exceptional incident where members of the Bend Police Department are required to respond with force in the execution of their duties and more frequently rely upon de-escalation to resolve dangerous encounters as reflected in the Department’s Force Report.  Officers of the Bend Police Department arrested 4,250 individuals in 2019.  Officers were only required to respond with force in 76 of those incidents to protect themselves, others, or apprehend individuals as detailed in the 2019 Bend Police Department Force Response Report. 

"When individuals and suspects comply with the law it ensures their safety, the safety of citizens and the officers. As in this attempt to detain Ms. Bower for her unlawful operation of her vehicle, the officers were doing so to protect others in our community and uphold their oath to serve and protect as they attempted to respond to her unlawful actions.

"We look forward to the return of Sergeant Russell and Officer Williams in the near future.”

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

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Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.

Comments

33 Comments

    1. The “highly intoxicated woman” was pursued for almost an hour, well after they had determined there was no missing children, no crimes had occurred at the home, 40 miles east of Bend. She was so highly intoxicated that she could drive for an hour without crashing. An hour.

      Mind you, this exact scenario occurred in downtown Bend several years ago. They should have trained this scenario to
      prevent it from occurring again. They didn’t. Instead of using patrol vehicles and ‘stop sticks’ to disable her vehicle, they shoot her. Again, 40 miles east of Bend. 40 miles. Let that sink in people. The cops went to the house during the pursuit and confirmed no crime there, but the pursuit continued. Chasing an impaired driver for an hour who probably would have stopped driving if she wasn’t being chased. Hummel is a joke.

      1. multiple tools were used and avoided, careening around town, better re read the article, you. are missisng a. few details. risk to the community at large was great

        Good job to our police agencies and to the officers who saved her life and transported her until an ambulance could reach them, she carries the responsibility for. her behavior not the cops

      1. Clip… It’s what the clueless anti-gun people call a magazine. They can’t be bothered
        to use the correct terminology because they are so focused on being terrified of a completely inanimate object, and they are stupid.
        It’s amazing how a group of people that are so passionate about something can be completely ignorant about it…

            1. Does it make you feel better about your never ending anti-gun comments to continually say that gun owners live in fear ? Perhaps you should look
              in the mirror because it appears that you are the one that is seriously
              afraid of guns. Some people just don’t care for guns for whatever reason
              and that is fine, but you obviously have some underlying issues when it
              comes to those that do own them…

              -People own guns for many different reasons but fear is not one of them.
              Actually quite the opposite because we are realists and chose to be prepared
              to protect ourselves, our families and in some cases people we don’t even know.
              Other people like you have such a fear of guns and confrontation that you would
              rather potentially be passive and a victim. That’s your choice…

              -Contrary to your way of thinking, shooting guns for target practice is fun,
              so even if a person chooses not to carry a handgun for protection purposes,
              they can still enjoy shooting…

              -Believe it or not, some people actually enjoy hunting and choose to use a gun.

              -Lastly, I enjoy the older guns because many have an interesting individual history and some have historical significance as well. It’s also interesting to see the designs that they came up with almost 200 years ago, and the craftsmanship that went into each gun back when guns were completely hand built,
              and there were no CNC mills or other advanced machinery available.

              -So no,gun owners don’t own guns because they are afraid, but I’m sure your
              perspective will never change, and even if it did, you wouldn’t admit it…

              1. that’s whole lot of words there Mikey

                – you seem to enjoy telling me i’m anti this or anti that – truth is i’m not particularly fond of cult behavior or its “thought” process – i’m pretty much ambivalent beyond that, so do what you do cult boy

                1. If your not anti-gun, what would you call it, because you constantly make snide comments about those of us that do, for whatever reason, choose to own them.
                  Yes it was a lot of words and I knew when I wrote it, it would be lost on you because you already think that everyone that owns guns does so because they are afraid, or insecure, and that all gun owners are irresponsible and just waiting for an excuse to shoot someone.

                  -How can you be ambivalent about guns and the people that own them when all
                  of your comments on the subject are condescending and negative ?

          1. I know that some people do still refer to magazines as clips, and if you have been shooting that long, you know that there are clips used in some firearms, but my point was directed at the anti-gun clowns that don’t know the difference between an
            AR platform rifle and a 20 gauge shotgun. The same people that also call all rifles AK-47’s and automatics…

          1. I will because it’s a fact. Almost every gun fearing clown involved in the
            anti-gun movements is totally clueless about firearms. It’s just a nicer way of saying stupid…

  1. Yeah…of course, it was justified. Let’s see the body cam videos…oh…wait…there aren’t any. Instead of putting up those ridiculous metal statues around town, or other “art”, let’s purchase some bodycams for our officers. Or, that “fee” everyone has to pay for getting rid of the water under the bridge? I’d love to see how much the county collects a year from that fee, related to where that excess of money actually goes? How about it Barney? I think that would be a VERY interesting story. Let’s use the excess money from that for our officers.

    1. Draftlover…Exactly…so its justified to shot….at a person with no weapon…gun…stuck on side of bar ditch…report says stuck in dirt. And how dangerous is a Dodge Minivan in reserve…Totally unjust to unload your pistol. very easy to move away. Beware people of trigger happy police. Avoid those who wear badges. Who knows if the have buck fever.

      1. A Dodge mini van can kill or injure a person just as well as any other
        vehicle that is on the road…
        If you are worried about the cops having “buck fever”, don’t run around
        town with antlers strapped to your head.

        1. all humans are fair game gun fodder ‘cus they are all armed with something that gun toteers are afraid of – they all “fear for their lives” in all circumstances

            1. really – you might want to consult with all my neighbors on that – don’t you get tired of shouting uninformed foolishness into the void and trying to pretend that you are actually saying something?

    2. Bend PD doesn’t have car cams or body cams. Redmond and Prineville do. Deschutes County does. OSP does. It’s because if you don’t have footage you can ‘write’ your report to make anything justified. Porter said it’s because of storage and editing issues. Bull****. If you don’t have footage or audio you can’t prove misconduct and can ‘creatively edit’ the reports to support actions.

    1. Obviously BGHW appreciates the shout out- a kind of Simon Cowell personality that some people “get”- while others loath. In any case- I found the update here to be most interesting. Just chalk full of interesting tid-bits and rural drama- complete with a threesome of old friends getting together for a drunken night of violence and debauchery- while the children were supposed to be all nestled and snug in their beds… while visions of… oh wait- wrong story !

      I guess if we were to cut to the chase- many of us would be saying- ok- yeh- fine and dandy… but is there anything in that explanation that really required a “month” of secrecy before revealing to the public ???

      It is that “30 day delay” that dominates the conversation.

      I’ve seen many more “outland shootings” and “bootleggers hijinks” explained away on the same day- so why did this take four weeks ? There are clearly more chapters to be written about this tale.

  2. WOW, there is so much conflicting information, so many contradictions, and so much nonsense it is ridiculous. And it took them 30 days to come up with this lame story and write a report on an investigation based on the lame story. PLEASE! of course, the DA, police, judges….the whole corrupt justice system in Deschutes County obviously thinks we are all completely mindless sheep, who after reading all the articles and reports of how many “justified shootings” will just blink stupidly and say “oh, another citizen getting themselves in trouble because of substance abuse again!” and fall in with the rest of the herd obliviously and forget about the whole thing. I know I am not the only one who can see this whole thing does not add up. Not even close.

    1. the investigation was. handled by. an external agency that took the time they. felt they needed, get drunk, drive over barriers at the hospital while covered in blood, you will trigger an investigation and attempt to take. you. into custody

  3. who is training these guys that a whole group of them manage to put themselves and a dog in harms way (according to their testimony)? Not very professional, efficient or effective. Think about it

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