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Jefferson County DA finds law enforcement justified in shooting Madras man on the run, aiming stolen gun

Highway 97 through Madras was closed for hours July 22 after officer-involved shooting at nearby KFC
Tyson Beauchemin/KTVZ
Highway 97 through Madras was closed for hours July 22 after officer-involved shooting at nearby KFC

If AR-15 had not had a 'double feed' ... 'it is highly likely significant casualties would have occurred.'

MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ) – Madras police and Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies were justified in using deadly force to stop a Madras man who allegedly stole an AR-15 rifle from a pickup parked at the Jefferson County Fair last month and aimed it at citizens and pursuing officers, only unable to fire because two rounds jammed in the chamber, District Attorney Steven Leriche said Wednesday.

Rafael Gomez, 30 was shot once, through the arm, with the bullet lodging in the torso in the July 22 incident. He was quickly given first aid and taken to the hospital, then later jailed and indicted on 13 charges, including three counts of attempted aggravated murder.

“Upon review of this incident, evidence unquestionably supports the conclusion that law enforcement was justified in using deadly physical force under the circumstances they encountered, and it was reasonable for them to believe that their lives and the lives of others were endangered," Leriche wrote in a news release.

"Had Gomez managed to enter Madras Cinema 5 or Kentucky Fried Chicken and remove himself from law enforcement pursuit long enough to clear the double feed from his rifle, it is highly likely significant casualties would have occurred,” the DA added.

“Corroborative of this concern is a statement Gomez made while being booked into the jail, inquiring whether the media was present at the jail and expressing interest in becoming famous,” Leriche added.

Leriche stepped through the sequence of events as investigated by the Central Oregon Major Incident Team, starting with Gomez being spotted in the “dry camping” area of the fairgrounds where people showing animals park, and not recognized as involved in the event.

Body camera video during the police pursuit showed Gomez ignoring several commands to drop the gun, Leriche said.

"Video surveillance footage from surrounding businesses showed Gomez manipulating the rifle and turning and pointing the rifle at pursuing law enforcement several times, but it is unclear whether Gomez was ever able to successfully fire the weapon," he wrote.

Witnesses also said he pointed the gun at them and drivers on Highway 97, but "law enforcement was unable to safely fire upon Gomez at the time, given his distance from law enforcement, significant traffic on Highway 97 and the potential for civilians to be struck, rather than Gomez," Leriche said.

You can read the DA’s full description of what transpired below, corroborating much of what witnesses had said that day and since:

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts
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Barney Lerten

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

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