Ex-soldier killed in Eagle Point armed standoff: He brandished a firearm, fired shots inside apartment

Mail Tribune (Medford, OR) – May 2, 2010

Two and a half years ago, Adam Elsman Wehinger held a .357 pistol to his throat and begged police to kill him. On Friday night, the 34-year-old man’s wish was fulfilled when Jackson County sheriff’s deputies shot him dead following a 90-minute standoff in downtown Eagle Point.

The standoff began after Eagle Point police responded to a 9-1-1 report of a domestic dispute at about 9:45 p.m. at an apartment building on Royal Avenue.

“They encountered a male subject armed with a pistol who barricaded himself in the apartment complex,” said Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters. Police flooded the area, surrounding the complex and evacuating nearby apartments. At some point, Wehinger’s girlfriend, the other half of the domestic dispute, was safely removed from the apartment complex, Winters said.

Wehinger refused to comply with officers’ commands, threatened officers and fired several shots inside the apartment, Winters said. At around 11:20 p.m., Wehinger brandished a firearm at the deputies, who fired at him in self defense, Winters said.

Wehinger’s death at the hands of police did not come as a surprise to many who knew him, including his mother, Laura Wehinger, and ex-wife Gretchen Schwarz.

Schwarz described Wehinger as a kind father toward their two children — a young boy and girl.

“He loved his children,” she said of the Eagle Point High School graduate. “It’s a shame that he had so much trouble in his life that he couldn’t spend more time with them.”

Schwarz said her ex-husband struggled with alcoholism and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after returning from Iraq, where he served on a mortar crew, dropping bombs on Iraqi cities.

“He wanted to be in the military since he was little,” his mother said. “He tried so hard to pass the tests to get in and when he finally did we were so happy for him.”

Wehinger joined the Marine Corps in the mid-90s and was discharged after four years. He then joined the Army just in time to be shipped off to Iraq for the beginning of the war.

“I think he got a lot of help from the military when he came back, but he did a lot of things to mess that up,” his mother said. “He was just a lost soul who couldn’t find a way to be happy, even though there were plenty of people who cared for him and tried to help him.”

Wehinger’s former father-in-law, Jim Krois, said he heard many stories from Wehinger of the horrors he witnessed in Iraq.

“He spoke about some of the things he saw over there,” Krois said. “It was enough to chill your blood.”

The war, coupled with heavy drinking, set Wehinger adrift when he returned to Eagle Point after being discharged from the service. He struggled to find work and often became violent when he drank, Schwarz said.

In September 2007, he threatened to kill Schwarz because she had asked to take custody of their children following their divorce, she said.

Eagle Point police reported Wehinger held officers at bay with a .357 pointed at his throat. All the while he was demanding that police kill him, police said.

Wehinger eventually surrendered and was taken to Rogue Valley Medical Center’s 2-North unit for evaluation. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of pointing a firearm at another and was given 18 months probation and court-mandated counseling.

He also tried to seek treatment for his alcoholism, but was unable to give up drinking for any period of time, Schwarz said.

In the past two years Wehinger was convicted on two counts of driving under the influence of intoxicants, Jackson County Circuit Court records show.

Schwarz said her ex-husband sporadically attended the court-mandated counseling meetings and sank into depression last summer.

“He was suicidal but couldn’t do it himself,” Schwarz said. “He wanted the police to do it for him, and that’s what happened.”

It is now up to police detectives to piece together Wehinger’s final hours. The sheriff’s office has turned the investigation to outside agencies, per Oregon law.

As of Saturday night, police had not released the names of the officers involved in the shooting or details about how many times Wehinger was shot.

“We are bringing a lot of resources to this investigation,” Medford police Lt. Tim George said. “It might take some time to determine exactly what happened that night.”

Winters believes the evidence will show his deputies were justified in shooting Wehinger because they felt he was a deadly threat.

Regardless, the events that transpired Friday night held an air of inevitability for many who knew Wehinger.

“It’s awful to say, but this was kind of how he wanted it,” Schwarz said. “But despite his problems this was not how we wanted it to end for Adam.”