Mentally ill man dies in volley of gunfire with Medford police

Mentally ill man dies in volley of gunfire with Medford police, Medford Tribune, March 17, 2015

A 19-hour standoff between Medford police and an apparently mentally ill man ended Tuesday morning in a volley of gunfire, leaving the 49-year-old dead after he reportedly shot at police at least once.

“It’s a sad case all the way around,” Medford police Chief Tim George said. “This isn’t how we certainly wanted this thing to end.”

Seven Medford officers were placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting, which occurred at about 10:30 a.m. at 360 Argyle Court, located off North Ross Lane in west Medford. The man, whom police identified as Andrew Charles Shipley, died at the scene.

How many rounds were fired was not immediately known. About seven shots were captured on a Mail Tribune video, though the shooting had begun before the camera was turned on.

The officers were placed on leave pending an investigation by the Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit, led by Oregon State Police. A grand jury will determine whether the shooting was justified, as is protocol in officer-involved shootings. Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert said it’s unknown when a grand jury will hear the case.

“The investigation is still in the really early stages,” Heckert said.

Police found at least two guns in the Argyle Court home, a handgun and a rifle. There were also two dogs inside, George said. One made it out safely; the other was found dead in another part of the home, police said. It is not known how or when the dog died.

The standoff began about 3:45 p.m. Monday when Shipley’s sister reported to police that his mental state had deteriorated. He had barricaded himself inside the home, had firearms and was making threats, including threatening to shoot a dog, she said. He gave his sister one of the handguns and a large knife, which she carried with her when she fled the home, police said.

Police evacuated nearby homes and called negotiators, a SWAT team and mental health professionals to the scene. Police were able to communicate with Shipley by phone calls, text messages and through a loudspeaker. But he refused to come out.

Little activity occurred overnight, police said, and some of the residents whose homes had been evacuated spent the night in hotels. Officers eventually had to be rotated out for rest periods, with others taking their place, as the standoff dragged on.

“We do have adequate personnel to make it work, it just does require some type of a juggling act,” said Medford Lt. Mike Budreau.

Police reopened some stretches of Ross Lane and Sweet Road Monday morning. George said communications between Shipley and police seemed to be going mostly well.

The quiet but busy scene changed in an instant, though, when Shipley fired a round from inside the home that exited the structure. He also made more threats, George said. Two to three minutes later, Shipley raised the garage door, pointed a rifle at officers and fired, according to initial reports.

“When he did that, officers returned fire, and he was shot and killed,” George said.

Neighbor Jessica Martinez said the sudden barrage of shots was startling.

“I was terrified that there were so many shots,” said Martinez, 18, who had returned to the neighborhood Tuesday morning after being evacuated the night before. “It was crazy. All too much at the same time.”

A police officer trained in medical response rendered aid to Shipley after the shooting, but Shipley was pronounced dead by Medford Fire-Rescue personnel on scene.

Police already had been called to the Argyle Court house several times since Sunday, George said. The first two calls, reported by a woman George said was either a friend or girlfriend, was for a welfare check on Shipley.

“His mental health had been declining for days if not weeks,” George said.

Later that day, police responded to the house a third time for a domestic disturbance involving the woman, who reportedly had been trying to evict Shipley from the home and was trying to get him some help.

“That was determined, one, not to be a mandatory arrest crime,” George said. “Number two, we couldn’t make contact with him. He was inside the residence, locked inside, and the female was outside. At that time, the officers made a decision to de-escalate and just let that one ride, so they left. There was no prosecution on that case.”

The stretch of North Ross Lane remained closed until Tuesday evening.

“This certainly isn’t the end game for us,” George said. “We spent a lot of time, energy and effort to try and end this peacefully and get this individual some help.

“It’s sad that it ended this way.”