A Deschutes County sheriff’s deputy’s fatal shooting of a Redmond-area woman outside her apartment was lawful and justified because she was raising a shotgun toward them, having fired five shots since officers arrived and brought eight guns out of the home during the confrontation, District Attorney Patrick Flaherty said Friday.
Concluding a five-page report on the multi-agency investigation of the July 2nd shooting, Flaherty said, “Over the course of approximately 40 minutes, Ms. Shepard repeatedly threatened the use of deadly physical force and persistently rejected all efforts officers made to avoid using deadly physical force.”
“I find that Deputy (Mike) Sundberg reasonably believed he had no choice but to use deadly physical force to defend the lives of his fellow officers and himself, and therefore his use of deadly physical force was lawful and justified,” Flaherty wrote.
The DA’s report notes that the state medical examiner confirmed Shepard, 54, died of a single gunshot wound to the torso, fired by Sundberg.
It does not detail the half-hour delay between that shot being fired and when first armored personnel, then medics reached her, only noting that she “immediately collapsed, mortally wounded” and “was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later.”
However, the report confirms much of what was heard that night, in terms of a cautious approach to her after the shooting took place, by noting, “Near or under her body, investigators found three rifles, three shotguns, two pistols, a knife and a box of ammunition.”
It also notes that the heavily armed woman had appeared to be under the influence of methamphetamine and was acting in violent, unpredictable ways that made officers fear for their safety.
Flaherty offered more details Friday to NewsChannel 21 about what happened and why, including directions to a Life Flight crew to move back for a time, in fear a shot fired in the air could endanger them.
As for the delay in reaching Shepard after the shooting, the DA noted that an Oregon State Police officer with a long gun with night vision “had eyes directly on her, and was reporting things like, her hand's on a pistol, a rifle by her left elbow.”
“They would have moved in immediately, had she not continued to present a threat,” Flaherty said. “They commanded her several times to roll away from the guns, and she’d roll around -- but still stay right near the guns. They had to wait for armor to arrive to move the arrest team in.”
While the situation was tragic for Shepard, Flaherty said, “It would have been terrible for the officers in that position as well. But they felt they had no choice but to maintain safe cover. They didn’t want anyone else to be shot. It was a sad situation, but they didn’t have a choice.”
“When someone is presenting a firearm and is menacing and in a rage, as she was, and no doubt high on a central nervous system stimulant they believe to be methamphetamine … they did wait until the gun was leveled on them” to act, Flaherty noted.
“In fact,” he added, “under the law (governing justified use of deadly force), they would have been justified in shooting her on several occasions much earlier – each time she came out (of the house) with a firearm, screaming, yelling and aiming them in their direction, as she appeared to be about to use deadly force, and that’s what the law states.”
Deputies first went to the home on SW 67th Street about five hours earlier, around 5:15 p.m., after a 911 call regarding a suspicious package delivered to the home. A woman said her elderly father-in-law, who owned the home, opened a box delivered there and found “a plastic bag containing a white, powdery substance” that officers believed was meth.
They said they determined the package was intended to be delivered to Shepard, who rented a downstairs apartment in the two-story home.
Around 10 p.m., Lt. Chad Davis made contact with Shepard at the apartment, Flaherty wrote, and he said she appeared to be under the influence of a drug, with rapid speech, twitchy movements and reluctant to make eye contact.
At one point, Davis moved two knives from a coffee table and put them in the kitchen, which apparently made her angry. Davis also said that, despite his uniform, she didn’t appear to know he was a police officer and threatened “to go get my gun,” or words to that effect, and told him to leave.
He went outside, but she came out, screaming and holding a revolver with what Davis called a “rage look on her face,” and urged him to “shoot me,” pointing the gun in the air and firing a round. Davis said he drew his pistol, got behind his patrol car and yelled repeatedly for her to drop the gun.
Two other deputies had arrived, also urging her to drop the gun, and she kept screaming and fired a second round in the air before going back into the house, Flaherty said in his findings.
As heard on the scanner that night, investigators confirmed Shepard went into and out of her apartment several times, “each time coming out with a different firearm” and appearing to be in a “rage,” according to Sundberg.
After coming out with a handgun, Sundberg said he heard her say: “I’m not going with you. You will have to kill me,” then putting the gun to her temple and yelling “I’m going to get more ammo.”
Around 10:30 p.m., Shepard came out of the apartment with a pump-action shotgun and cycled it, Flaherty wrote, noting that deputies were trying to distract her attention from the upstairs area, because they feared she might shoot the elderly man inside.
Instead, she turned toward deputies Kyle Joye and Baldasar and began moving toward them, ignoring commands over the PA to stop.
Sundberg said he saw her right hand “gripping the shotgun in the firing position and that her left hand was raising the barrel up.”
The deputy told investigators “there was no doubt in his mind that she was going to shoot one of them unless he stopped her. Deputy Sundberg made a conscious decision to stop her and fired a single round from his rifle, striking her in the torso."
Sheriff Larry Blanton said Friday that Sundberg, who had been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation, as is the policy, "will return to full duty in a few days."