Deschutes Co. Sheriff clears his two deputies in shooting death of mentally ill man

From the Bend Bulletin, October 31, 2006

Deschutes County Sheriff Les Stiles has officially cleared two deputies involved in the fatal shooting of a La Pine man last month of any wrongdoing.

Deschutes County Sheriff Les Stiles

Deschutes County Sheriff Les Stiles

Stiles announced Monday that the deputies adhered to “department policy, procedure and training” during a domestic violence call Sept. 15 that resulted in 35-year-old Devon Shane Linville‘s death.

Stiles said he received the results of an internal investigation Thursday and spent the weekend sifting through statements and reports. He also considered the conclusions of Det. Shane Nelson, of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, who conducted the internal investigation.

“The deputies who fired the fatal shots did so because Mr. Linville put them into a position where they had no choice but to use deadly force to keep from being killed by him,” Stiles wrote in a news release.

Glenda Linville, Devon’s mother, said she called police to their home at about 6:30 p.m. because her son had put his hands on her throat during a manic episode and threatened to kill her.

She told authorities her son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was not taking his medications.

She said in earlier interviews with The Bulletin that she called police in hopes of getting him help.

Officials negotiated with Linville through windows for more than an hour before Lt. Myrna Homan of the Sheriff’s Office made the call to go in. Linville was shot a total of four times when he charged at police with a knife.

“I completely back Lt. Homan’s call,” Stiles said Monday. “She assessed the situation based on a number of factors including fading daylight, the fact that the interior premises of the residence were not secure, and we didn’t know if anyone else was in the house.”

Four of Stiles’ deputies were present at the Linville shooting , and three have returned to work, he said. He expects the fourth to come back soon.

Two of Stiles’ deputies fired shots that night.

Deputy Justin Alps entered the house shortly before 8 p.m. and shot Linville three times with a beanbag-propelling rifle designed to stop dangerous subjects but not kill them.

When Linville came at Alps with the knife, Alps bear-hugged Linville, who continued to stab at the deputy.

“The internal review clearly documented that deputies used the least force possible at every step until Mr. Linville escalated to the point where deadly force was the only alternative left,” Stiles said.

Oregon State Trooper William Duran, who also was inside the house, shot Linville in the left thigh.

From outside, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Deputy Tory Flory shot Linville through a window once on the right side of his torso.

Alps was able to get to his gun and shot Linville once through the heart, killing him, and once in the left arm.

Duran and the sheriff’s deputies involved were cleared by a Des-chutes County grand jury and the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office on Oct. 6.

On Monday, Stiles said that Flory was a trained negotiator who had tried to “talk Linville down” from the time he arrived at about 6:50 p.m.

Stiles said Flory arrived prepared for the interaction.

“We had dealt with (Linville) in violent situations on a number of prior occasions,” Stiles said.

About a week before his death, deputies went to the home and found Linville armed with a hammer, making threatening statements, Stiles said.

“This guy had threatened to kill his neighbor about 15 minutes before we got there,” Stiles said of the night Linville was shot.

Officials could not secure a perimeter around the house because large dogs blocked their entry into the backyard, Stiles said. And Linville’s mother had told police that there were guns inside a safe in the garage.

In addition, investigators could not determine if he was alone in the house or if anyone else may have been in danger.

“His mother told us that he was inside the house alone and that he did not have the combination to the gun safe,” Stiles said. “But we have gone to hundreds of other incidents where we have been given erroneous information. We will process that information but that doesn’t mean we can rely on it.”

He said Homan’s two motivations were to ensure that Linville did not get to the guns and make sure that no one else, inside the house or out, was hurt.

But Glenda Linville has asked why negotiation specialists were not called in before officers entered her home.

“We don’t call out SWAT, and we won’t call out SWAT for these types of situations,” Stiles said. “We deal with these types of situations monthly and we rarely have to use deadly force.”

He said Nelson did suggest in his report that the Deschutes County Mental Health Department form a crisis team to assist deputies called to volatile situations involving the mentally ill.

“He made a recommendation that mental health create a 24/7, 365 crisis response team,” Stiles said.

Now that the grand jury and internal investigations are finished, Stiles said his office will conduct an “internal critique” to examine how things might have been handled.

“We look at, if we had this exact situation again, what would you do differently – either strategically, practically or otherwise,” Stiles said.

He said he could not speak to Linville’s family or provide a full accounting of what happened the night of the shooting until the internal investigation was concluded.

“I just did not have access to all the information,” he said.

But Stiles said he was told that Glenda Linville wanted to meet with him.

“There were a number of questions I understand she wanted to ask us,” Stiles said Monday. “I absolutely hope she follows through on that, and I plan on moving forward with that tomorrow.”