Grand Jury rules deputy involved shooting was lawful

, Written by Roma Villavicencio, Posted: Thu, June 26 2014 at 10:31 PM, Updated: Fri, June 27 2014 at 1:30 AM

Medford, Ore.--  A Jackson County Grand Jury ruled deputies were within their rights to use lethal force in the shooting death of 73- year-old Earl Harris earlier this month in Ashland.

Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert said seven deputies went to Harris' Mistletoe Road home to remove him from the property. They knew Harris might be confrontational, as deputies said Harris displayed a gun to them in 2011 when they repossessed an RV and golf cart from him.

 But when Jackson County Sheriff's Deputy Penkava was speaking to Harris at the front door, the Ashland man turned and walked down the hallway towards a bedroom.

Deputies said Harris returned with a shotgun and when he pointed it at officers, Deputy Penkava and Sergeant Whipple opened fire.

Harris was hit three times and died at the scene.

Heckert said, "Harris made the decision to come at them with a shotgun so they had no other choice."

Penkava and Whipple have been on administrative leave following the shooting.

Heckert said it's up to the Sheriff's Department when they can return, a spokeswoman for the department declined comment.

Meanwhile, Heckert said Harris received multiple warnings letting him know had to be out by May 17th.

Heckert said, "Lots of notices to get out the property, pack up his belongings, you know those types of things. And so he'd had a lot of notices from the court to do that by US Bank."

Federal court documents show Harris still owned the property on Mistletoe Road in 2012, and that he was fighting foreclosure from US Bank for a $55,000 loan that he got in 2006.

Property records show the bank took legal control of the home in September 2013.

But Heckert said Harris didn't like that.

"The types of ways he was trying to fight foreclosure were not recognizing the powers that all those different organizations had."

Heckert said deputies also found six homemade hand grenades at the property. Harris served in the military. 


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About the Author

Roma Villavicencio

NBC5 News reporter Roma Villavicencio comes from Southern California where she reported for Garden Grove TV Channel 3.

She is a graduate of the journalism/communications program at Cal State Fullerton.

Roma is very proud of her Mexican heritage. She is bi-lingual and looks forward to serving our Hispanic community.

She loves food, music and the San Francisco Giants. She lives by the slogan “viva la vida!”

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