MEDFORD, Ore.– A grand jury cleared a Jackson County Sheriff’s deputy Wednesday for an officer-involved shooting that killed a local veteran.
Teddy James Maverick Varner, 29, was shot multiple times by the officer on the evening of January 1 at a building on Blackwell Road in Central Point. According to police, Varner had come outside brandishing a gun and raising it up in a position to fire.
The sheriff’s office released body camera footage of the incident in effort to be transparent with the community about the incident. The video shows Varner’s friend James Daniel Cecil coming outside with his arms raised saying, “I have an Army brother in there. I’m a retired Marine. [Varner’s] having an episode right now.”
Police say Cecil told them Varner had a gun, they had been drinking and he may have been having a PTSD issue. A little while later Varner came out, raised the gun and was shot.
“These were not things that were normal for him according to witnesses that we spoke to and so a little out of character,” said Beth Heckert, Jackson County District Attorney. “So it’s just impossible to know what was going on in Mr. Varner’s mind.”
According to the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office, Cecil told police that he and Varner were at target practice earlier in the day. On the way home, they stopped at a bar and played pool where they began to drink. The bar staff felt Varner was bothering other patrons and asked Cecil to calm him down or leave. Cecil says they left the bar and went to the river to talk where they drank more alcohol.
The two later drove back separately to the property on Blackwell Road where Varner continued to have violent issues telling Cecil to get on the ground and pointing a gun at him, according to the DA’s office. Cecil was able to talk him down and retrieve the gun from Varner at which point they walked into the building.
Cecil said that as Varner calmed down, he decided to hand back the gun. However, Varner became aggressive again and attempted to rip the holster from Cecil who pulled it away. Cecil told police he then fired seven rounds into the ground which stopped Varner from advancing towards him.
Police were then called and around 8:15 p.m. responded to the location. Cecil told Varner police had shown up once he saw the flashing lights and he left Varners gun inside on a chair and walked out to speak with them. The DA says Cecil testified that he though Varner was right behind him, however, Varner came out with the gun and a tac light on and raised it at one of the deputies.
The sheriff’s office says later it was found that the gun did not have a round in the chamber and there was no magazine. A toxicology report also found that Varner’s blood alcohol content level was .24 – three times the legal limit.