MADRAS, Ore. - (Update: Sweeney arraigned on numerous charges)
An 18-year-old Sunriver resident was arraigned Friday on two counts of attempted aggravated murder and other charges in connection with a recent two-county high-speed chase of a stolen minivan. It led to an armed confrontation on a Madras street in which Sweeney allegedly fired a pistol and was shot and seriously wounded by officers.
Jefferson County District Attorney Steven Leriche said Christopher James Thomas Sweeney was arraigned before Circuit Judge Daniel Ahern, who set his bail at $500,000 and scheduled a pre-trial conference for Nov. 30.
Sweeney was had been recovering at St. Charles Bend from his wounds until he was taken into custody and brought to the Jefferson County Jail earlier this week.
Leriche said the indictment also charged Sweeney with two counts of unlawful use of a weapon, one count of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, one count of reckless driving and one count of resisting arrest.
Leriche had ruled earlier that an Oregon State Police sergeant and Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy were justified in shooting and seriously wounding Sweeney, who fired a pistol at the deputy after a lengthy high-speed pursuit of a stolen minivan.
Leriche’s report said Sweeney, using both hands, pointed his gun at Deputy Joseph Aldred and that “it appears Sweeney fired his pistol” at the deputy.
However, he said, Sweeney's pistol, recovered at the scene, had a damaged bullet casing still in the chamber, indicating a possible malfunction. Neither Aldred nor OSP Sgt. John Russo were injured, he added.
The DA said both the deputy and OSP sergeant fired at Sweeney, who was taken to St. Charles Madras and later flown to St. Charles Bend.
However, Leriche told NewsChannel 21, “We don’t know which officer’s bullets struck Sweeney, and we may never know.” He also would not disclose details of the teen’s injuries.
The confrontation and shooting occurred around 11 p.m. on Thursdasy, Nov. 2 after the stolen 2004 Chevrolet Venture minivan, with tires flattened by spike strips, stopped on Highway 97 near L Street in Madras.
The Central Oregon Major Incident Team, made up of officers from several agencies, investigated the pursuit and shooting and provided reports to the district attorney.
Sweeney had walked away two days earlier from Bend’s J Bar J Ranch, “where he had been placed in an independent living program after having been paroled from a youth correctional facility for unrelated matters,” Leriche wrote.
The teen walked away six hours after arriving, the DA said, and Sweeney’s grandparents, who were out of the area, became concerned he might try to burglarize their home in Deschutes County and asked other family members to check on the home.
They did so and learned the home had been burglarized and two vehicles, the minivan and a 2007 Toyota Highlander, were missing. Leriche said the vehicles were reported stolen Nov. 2 and both were spotted a short time later by a Deschutes County sheriff’s deputy heading north on Highway 97 near Lava Butte, south of Bend.
Bend police assisted the sheriff’s office in an attempt to stop the vehicles, and the Highlander SUV, driven by Corey Joseph Gallagher, 19, of Prineville was stopped on the parkway near Robal Road, Leriche said. It was a high-risk traffic stop, meaning guns were drawn.
Gallagher was arrested and booked into the Deschutes County Jail n charges of criminal conspiracy, first-degree theft and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
The minivan continued north on the highway, with Sweeney disregarding several police attempts to pull him over, the DA said.
Despite successful use of spike strips several times the Venture continued north into Jefferson County, where Aldred joined and ultimately took the lead position in the pursuit, followed by Russo and other officers.
The minivan continued into Madras, where Sweeney lost control of it on Highway 97 at L Street, Leriche said.
The investigation determined that Aldred approached the front of the minivan, while Russo approached the rear.
Aldred gave several commands to Sweeney, who did not comply, and instead held his pistol with both hands and pointed it at Aldred, apparently firing at him. That prompted the shots fired by both officers that wounded Sweeney.
An OSP senior trooper helped secure Sweeney on the ground, after which the trooper and Russo immediately began first aid, the DA said. Paramedics soon arrived and took Sweeney to the Madras hospital.
Leriche said earlier that charges also were possible against Sweeney in Deschutes County.
District attorneys are charged with reviewing incidents where early physical force is used by police to determine if the use of force met standards required by Oregon law.
“Upon review of this incident, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that Sgt. Russo and Deputy Aldred were justified in using deadly physical force under the circumstances they encountered, and it was reasonable for them to believe that their lives and the lives of others were endangered,” Leriche wrote.
He went on to thank the agencies involved “for a thorough and detailed investigation of this event.”