Oregon Officials Consult Precogs, Arrest Man for Bloody Shooting Spree That Killed Four Next Week

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Several Oregon government and law enforcement agencies are patting themselves on the back for preventing a possible mass shooting incident by sending a SWAT team to arrest a recently laid-off employee of the state’s Department of Transportation. A news release from the Medford, Oregon, police department (yes, they put out a news release announcing their good work) says the man purchased three guns after his dismissal, and that former colleagues described him as “very disgruntled.” He was taken to a mental hospital for evaluation.

The problem is that the man doesn’t appear to have committed any actual crimes. Authorities have filed no charges against him. He did recently buy three guns, but he purchased all three of them legally. A spokesman for the Oregon State Police told South Oregon’s Mail Tribune newspaper, “Instead of being reactive, we took a proactive approach.”

Now perhaps a recent layoff, the legal purchase of three guns, and concerns from former co-workers are indeed red flags that someone’s planning a rampage. And maybe this arrest really did save lives. But there’s a phrase we use to describe the sort of society where the police can come into your home, arrest you, commit you to a mental facility, and confiscate your legally-obtained property on no more than a hunch that you might commit some crime in the near future.

The article linked above is short on details. It will be interesting to see what legal authority these law enforcement agencies cited to get a search and/or arrest warrant—assuming they obtained one.

(Thanks to Andre Campos for the tip.)

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55 Responses to “Oregon Officials Consult Precogs, Arrest Man for Bloody Shooting Spree That Killed Four Next Week”

  1. #1 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Cue federal civil rights lawsuit on three … two … one ….

  2. #2 |  Wavemancali | 

    Welcome to the Minority Report. Phillip K. Dick is now available for power generation since he will be spinning in his grave for the foreseeable future.

  3. #3 |  Steamed McQueen | 

    This is just a natural extension of the same ‘logic’ that allows one to be arrested for DUI because they had a set of car keys in their pocket and therefore might possibly drive.

  4. #4 |  Zargon | 

    Wow, I hope that poor guy is able to get out of the mental institution before he becomes physically addicted to the mind-altering drugs he’s probably being forced to take.

    Make me choose between a week in a mental hospital and a month in prison and it’ll be prison for me, without question, because that shit can destroy your life.

  5. #5 |  Tsu Dho Nihm | 

    I predict that most people are going to love this. They’ll cheer on the police for preventing a crime, even though there might never have been a crime at all. And maybe they were right in this case, but that does not change the fact that it’s a very disturbing move.

  6. #6 |  Mattocracy | 

    They basically made getting laid off and being pissed about it a crime. Heaven forbid that they get a warrant, monitor his activities and try to catch him the act of a real crime like they’re suppose to do. They could’ve used unmarked police cars to follow him, see if he ever loaded up his guns in his vehicle, and went back his work place with them. Then, they could arrested him before he had a chance to kill anyone and actually be able to prove intent.

  7. #7 |  Police act swiftly after gun purchases - Page 3 - INGunOwners | 

    […] story is getting a little national play it seems. It was picked by Radley Balko. From his blog… Oregon Officials Consult Precogs, Arrest Man for Bloody Shooting Spree That Killed Four Next Week | … Now perhaps a recent layoff, the legal purchase of three guns, and concerns from former co-workers […]

  8. #8 |  jppatter | 


    Yes, they COULD have done that but it would have taken thought and effort. Why would they bother when the easier answer is to just round him up.

  9. #9 |  JP | 

    Ironically, the event that finally pushed Bob over the edge had nothing to do with his recent layoff….

  10. #10 |  ClubMedSux | 

    Slightly off-topic, but speaking of Philip K. Dick, what book would you recommend for somebody who’s never read his stuff before? Generally speaking, I’m one of the rare libertarians who isn’t into scifi/fantasy (couldn’t make it through Lord of the Rings, doesn’t get Star Trek, etc.), though I do like Vonnegut so I guess I’m okay with scifi/fantasy in the right context. Anyway, he seems weird enough that I think I might like him despite my anti-scifi leanings. Suggestions on where to start?

  11. #11 |  Comrade Dread | 

    Or they could have had a couple of officers stand outside the building for a few days just to keep an eye on things.

  12. #12 |  ClubMedSux | 

    Oh, and staying ON-topic, I do think it’s important to note that it appears he was involuntarily committed to a mental facility, which is distinct from being arrested for a crime. I do have issues with the laws regarding involuntary commitment in Illinois (don’t know how they differ from those in Oregon), but it is fundamentally different from actually being arrested and therefore should be discussed within that context. I would also add that I definitely question the need to use a SWAT team to bring this guy in for mental examination.

  13. #13 |  BobG | 

    And I imagine the fact that his record now shows he was picked up for a mental examination is not going to help him in his search for a new job.

  14. #14 |  Len | 


    PKD is fairly dark. You might try the collection “The Golden Man.” as a quick and easy introduction.

  15. #15 |  Peter | 

    Wow, the guy gets laid off and buys some guns legally. Anyone ever consider maybe he just figured to go hunting since he no longer had to go to work anymore?

    Maybe if the police started concentrating on REAL crimes instead of harassing law-abiding citizens constantly they might be able to prevent some ACTUAL crimes from happening.

  16. #16 |  ClubMedSux | 


    Your comment raises an interesting point… I was initially going to respond that it shouldn’t be on his record because it’s not a criminal arrest and HIPAA would prevent the disclosure of such information anyway. But that got me thinking… If he was involuntarily committed for mental illness, could issuing a press release be considered a HIPAA violation? And at the very least, isn’t there an ethical question to be raised by essentially announcing to the world that you think somebody is crazy before actually evaluating him?

  17. #17 |  Aresen | 


    I keep thinking of a line from one of the ‘time paradox’ episodes of Star Trek Voyager:

    “You are under arrest for crimes you will commit…”

  18. #18 |  Waste93 | 

    HIPAA only covers health professionals. So it depends on who released the info. If the hospital released it than yes it is. If the police did then no it wasn’t.

  19. #19 |  MassHole | 

    In many states, being involuntarily committed will prevent you from purchasing firearms. This is f-ed up on so many levels. Maybe the guy decided to use his severance to purchase some guns and spend time at the range. It’s a pretty good way to blow off steam.

    What’s next? Confiscating firearms of anyone involved in a legal separation? Many ex-spouses are quite disgruntled as well.

  20. #20 |  Aresen | 

    | Mattocracy | March 11th, 2010 at 12:56 pm
    They basically made getting laid off and being pissed about it a crime. Heaven forbid that they get a warrant, monitor his activities and try to catch him the act of a real crime like they’re suppose to do. They could’ve used unmarked police cars to follow him, see if he ever loaded up his guns in his vehicle, and went back his work place with them. Then, they could arrested him before he had a chance to kill anyone and actually be able to prove intent.

    Or they simply could have had somebody knock on his door and say “These things have been brought to our attention and we’re concerned for your safety. Would you like to talk about it? We can put you in touch with a confidential counsellor.”

    But that would have required both thought and compassion.

  21. #21 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Warning signs, people. It’s all about warning signs.

    You hear about it after every mass shooting. We should all be watching those around us for behavior that might be associated with violent crime. You know, stuff like did the guy like violent computer games or did he eat Lucky Charms for breakfast.

  22. #22 |  bbartlog | 

    The main issue here is the short-circuiting of due process via ‘protective custody’ (notice that technically they didn’t arrest the guy… or file criminal charges…). But without knowing the content of the guy’s communication with his ex-coworkers, it’s hard to say whether *some* action might not have been justified. It just should have taken the form of an arrest, assuming they had enough evidence to charge him with making threats.
    Also, I do want to give them some small credit for not just busting the guy’s door down. They called him on the phone and convinced him to come out and surrender instead.

  23. #23 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Crap. They have precogs and are now being proactive. The good news is their skin will be flawless, but we’ll all be in jail.

    Meanwhile, that Kennedy kid rants about how journalists are the cause of all that is bad in America (not Congress as is popularly believed) and he goes free? He’s bat shit crazy!

  24. #24 |  Matt | 

    WEll one thing is for certain and that if the dude wasn’t pissed enough before he’s steaming now…

  25. #25 |  Judas Peckerwood | 

    If there’s a silver lining to this nightmare, it’s that the comments on the story are scathing.

  26. #26 |  Jim Chrystal | 

    I’m totally against the police state issue – there’s no doubt. But, I don’t think this was handled as badly as one my expect from the tone of this blog. The SWAT team was on stand-by, they called him and asked him to come out. He did, and we don’t know what he said to those officers prior to being put into protective custody. Hell, he might of said that he was going to kill some people. At this time, I’m going to hold-off passing judgment. Now, if he had told the police to “f*** off” and they stormed his house, that would be a different story.

  27. #27 |  SamK | 

    This is so screwed up even Dave’s having trouble finding a good snarky response…

  28. #28 |  Dante | 

    Arrested but no charges?

    We don’t need no stinkin’ charges!

    Even writing this note could get me arrested.

    I’ll go & turn myself in now.

  29. #29 |  Al V | 

    If he had made any overt threats there are laws that cover that.

    That means this guy got angry at being laid off, and got committed to a mental institution because of it.

    Wow. Land of the free…. not so much.

  30. #30 |  Juice | 

    Keeping an eye on him would have been a good idea, but arresting him will accomplish nothing.

  31. #31 |  MassHole | 

    On the bright side, if he does flip out, he’ll probably direct it towards someone who deserves it.

  32. #32 |  Windy | 

    CMS, I usually recommend someone with a libertarian bent read Heinlein first then follow up with J. Neil Shulman and L. Neil Smith, but if you are very scientific minded, you might prefer Asimov. For SF written by females — Andre Norton, particularly the spacefaring series (it’s not really a series, but rather a group of stories told against the same galactic background, each story stands alone but are tied by the recognizable universe in which they take place), Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Bloody Sun series, and Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. All of these authors have a libertarian thread running thru their stories, some more subtle than others (the two Neils above are not at all subtle). Once you are hooked (and I think you will be, by at least one of these authors) you can explore many more. SF shows us the blessings of liberty and the horrors of tyranny, I’m sure most libertarians will, sooner or later, come to prefer this genre of pleasure reading. Many of had our libertarian bent molded by reading SF in our youth.

  33. #33 |  Windy | 

    RE: Asimov, I had intended to specifically recommend the Foundation Trilogy

  34. #34 |  Windy | 

    Dave, I play World of Warcraft (nearly every night for 2 hours per), I am an agitator for freedom (all over the web), I own weapons (and gave in to the police state by getting a concealed carry permit, just like I did in getting a driver’s license and registering my car), I’m angry with government and excessive taxation and regulation of my life. I am also a 65 year old woman with a husband, children and grandchildren whom I love dearly (and would never want to leave for being incarcerated or killed by a cop) and who doesn’t have the desire or energy to physically take up arms against anyone who isn’t directly, in my face, threatening my life. I prefer to do my fighting (against the political machine and police state) with my keyboard, and yet, I do fear for my safety and freedom of movement due to my online activities.

  35. #35 |  Whim | 

    This could have come out much, much worse for the unidentified “suspect”.

    The SWAT team could blown open his front door in the middle of the night, simulataneously with the delivery of several Flash-Bang grenades through broken windows.

    Followed by a rush of dark, clothed heavily armed men shouting conflicting commands, like:


    Then, one of the sturmtruppen could have stumbled on the throw rug, and stupidly having his fat finger on the trigger of his MP-5 submachine gun, hosed down everything in sight including his kameraden sturmtruppen, as well as the “suspect”.

    THAT would have been much worse.

    What about instead someone just phoning him, and asking if he wanted to talk about the situation, with like ONE police officer, along with a friend, family member or clergy to see if the guy seem distressed or distraught, and needed to talk?

  36. #36 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    If there’s a silver lining to this nightmare, it’s that the comments on the story are scathing.

    Yeah, you can always count on the Right to stand up for due process when white people are imprisoned indefinitely without charge because they might become a threat with the future.

    Otherwise, Liz Cheney et al. would be demanding to know why we want to free this guy, an avowed terrorist, so he can attack America again instead of letting the police torture him to find out who else was involved in his mass shooting plot.

  37. #37 |  Aresen | 

    @ Stormy Dragon | March 11th, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Have you considered a career in carpet humping?

  38. #38 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    Sorry, just tired of Republicans who are all “to hell with the Constitution” when it comes to the War on Terror, but want to cry when their police state turns around to bite them.

  39. #39 |  SoupNazzi | 



    David Pyle, the Medford man involved in Monday’s SWAT team action, is requesting the return of his seized firearms. In the Monday morning incident, Pyles was taken into custody for a mental health evaluation, and later released. His firearms were seized by Medford police, however no charges were filed.

    Pyle was reportedly placed on administrative leave from his position at the Oregon Department of Transportation, and has been working from home. Law enforcement officials had expressed concerns regarding his mental state after the work action, and that he had purchased a number of handguns shortly thereafter.

    Kevin Starrett of Oregon Firearms Federation tells KMED news that Pyle explained to him that he had received a tax refund, and had been in the market for the firearms for some time…(more)

  40. #40 |  El Scorcho | 

    I just like the fact it happend in aptly named Rogue Valley. Hopefully he can get some $$ from the instigators of this and buy some more guns. I know I always have my eyes on a few more.

  41. #41 |  Burrow Owl | 

    Good luck with that, El Scorcho.

    I’ve had firsthand experience with some of these very same jackbooted shitbags (including a crooked judge in Ashland by the name of Alan Drescher) in the past.
    Trust me: These boys have decades of experience in the art of covering up their corruption. Taking them down ain’t gonna be easy.

  42. #42 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #34 Windy

    Dave, I play World of Warcraft (nearly every night for 2 hours per), I am an agitator for freedom (all over the web), I own weapons…

    I am also a serious gamer, but not very often online. I find it interesting that some of the games I’ve played are actually illegal in countries that live under authoritarian tyrannies like Australia.

    But, you know what I fear most? I think someday someone is going to take my sarcasm seriously and mistake me for a terrorist or a serial killer. With my luck I’ll probably make a wise crack standing in line at the security screening at the airport and some TSA goon will shoot me dead. He will subsequently be declared a hero because, after all, he manged to take out the terrorist before anyone else got hurt (assuming of course that the TSA guy didn’t take out a half dozen bystanders while aiming at me).

    Since I don’t own any guns, I’m 7.3 times more likely to get killed by law enforcement than someone who does own guns. Cops fear guns.

    Yeah I completely pulled that 7.3 figure right outa my ass. It could actually be much higher.

    I’ve never played WOW. I’m a fan of mindless run-and-gun first person shooters.

  43. #43 |  Reggie Hubbard | 

    Is there an alternative to this that isn’t just doing nothing?

    I’m in no way in favor of this sort of action but I’m just wondering if there is something that could be done other than wait for a tangible threat to be made or a shot to be fired?

    All this being asked under the basic assumption that this is BS

  44. #44 |  Alex | 

    I applaud the police for their proactive approach. There was a very good chance that he bought the guns (legally or not) for the purpose of commiting murder. All gun buyers should be looked at as closely as this man was.

  45. #45 |  Mattocracy | 

    I’m with Stormy Dragon. Republicans are too stupid to realize they sew the seeds of their own demise.

  46. #46 |  Jim Collins | 

    It had been my experience that when crap like this happens, it is usually Democrats who are behind it. Two years ago, when the Republicans were in the White House, the cry was “Dissention is the highest form of patriotism.”. Now that we have a Democrat in the White House the cry is “Dissenters should be sent to prison.”. Go figure.

  47. #47 |  Marty | 

    are horny 15 year old boys with condoms in their wallets gonna get picked up for the obvious crimes they would like to commit?

  48. #48 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #43 | Reggie Hubbard | March 12th, 2010 at 4:16 am
    Is there an alternative to this that isn’t just doing nothing?

    Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

    There is your answer Reggie.

  49. #49 |  John Smith | 

    If I were the guy in this situation. I would just chill until the mental review is over. The put him in the mental hospital because they had no probable cause to hold him. Now when he gets out is when the fun begins. Lawyers, Fox News, and even Cnn. Notice the order. Once fox does it cnn has to do it too. Lots of mud slinging and humiliation. He should get on on fox and literally break down and cry about the mental anguish of being detained for something he had not even done. Compare it to torture and denounce it as evil and unamerican. Juries eat that up.

  50. #50 |  JS | 

    Just heard today on the radio (Lars Larson show) that the Medford cops have given Pyle his guns back. Its nice to see this make Radley’s blog, its been a big deal here in Oregon, at least among those who follow the news.

    The unconfirmed rumor is that the local ODOT manager has ousted 3 people with a state cop walking them out. One main concern being brought up though is, how did the cops get that info about him buying guns? As in, he somehow got put on some Gov/Cop list after being walked out from his job and then OSP sent a teletype to Medford PD after the guy bought his guns (and they let the check be approved). Then they sit on his house for awhile and surround his house at 3am with a swat team. Its also hilarious that they brought in swat from frigging Roseburg, 90mins north.

  51. #51 |  Matador | 

    After I was disharged The locks on the office doors wee changed and I was followed home by a Sheriff Unit, why? Because I was a “Vietnam Vet” and everyone knew that Nam vets were psycho crazed baby killers ready to wreak vengance on society. Jesus Wept. During that same time period three people were killed in an office by a disgruntled workers compensation claimant, another ex-husband went nuts in an office and tried to kill his ex-wife but killed a couple of innocent co-workers. This case sounds like The ODOT worker was set up by Mgmt.
    intent upon savaging him for some past indiscretion.
    I hope he sues the crap out of them although suing a Gov’t agency will be toughand expensive.

  52. #52 |  LawsuitLawsuit | 

    I smell a big fat LAWSUIT?! And not just against the police dept., but the city and even the people who DEFAMED this man on a mere suspicion?

  53. #53 |  Jim Chrystal | 

    I redact my earlier post based upon new information.

  54. #54 |  albatross | 

    Mass shootings are extremely rare, but the sort of broad “warning signs” (stuff like disgruntled ex-employee, recent bad divorce, gun purchases, mental health problems in the past, etc.) are rather common. The result is that:

    a. Almost anything you do to prevent them will overwhelmingly hassle people who weren’t going to do anything.

    b. There will almost never be a policeman who has ever actually successfully headed off a mass shooting involved in heading off another actual mass shooting. That is, individual policemen won’t get the kind of experience they get identifying drug dealers or whatever, because most will never see an actual mass-shooter.

    The math works out here in the same way as it does with profiling for terrorists. Bruce Schneier has written some nice articles explaining the problem in more depth.

    Heading off mass-shootings is incredibly hard, just as heading off terrorist attacks is incredibly hard. The local police probably overreacted, but it’s not clear what the right way to handle this was. At least they didn’t do anything irrevocable.

  55. #55 |  john | 

    your are more likely to be killed by a cop than a terriost or disgruntled employee