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MailTribune.com
  • Man, guns held by police spur controversy

    Law enforcement officials say he could have been a 'danger to others' and his surrender was voluntary
  • MEDFORD — A phone call from a police negotiator that jolted David J. Pyles awake in the predawn hours of Monday continues to jangle the nerves of observers monitoring the way authorities took the Medford man into protective custody and seized his firearms.
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  • MEDFORD — A phone call from a police negotiator that jolted David J. Pyles awake in the predawn hours of Monday continues to jangle the nerves of observers monitoring the way authorities took the Medford man into protective custody and seized his firearms.
    Pyles came forward Thursday to reclaim his legally purchased weapons, publicly identifying himself in an e-mail sent to Medford police and forwarded to state legislators and selected media outlets.
    He also said he has contacted the Oregon Firearms Federation for possible legal assistance. Pyles directed questions to that group and said he would make only limited statements until he had consulted with an attorney.
    Kevin Starrett, director of the Canby-based lobbying organization — which also has a foundation for protecting gun rights through court cases — had been monitoring the incident that landed Pyles in the hospital for a mental health evaluation and resulted in five of his guns being held by police for "safekeeping."
    "It's chilling," he said.
    "I don't know if this is just a gun case," Starrett said. "It's about whether your freedom can be taken away without a criminal case or charges against you."
    Starrett recounted the details of the case that Pyles shared with him. The federation had agreed not to identify him, so Starrett didn't use Pyles' name, but in the wake of Pyles' own public statements, the Mail Tribune is naming him.
    Pyles told Starrett that he had a conflict with a superior at work, but was working to resolve it through union processes.
    The Oregon Department of Transportation confirmed that Pyles has worked there as a planner since February 2004. ODOT Communications Director Patrick Cooney said the department couldn't discuss personnel or security matters.
    Pyles told Starrett he initially thought the early morning call must be a prank, but looked out to see his yard surrounded by police.
    "They asked him to come out and said they wouldn't handcuff him, arrest him or take him off the property," Starrett recounted.
    However, Pyles said, he then was handcuffed and taken to Rogue Valley Medical Center for evaluation.
    "Because we had information that he could be a danger to others, we wanted a medical professional to evaluate him," Medford police chief Randy Schoen said.
    Police have maintained that Pyles' surrender was voluntary, but Starrett noted that an intimidating presence of officers with rifles and SWAT gear can force people to agree to things they wouldn't normally do.
    "The thing that is really troubling to us is that this was not an arrest," he said. "People in protective custody don't even have the rights a person who has been arrested does."
    When undergoing a mental health screening, a person doesn't have a guaranteed right to an attorney, for example, he said.
    The evaluation took several hours and Pyles was released before noon on Monday.
    Starrett expressed concern that police hadn't offered a clear explanation of what prompted their action.
    David Fidanque, executive director of the Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said his organization wasn't likely to get involved in an incident of this type, but said Pyles could have a case against police if he were taken into custody improperly.
    He noted that police can't take people into custody based only on a concern, but said he understood their worries that someone could be hurt.
    Reach reporter Anita Burke at 541-776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.
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