ODOT worker wants guns; police say they'll comply

MEDFORD — The Medford man whose firearms were seized by police Monday when he was taken into protective custody has asked for their return and police say they will comply with the request.

David J. Pyles sent an e-mail to police Thursday, asking them to return the items taken from him when a SWAT team and negotiators descended on his Effie Street home early Monday. He forwarded copies to legislators and media outlets.

Medford Police Chief Randy Schoen said the department plans to return the seized weapons today.

"He gave them up voluntarily and we don't have a court order to hold them," Schoen said. "We will give them back to him."

The seizure of Pyles' weapons prompted a debate among gun rights advocates and those who said police acted appropriately after being informed of a potentially threatening situation.

Medford police said they started watching the Effie Street home Sunday night in response to law enforcement concerns about the resident — later identified as Pyles — after he was placed on administrative leave from his job on Thursday.

The Oregon Department of Transportation said Pyles is a development planner who started working there in February 2004.

Medford police described him in a news release as disgruntled and said police knew he had legally purchased a Heckler & Koch .45-caliber handgun, a Walther .380-caliber handgun and an AK-47 rifle since being placed on leave.

Information compiled by Oregon State Police, Medford and Roseburg police, and Jackson and Douglas county sheriff's departments prompted concerns that Pyles could be a threat. The news release noted that police were "extremely concerned" that he might retaliate against his employer.

"We wanted to make sure nothing bad happened," Schoen said.

In an effort to defuse the situation before people started their daily routines on Monday, a SWAT team and negotiators moved in during the pre-dawn hours.

"He came out voluntarily," Schoen said, noting that he then directed police to the recently purchased weapons, as well as another handgun and a shotgun he owned.

All the firearms were seized for "safekeeping" and the man was taken to Rogue Valley Medical Center for a mental-health evaluation, police said. He was released several hours later.

Medford police Lt. Bob Hansen said police generally try to return found, stolen or seized property to its rightful owner as soon as possible and have a procedure for doing so, to ensure that there are not ownership or legal issues. If the property was seized as evidence, courts have the final say on when it can be returned.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 541-776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.

Correction: The headline on the original version of this story contained an inaccuracy. This version has been corrected.

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