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MailTribune.com
  • Unsettling behavior in ODOT guns case detailed

  • A pattern of volatile, confrontational behavior, the purchase of five guns over three days, and reports that Oregon Department of Transportation administrators had left their Roseburg homes in fear prompted Oregon State Police to conclude that a suspended ODOT planner could be a danger to himself or others, newly released police reports say.
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  • A pattern of volatile, confrontational behavior, the purchase of five guns over three days, and reports that Oregon Department of Transportation administrators had left their Roseburg homes in fear prompted Oregon State Police to conclude that a suspended ODOT planner could be a danger to himself or others, newly released police reports say.
    Less than half an hour after sending out a teletype on March 7 asking law enforcement officers across Southern Oregon to be on the lookout for David J. Pyles, a 39-year-old planner placed on administrative leave March 4, OSP Sgt. Jeff Proulx sent out a second teletype reporting that police had a reason to take Pyles into protective custody.
    In a report released this week, Proulx lists a dozen items that led him to his decision.
    "After reviewing all this information I obtained, I amended the ATL (attempt to locate bulletin) to indicate probable cause existed to detain Mr. Pyles on a police officer's mental hold," Proulx wrote.
    That conclusion ultimately launched a Medford police negotiator and SWAT team, who took Pyles into custody at his Effie Street home early on March 8 for a mental health evaluation and took his weapons.
    Pyles was released within hours and his six guns were returned to him March 12, after he asked for them back.
    However, concerns of gun-rights and civil-liberty advocates continue to echo across talk radio and blogs. Pyles has said he still hopes to hire an attorney, but declined to comment further. He has released statements and parts of a recording he made when he was placed on paid leave March 4 over what he and ODOT officials describe as an ongoing personnel issue.
    Transportation department managers called OSP, the agency that provides security for state offices, to stand by at the office at 100 Antelope Road, White City, while administrators from Roseburg notified Pyles about the leave, say reports by OSP Sgts. Tanya Henderson and Steve Mitchell, the two officers who responded. Pyles' supervisor explained to them that Pyles had been confrontational in the past so he wanted police present. The Mail Tribune is not publishing the names of the ODOT managers because of their safety concerns.
    When the supervisor called Pyles to come into a conference room, he refused, so the officers and administrators went to his work station, the OSP reports say. He again refused to go to a conference room with them, demanding that a union representative be present if he was going to be questioned. Mitchell's report describes him as "very irrational."
    Police and ODOT representatives told him that this wasn't an investigation, so he didn't need a union rep, the reports say. Henderson's report indicates that Pyles was "very upset and sweating" when he was allowed to call a shop steward, who was out of the office for the day.
    Pyles recorded the conversation and took photographs of those present. In portions of the recording he released, he claims he doesn't trust management and repeatedly calls the proceedings an unfair labor practice. He sounds increasingly agitated as police and managers calmly repeat requests for him to go to a conference room or accept a letter at his desk.
    He read aloud the letter, which explained he was being placed on paid leave pending a fitness for duty examination by a psychiatrist chosen by ODOT.
    Police reports indicate that he signed the letter and was given time to pack his personal items.
    "During the time Pyles was packing, he had mood swings," Henderson wrote. "He would go from packing his items and being very calm and rational to at times being very vocal and at one point stepping aggressively toward" his manager until Mitchell told him to step back.
    Mitchell wrote that Pyles got upset when his manager asked about whether some binders, which Pyles said had personal information in them, had ODOT information in them.
    "This conversation upset Mr. Pyles and he became irrational again," Mitchell's report says.
    Pyles then asked for more time to collect his things, and, when it was granted, sat down with his back to the people waiting for him and put his feet up on his desk, Mitchell wrote. After about a minute, he resumed packing.
    He took more pictures as he was escorted out of the building, then loaded his things into his vehicle and left, reports say.
    Pyles called 9-1-1 a short time later to say he had been threatened at work. A deputy called Henderson about the complaint, but didn't make a report on the incident, dispatch records indicate.
    On March 5, law enforcement and ODOT officials met at the ODOT offices in White City to discuss concerns about Pyles' behavior. After hearing about verbal outbursts and slipping hygiene, Jackson County sheriff's deputy Phil Cicero asked the OSP division that does background checks for gun purchases to notify him if Pyles underwent a background check to buy firearms.
    The background check division reported that Pyles bought a Heckler & Koch .45-caliber pistol and a Remington 12-gauge shotgun March 5 at Sportsman's Warehouse in Medford, a second H&K pistol at Sportsman's Warehouse on March 6 and a Walther .380-caliber handgun and an AK-47 rifle at Black Bird Shopping Center on March 7.
    At 6 p.m. on March 7, OSP, a dozen officers from the sheriff's department and Medford police met to discuss growing concerns about Pyles and his purchases.
    During the final week of February, Pyles had traveled to Roseburg to meet with a manager, Proulx's report says. When the manager refused to meet with him, Pyles went around the building to bang on the manager's window.
    Proulx wrote that he was told some of the ODOT employees involved in placing Pyles on leave feared retaliation and the department had hired a security company to monitor offices in White City and Roseburg.
    Sheriff's department investigators collected evidence from Pyles' computer and desk at ODOT offices, and Medford police started surveillance at his Effie Street home.
    State police in Roseburg were notified to look for Pyles at motels and the home of a coworker and friend.
    A teletype was sent out, at 9:24 p.m. March 7, to law enforcement across southwestern Oregon asking officers to be on the lookout for Pyles and warning of potential officer safety issues. It warned that he might be unstable and had made "concerning statements," but said he hadn't made specific threats and police didn't have a reason to arrest him.
    Proulx called three ODOT managers directly involved in putting Pyles on leave to tell them about Pyles' weapons purchases and help them make a safety plan if they wanted. The managers already knew about the guns and "left their residences that evening and stayed with friends or family because of the fear for their lives they felt," Proulx wrote.
    "Personal interactions with Mr. Pyles" and observations of his "irrational behavior" combined with the knowledge that he had just bought five guns caused them to fear for their safety and even their lives, he wrote.
    "All three of these ODOT employees felt the threat to be real," his report states.
    Proulx said upon reviewing the details, his training and experience led him to believe Pyles "was a threat to himself and or others." He amended the teletype at 9:50 p.m., sending out a second message that police had a reason to hold Pyles.
    At about 12:30 a.m. on March 8, Proulx talked again with Medford police, who were managing surveillance of Pyles' house.
    "I confirmed to them that I believed that Mr. Pyles was a threat to himself or others," Proulx wrote in his report.
    Medford police sent out the SWAT team and a negotiator just before 6 a.m. Pyles voluntarily came out of his house just before 7 a.m., was handcuffed, and agreed to point out guns and ammunition in his home so police could collect them, Medford police reports say. He was taken for a mental health evaluation at Rogue Valley Medical Center and released about three hours later after being cleared by a psychiatrist.
    Reach reporter Anita Burke at 541-776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.
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