Seeking answers about Medford shooting

Shooting of 20-year-old probation violator by U.S. marshals raises questions about use of deadly force
Michael Manring, 24, Brittney West, 21, and her toddler, Caidence Harrop, 1, take a moment to look at a growing memorial for James “Jimmy” Georgeson near the area of the Albertsons parking lot where he was shot and killed by U.S. marshals Thursday.Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell

The 20-year-old Medford man gunned down Thursday by two U.S. Marshals Service deputies outside Albertsons was a habitual criminal with drug and mental-health problems and a history of assaulting police officers, records show.

But family members say that did not mean an apparently unarmed James "Jimmy" Georgeson deserved to be shot dead after he allegedly attempted to crash his Dodge Durango into the car of agents trying to arrest him for violating his federal probation for assaulting a U.S. marshal in 2009.

"Jimmy was no angel by any means, and he was a runner," stepfather James Harrison of Medford said Friday. "But he's not your Top 10 America's Most Wanted, just a dumb kid who made bad choices under the influence.

"He didn't deserve what happened," Harrison said. "He didn't deserve to be shot. It could have been handled in a completely different way."

On the morning after the 5:22 p.m. shooting outside the front door of the Albertsons store on Medford's West Main Street, family members and the community at large continued to hope for details that would explain why at least two marshals opened fire during their arrest attempt in the bustling retail complex.

A memorial blossomed near the spot where Georgeson died. Flowers, balloons and signs dedicated to Georgeson were placed on a light pole. Some of the signs were critical of law enforcement.

Georgeson's family members gathered at an East Main Street house in Medford, where a woman who identified herself as Georgeson's mother, Seppie Greico, sobbed on the front stairs and said she considered the shooting tantamount to "murder."

U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Eric Wahlstrom said that Georgeson used his vehicle as "a deadly weapon" just before two deputy marshals fired shots, but neither the service nor Medford police have identified the marshals involved nor said how many shots were fired.

"Initially, there is no indication that he (Georgeson) had a weapon other than the vehicle, but we're still investigating," Medford police Chief Tim George said. "He was the driver. It's too early to tell if there was a weapon in the car."

George said two other people whom he declined to identify were in the vehicle at the time of the shooting and were unharmed. Those people were detained, interviewed and released Thursday, he said.

As a matter of policy, the two deputy marshals were placed on administrative leave pending the investigation, Wahlstrom said. The Marshals Service has three deputies and a supervisor assigned to its Medford office, but Wahlstrom declined to say whether the deputies involved were from the Medford office.

George refused to discuss other details of the case, other than to say the Marshals Service was "absolutely" cooperating with police in their investigation.

More than two dozen officers were working various aspects of the case Friday, George said. Once completed, the case will be turned over to the Jackson County District Attorney's Office for presentation to a grand jury, George said.

"That's how all officer-involved shootings happen in Jackson County, regardless of who is involved," George said.

The agents were trying to arrest Georgeson on a Dec. 21 warrant for violating the conditions of his federal probation by walking away from an inpatient drug-treatment program ordered by a federal judge in October.

Harrison said he last saw Georgeson on Tuesday and that "he looked really bad and was tired of not making right decisions.

"I bugged him to turn himself in, and he was ready to do that," Harrison said. "It just happened too late."

Harrison said Georgeson never carried weapons and he was convinced Georgeson was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

Federal court records filed in Georgeson's 2010 conviction for assaulting a U.S. marshal detail a lengthy criminal, drug and mental-health history for Georgeson, who grew up in Talent and attended Phoenix-Talent schools until the 11th grade.

Before his April 2010 sentencing to two years in prison for the assault, his juvenile and adult crime record included convictions for theft, assault, burglary, possession of the drug Ecstasy and assaulting a police officer — enough at age 18 to end up just shy of the highest criminal-history category used in his federal sentencing, according to a sentencing memo.

His attorney at the time filed court papers saying Georgeson was a ward of the court at age 12, had been treated for mental-health conditions since that age and was diagnosed as having various drug dependencies and anti-social personality traits.

Harrison said Georgeson was in and out of juvenile and adult detention centers and habitually used various drugs, particularly methamphetamine.

"He just couldn't stay out of trouble," Harrison said.

Georgeson found his way into the federal penal system almost by mistake.

He was hiding in a bathroom of a Talent house on June 25, 2009, when marshals showed up in search of a fugitive, court records state. The house's occupant told marshals that the unidentified fugitive was not present, but acknowledged that someone was hiding in the bathroom, records show.

Unknown to marshals, the man in the bathroom was Georgeson, high on the drug Ecstasy. Though he was wanted on a local warrant for a probation violation, he was not the target of the marshals' search, records show.

After marshals knocked on the bathroom door and identified themselves, Georgeson fled through the bathroom window and the agents chased after him into a nearby apartment complex, records show.

They tracked him to an apartment, where marshals again identified themselves and said they had a warrant, records show. After agents forced their way into the apartment, Georgeson lunged at an agent from behind in an attempt to tackle him, according to a federal sentencing memorandum.

The marshal fought with Georgeson, shooting him with an electronic stun gun three times before he was subdued, the sentencing memorandum states.

A drug test after his arrest showed cocaine, methamphetamine and Ecstasy in his system, court records state.

After serving part of his two-year federal prison sentence in April 2010, he was back in Jackson County on federal probation some time last year, records show. He was convicted on Oct. 10, 2011, for violating the condition of his parole by using illegal drugs, but was not jailed at the time, records show. Instead, he was ordered into an inpatient drug treatment center, from which he walked away. That led to the warrant that prompted marshals to attempt Georgeson's arrest Thursday.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.



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