OSP works attempted murder in Wolf Creek

Agency takes case for shorthanded Josephine County

Oregon State Police detectives from the agency's Central Point office are filling in for the short-handed Josephine County Sheriff's Office to investigate an attempted murder case in Wolf Creek in which a man was shot multiple times Tuesday.

Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson was notified of the 1:55 a.m. shooting, but he had no deputies to send to the scene.

OSP detectives from the Central Point command office made the nearly 50-mile trip north on Interstate 5 to secure the crime scene at a residence on Coyote Creek Road. They were assisted by troopers from the Grants Pass field office.

The victim, identified as Shannon Jerome Shults, 43, was taken to Three Rivers Community Hospital early that morning and was being treated for several gunshot wounds.

Shults is expected to survive the shooting and is attempting to work with investigators, OSP Detective Travis Lee said.

"He has been giving us statements," Lee said. "His health is stable and the wounds do not appear to be life-threatening."

Lee would not comment on any events preceding the shooting.

However, OSP is looking for a vehicle with a possible connection to the attempted murder. It is described as a mid-2000s black or dark-colored Dodge pickup. The pickup might have damage to the left side.

"We are hoping that the public might recognize this vehicle and give us a call," Lee said.

The Josephine County Sheriff's Department has been cut to the bone from layoffs as the county struggles with declining revenues, including the loss of federal funds tied to timber lands.

The county made news last year when it drastically cut its patrols and jail staffing following the defeat of a public safety levy. The department no longer patrols the roads day and night, and the jail has been reduced to only 60 beds, half of which are kept available for federal prisoners.

"When the shooting happened we had no one on duty," Gilbertson said.

Josephine County commissioners have authorized a vote on a three-year property tax levy with a rate of $1.48 per $1,000 of assessed property value to fund the criminal justice system. This proposal is scheduled to appear on the May 21 ballot.

If that proposal fails, then the future of the sheriff's department becomes more dire, Gilbertson said.

"I would have to look at further layoffs," he said. "We have already reached a crisis point in law enforcement in this county."

With only a handful of patrol deputies at his disposal, Gilbertson said, he cannot afford to allow his people to tackle complex investigations such as attempted murders.

"These investigations can take weeks and it becomes an officer safety issue when I take patrol deputies off the road," Gilbertson said. "I just don't have the personnel to conduct these investigations."

Locally, OSP has shifted four troopers from Jackson County's field office to provide more protection in Josephine County following the budget cuts.

"It keeps us all pretty busy," Lee said.

Anyone with information about this investigation is asked to contact OSP Major Crimes Division Detective Travis Lee at 541-618-7950.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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