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MailTribune.com
  • 'We believe Mr. Vanhook had a busy night'

    Robbery suspect tells police that he had been fired upon in Medford
  • An accused robber who was armed with a baton had an eventful weekend after allegedly stealing a man's backpack and then being shot at during another attempted robbery minutes later, Medford police said.
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  • An accused robber who was armed with a baton had an eventful weekend after allegedly stealing a man's backpack and then being shot at during another attempted robbery minutes later, Medford police said.
    Jamel Gerald Vanhook, 20, remains lodged in the Jackson County Jail on charges of second-degree robbery, first-degree theft, possession of methamphetamine and a warrant for failing to appear in court, Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said.
    Investigators believe Vanhook was riding his bike in west Medford Friday night looking for people to rob. He carried with him a collapsible baton similar to the kind police use to subdue violent suspects, Budreau said.
    At around 10 p.m. Friday night, Vanhook pedaled up to a man walking near McLoughlin Middle School on West Second Street and brandished the baton, Budreau said.
    "Vanhook told this victim to give him his backpack," Budreau said. "The victim feared for his safety and handed it over. It contained his iPhone 4 and some clothing, but not much else."
    Vanhook then pedaled away, but not before the victim was able to get a good look at his face and the bike he was riding.
    "He gave us a good statement, which made it easy for us to identify Vanhook a short time later," Budreau said.
    Medford officers tracked Vanhook down, placed him in custody and drove him to police headquarters for further questioning.
    "He refused to give us a statement about the robbery, but he did say something that interested us," Budreau said.
    Vanhook offhandedly mentioned being shot at earlier that night in another part of west Medford.
    Police checked the night's records and found that a shooting had been reported earlier that night near the area of West 11th and Newtown streets.
    Officers scoured the scene and found a shell casing on the ground. Neighbors reported hearing gunfire seeing a muzzle flash about a half hour after the earlier robbery, Budreau said.
    Although Vanhook didn't admit to it, police strongly suspect that he approached another person that night for an attempted robbery. Only this time the intended victim pulled a gun and fired a round at Vanhook, Budreau said.
    "It makes sense that this is a possibility," Budreau said. "We believe Mr. Vanhook had a busy night that night."
    The robbery charge lodged against Vanhook carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years, 10 months under Oregon's Measure 11 law. Vanhook remains jailed on $265,000 bail.
    Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or cconrad@mailtribune.com.
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