A Coleman Creek Road resident pleaded guilty to weapons violations Thursday afternoon in Jackson County Circuit Court for firing his rifle over the heads of his neighbors in an armed altercation that caused police in February to evacuate the area.
Jon Ware, 41, fired two shots from a bolt-action, .17-caliber HMR rifle in the direction of neighbors James Davos and William Porter on Feb. 21 after months of agitation between himself and residents in the 6700 block of Coleman Creek Road, located in the hills outside Talent. Ware's actions prompted numerous 911 calls and more than 30 law enforcement units to respond to the scene, according to police reports.
Ware pleaded guilty to three counts of unlawful use of a weapon before Jackson County Circuit Judge Lorenzo Mejia. Three additional counts each of menacing and reckless endangering were dismissed per the plea agreement between prosecutor David Hoppe and defense attorney Michael Kellington.
Ware received three 30-day concurrent sentences for the guilty pleas, with credit for time served. Mejia also ordered Ware to forfeit all weapons and avoid contact with the victims. He placed Ware on three years' supervised probation and ordered him to have a mental health evaluation and comply with all appropriate treatment.
"I am concerned about Mr. Ware's mental health," said Mejia. "You cannot possess any firearms or any weapons at all. And if you do, it's your quickest way back to jail."
Devos and Porter also expressed concerns about Ware's mental stability and his access to weapons. Both men said other neighbors were concerned for their safety.
Police reports said Ware fired two shots at the men while they were about 30 yards away, and threatened to shoot them.
Devos said Ware was once a good neighbor. But he needs "medical help" and a "support system."
"I looked right down the barrel of that gun," said Devos. "He shot it twice, something I'll never forget."
Once deputies arrived, more gunshots could be heard and authorities decided to evacuate the area. The city of Talent quickly set up a hospitality area at City Hall for residents of Coleman Creek Road to gather until it was safe to return to their homes.
Responding agencies included Talent police, Oregon State Police and the Jackson County sheriff's SWAT team, including an armored vehicle. When most of the neighbors had been removed from the area, the Sheriff's Department drove the vehicle up to Ware's driveway, where he surrendered and was taken into custody without incident.
During a search of the area, eight to 10 shell casings were found near the front porch of his residence. The rifle Ware used in the incident is in police custody.
During his arrest, Ware stated he wasn't trying to hurt his neighbors, only scare them, according to a news release. Kellington said Ware was upset with his neighbors because he had not been paid for clearing trees from more than an acre of property. Ware also was afraid of the victims who persisted in trespassing on his property, he added.
"Mr. Ware was fearful that day. Very fearful," Kellington said.
Porter said Ware "defecated in the Holy Bible" and left it in his parents' driveway. Porter asked Ware not be allowed to return to the area.
Porter fears for his parents. Sheriff's deputies had been called eight times as the feud escalated, with Ware becoming "progressively more aggressive," Porter said.
Mejia ordered the forfeiture of the weapons and instructed Ware not to return to the Coleman Creek property. Ware is to have his parents collect his belongings, the judge ordered.
Kellington said Ware is planning to move to New Mexico after he is released from the Jackson County Jail, where he has remained since the incident on $35,000 bail.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.