|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • Earl Harris' last stand

    Ashland resident shot to death in confrontation with sheriff's deputies 'stood his ground on everything'
  • A friend of Earl C. Harris, the man killed last week by sheriff's deputies during a forced eviction in Ashland, said Harris was "militant-minded" but a "great guy."
    • email print
  • »  RELATED CONTENT
  • A friend of Earl C. Harris, the man killed last week by sheriff's deputies during a forced eviction in Ashland, said Harris was "militant-minded" but a "great guy."
    "He had a very militant mindset. ... He was just kind of your mountain man sort of guy. He had a lot of weapons," said Chris Vorgang, 30, of Medford. "He was a great guy ... He was extremely, extremely old school, just kind of a pit bull of a guy. He stood his ground on everything and if he didn't like you, you knew it. "
    Jackson County sheriff's deputies were enforcing a court-issued eviction June 10 at Harris' home at 35 Mistletoe Road when the shooting occurred.
    A conversation between the 73-year-old Harris and the deputies through the front screen door soured when Harris retreated into the house and entered a bedroom to retrieve a shotgun, Sheriff Mike Winters said.
    Deputies followed Harris into the house, and when he failed to follow orders to put the shotgun down, they fired four shots, with at least two hitting Harris, Winters said. The deputies tried to render aid, but Harris died at the scene.
    Vorgang met Harris about a year ago at Rack'em Billiards in Medford, and the two formed a friendship that extended from the pool hall to Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners at Vorgang's house, he said.
    "(Harris) always asked about our 11/2;-year-old. ... A couple weeks before (he was killed), he'd been trying to get together with me a lot and I just wasn't able to get time off."
    Harris spent the majority of his time alone after his wife, Glory Harris, died in 2009, said Vorgang.
    He said Harris mentioned he had a son who lived in Washington state, but very rarely spoke of him. "It wasn't a good relationship," Vorgang said.
    Vorgang said he visited Harris' home several times and never had any idea Harris owned grenades or any other explosives. Winters said investigators found a pair of grenades while searching Harris' home, above which he flew an upside-down American flag.
    "He had an issue with authority," Vorgang said.
    An obituary submitted to the Mail Tribune by Harris' family said he was an all-around outdoorsman and excellent horseman and enjoyed camping, hunting, fishing, billiards and skeet and trap shooting.
    The obituary said Harris had a long career in the insurance industry after serving in the U.S. Navy for about 41/2; years. He obtained the rank of machinist second class, and was honorably discharged in 1962.
    "If you became friends with him you had a lot to gain emotionally, he'd always be there," Vorgang said. "You knew he was a friend you could depend on. He was a quiet man but his spirit spoke loudly."
    Vorgang said he discussed Harris' court matters with him, and even reviewed documents, but it was a convoluted case and hard to explain.
    Prior to the eviction action being signed May 22, Harris was fighting an April 11 residential eviction notice signed by Jackson County Circuit Judge Ron Grensky that was part of a protracted foreclosure case U.S. Bank filed on the property in July 2011, court records show.
    Harris represented himself in suing Grensky in U.S. District Court in December 2012, trying to get Grensky's January 2012 foreclosure thrown out. In his complaint, Harris claimed that the state court didn't have jurisdiction in the case and that Grensky was running a "foreclosure mill" process that showed bias against Harris, court papers state.
    As recently as April 29, Harris filed a five-page complaint in federal court claiming his property was fraudulently foreclosed upon and that the residential eviction notice also was fraudulently obtained, according to Harris' affidavit filed in that case.
    "He didn't misinterpret laws and rules, he researched them, and would not let anybody run him over or stampede him with the law," Vorgang said. "He didn't believe that U.S. Bank had the power to evict him from his home."
    An Oregon State Police-led investigation into Harris' death is expected to wrap up this week. A grand jury will hear the case likely next week to determine whether the pair of deputies who killed Harris were justified in using lethal force, said Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert.
    The names of the deputies and any other information about the shooting will not be released until after the grand jury's decision, Heckert and a sheriff's spokeswoman said.
    A memorial service for Harris is scheduled for 3 p.m. today at the Eagle Point National Cemetery, 2763 Riley Road.
    Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/swhlr.
Reader Reaction
      • calendar