A Medford man with a long history of fleeing from police, car theft and methamphetamine use died in a dramatic crash near downtown early Thursday, moments after police tried to stop him for speeding and running a red light.
James Robert Kinler, 27, of the 600 block of Dakota Avenue, crashed a 1998 Chevy Monte Carlo into a pole after missing a curve while westbound on Fourth Street near Orange Street. The force of the impact sheared the car in half, with the front of the vehicle sliding to rest in a yard, Medford police said.
Kinler, who was alone in the car, was found dead when police arrived at the scene.
Officer Jason Wileman had spotted the white Monte Carlo speeding west along Fourth Street from Riverside Avenue and through a red light at 2:09 a.m. Thursday, Detective Sgt. Mike Budreau said.
When Wileman attempted to stop the car, Kinler fled, blasting through more traffic lights. Wileman stopped the pursuit rather than risk endangering others, and lost sight of the Monte Carlo, Budreau said.
"The officer has a right to go after a violator, but we encourage them to call off a pursuit before it becomes unsafe," Budreau said.
Two minutes later, police were summoned to a reported crash at Fourth and Orange.
A preliminary investigation indicated the speeding car missed a curve and hit a light pole, Medford police said. The Jackson County Sheriff's Department is investigating the crash, with the assistance of Medford police and a multi-agency serious traffic accident reconstruction team.
Budreau said the sheriff's department was called in to handle the case because of the preceding pursuit by a Medford officer.
"We want to make sure there are no allegations of bias," he said.
He explained that as investigators determine what happened, they must look for evidence of criminal activity and any liability issues, such as policy violations by police.
Budreau said the department believes Wileman made the right decision to call off the chase.
Jackson County Circuit Court records show Kinler had four convictions for attempting to elude police in a vehicle. He also was convicted on possession of methamphetamine charges six times between 1999 and 2005.
His record in that court dates to 1998, when he was 17 and also includes felony convictions for unauthorized use of vehicles, hit and run, reckless driving and recklessly endangering others.
Dan Converse, program manager of Jackson County Community Justice Juvenile Services, said 17-year-olds can find themselves in adult court if they face serious felony charges and already have gone through the resources available through the juvenile department and likely will face sanctions that continue past their 18th birthday.
Kinler's court records show no new criminal cases since 2006 and police noted that, although Kinler was known to them, he "had been quiet for a while."
Kinler's relatives gathered briefly Thursday at a makeshift memorial that sprang up around the light pole where he died.
Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.