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Post-ball fights result in three arrests

A drunken Oregon National Guardsman who allegedly reached for a Medford police officer's gun during a fight with two officers outside a downtown hotel was arrested early Sunday, hours after attending the Guard's annual ball, authorities said.

Medford police said Benjamin Harris, 34, of Crescent City, Calif., was eventually subdued and taken into custody on a felony charge of assaulting a police officer and several misdemeanors following the 1:44 a.m. fight outside the Red Lion Hotel, 200 N. Riverside Ave., police said.

About 800 people earlier that night attended the Guard's annual formal ball of the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry Brigade, 41st Infantry Division. To kick off the Medford Armory dinner, soldiers held a Regimental Punch Ceremony, in which bottles of various types of alcohols and juices were mixed and served to commemorate all the conflicts in the 41st Battalion's history.

Oregon National Guard spokesman Maj. Mike Braibish said the charges are a civilian matter but the Guard will cooperate with authorities if approached. The outcome could affect Harris' Guard career, Braibish said.

"This kind of behavior is flat-out unacceptable from a Guardsman," Braibish said.

Medford police officers Levi Friend and Josh Schilder originally were called to the hotel at 12:44 a.m. to investigate a report of Guardsman Clint Blevins' alleged assault by two non-military men outside the hotel, Medford police Sgt. Mike Budreau said.

Blevins apparently got into an argument with Lyle Lundgren, 21, no address available, and another man about the politics of being in the military when the two men allegedly punched Blevins, of Myrtle Creek, Budreau said.

Police arrested Lundgren on a charge of third-degree assault, a felony, because it was a two-verses-one assault, Budreau said. The other alleged assaulter escaped, Budreau said.

While the officers were finishing their investigation, Harris and fellow Crescent City Guardsman Michael Saintpiere, 26, both visibly intoxicated, approached the officers, Budreau said.

Though they were not witnesses to the original assault, the pair allegedly began to interfere with the officers, who asked them to leave or stay back 10 feet as required by law, Budreau said.

When the officers eventually went to arrest and handcuff the pair, Saintpiere cooperated and Harris initially appeared to be cooperating, Budreau said. But Harris then spun and punched Friend in the chest and a lengthy scuffle ensued — with Harris at one point putting his hand on the holstered gun of one of the officers, Budreau said.

"It was intense," Budreau said. "No one knew what would happen if he got that gun out of the holster."

Officer Derek Parks then arrived at the scene and Harris was subdued, Budreau said.

Along with the assault charge, Harris was taken into custody on charges of resisting arrest, interfering with a police officer, disorderly conduct and harassment.

Saintpiere was taken into custody on a charge of interfering with a police report and was released from jail after posting bail, records show.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.