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Grand jury clears cop, indicts teenager

A grand jury took just four minutes of deliberation to indict a Medford teen who was shot by police Dec. 26 on charges of assault and attempted murder for allegedly attacking his neighbor with a knife.

The grand jury also ruled that Medford police officer John Torgerson was justified in shooting 17-year-old Justin Pina, according to Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston.

Torgerson shot Pina after responding to a 9-1-1 call from Helen Marie Brown, who lived next door to Pina in the 700 block of Gilman Road. Brown called police after Pina reportedly forced his way into her home at about 7:50 a.m. and attacked her with a large kitchen knife.

Torgerson arrived to find Pina in Brown's side yard standing over her with the knife in his hand. He ordered Pina to drop the knife, but the teen refused and approached the officer, who shot him once in the chest. Brown underwent surgery for head injuries and stab wounds following the attack and is recovering.

Police had gone to the Pina family home twice that morning before the attack. Pina's family said he had been out of control and acting violently. Police reports indicate officers tried to find help for him, but ultimately decided he couldn't be arrested or hospitalized.

— The jury heard testimony from 11 witnesses, including Brown, Torgerson and criminalist Jeff Dovci from the Oregon State Police Forensic Laboratory in Central Point. The jury also heard from Oregon State Police Detective Jason Westfall, who elaborated on the type of training officers receive regarding the use of deadly force.

The grand jury's ruling frees Torgerson to return to duty. Torgerson, a 16-year veteran on the police force, was placed on administrative leave after the shooting.

John's cleared and ready for work, Medford police Lt. Tim George said. He will return on his next scheduled work day.

Dale Pina, Justin's father, said his son has only called him once since being lodged in the Jackson County Jail. During the conversation, Pina said the teen seemed paranoid.

Justin is absolutely not in his correct mind, Pina said. He doesn't understand what's going on. He really needs evaluation from a good doctor.

Pina also faces charges of first-degree burglary and resisting arrest. The burglary charge stems from Pina allegedly forcing his way into Brown's home intending to assault her, officials said.

Attempted murder and first-degree assault are Measure 11 crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences of 90 months in prison upon conviction. The court will set a date for Pina to be arraigned on the indictment.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471, or e-mail Grand jury clears cop, indicts teenager"cconrad@mailtribune.com.