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Josephine County DA clears officers in I-5 shooting

GRANTS PASS — A Josephine County District Attorney's Office investigation into the July 1 police shooting of a California homicide suspect on Interstate 5 near Sunny Valley found the officers were justified in using deadly force.

A statement released by prosecutors Thursday said Kaleb Landon refused multiple commands to drop the .357 Magnum revolver he was holding before he was fired on by four Oregon state troopers and two agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Officers had confronted Landon, 32, near milepost 72 on I-5 after the stolen Ford Mustang he was driving rear-ended a semi-truck following a pursuit, during which troopers unsuccessfully tried to stop the car with spike strips. He reportedly had pointed the revolver both at the officers and at himself in the moments prior to the shooting.

The Oregon state troopers — Sgt. Brandon Boice, Detective Brent Sitowski, Detective Sgt. Jeff Fitzgerald and Trooper Ryan Neuenschwander — have previously been identified by investigators, while ATF officials had withheld the names of their agents pending the outcome of the investigation.

One of the ATF agents, Special Agent Ken Cooper, previously was involved in a police shooting in Medford in March 2014 after two Idaho fugitives rammed the unmarked car he was driving during a pursuit. The other agent, Special Agent Brad Devlin, is listed in one spring 2015 Department of Justice publication as the resident agent in charge of the agency's Portland office.

The officers had responded to Sunny Valley, north of Grants Pass, after family members reported Landon, suspected in the killing of 34-year-old Yreka resident Erika Lemere, was at his mother's home there. Yreka police said Landon was suspected of fatally stabbing Lemere, his girlfriend, with a large spear the day before following an argument in the couple's home. Her body had been discovered in Yreka the morning of July 1.

Landon had fled in Lemere's Mustang to the Sunny Valley home, where he stole the revolver and painted portions of the car white, telling family members he "had done something very bad." He reportedly confided to acquaintances that he had killed Lemere and planned to commit "suicide by cop" if confronted by police. 

Detectives from the Medford Police Department and the Jackson County Sheriff's Department took part in the shooting investigation, along with the Josephine County Major Crimes Team and the OSP Forensic Services Division.

Reach reporter Thomas Moriarty at 541-776-4471, or by email at tmoriarty@mailtribune.com. Follow him at @ThomasDMoriarty.