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Shoplifter slashed at officer

A man killed Monday by an off-duty Medford police officer was identified Tuesday by police as Timothy Joseph Alex Caruthers, 27, of Medford.

According to Medford police Interim Chief Randy Sparacino, Caruthers had been caught shoplifting at Sportsman's Warehouse and was not being cooperative with store personnel when an off-duty officer stepped in.

Sparacino said the officer, following department policy, presented his badge, asked Caruthers to cooperate with store's security staff, then stepped away.

Once Caruthers was taken inside an office at the store, he became unruly again.

"The suspect produced a knife and slashed at the store personnel to escape from the office," Sparacino said.

Employees yelled that the suspect had a knife. The off-duty officer was still in the store as Caruthers attempted to flee with unidentified store property. The officer again identified himself and ordered Caruthers to drop the knife, Sparacino said.

The suspect instead fled, with the officer in pursuit, and ran across Highway 62 through traffic before stopping between two cars and a Dumpster outside Crater Car Wash, adjacent to the Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil Change.

"At that point the suspect stopped and turned toward the officer and swung the knife at him," Sparacino said. "The officer then fired two shots from his weapon, and the suspect was immediately stopped."

Responding firefighters pronounced Caruthers dead at the scene. Sparacino said that as soon as police determined a Medford officer was involved, they referred the investigation to Oregon State Police. Sparacino encouraged those with additional information about the incident to contact OSP detectives at 541-664-8762.

Sparacino declined to identify the officer who shot Caruthers until a Jackson County grand jury hears the case, but said the officer had not been involved in a shooting before. The grand jury will decide whether the shooting was justified.

"An officer's a sworn officer 24/7/365," Sparacino said, adding that if a crime occurs in the presence of off-duty officers, they are encouraged to be good witnesses.

"But if the circumstances are escalated to the point where there's no choice, the officer will engage and try to stop it, and that's what happened in this case," Sparacino said.

Sparacino said he believes the incident would have turned out similarly had a uniformed officer responded.

"I believe the circumstances would've ended the same, but I'm purely speculating," Sparacino said.

Although Sparacino declined to say where on his body the suspect was shot, he said officers are trained to aim for the center of the target.

"Many times witnesses will ask, 'Why didn't you just shoot him in the leg?' or 'Why didn't you shoot the knife out of his hand?' Any individual in a high-stress situation ... your fine motor skills diminish, so officers are trained to shoot at the center of the target to stop the threat," he said.

Sparacino declined to say what items Caruthers was attempting to shoplift.

"There was property on his person," Sparacino said.

Caruthers had a warrant issued Oct. 22 for a parole violation on a previous charge of first-degree sex abuse, Sparacino said. According to court records, Caruthers was convicted of first-degree sexual abuse in November 2011.

According to Mail Tribune archives, Caruthers was extradited from South Carolina to Jackson County on the sexual abuse charge via a Facebook tip in April 2011. An Oregon State Police investigation at the time linked Caruthers to eight incidents of sexual abuse with three local girls between 2004 and 2006.

In August 2013, Caruthers was convicted of contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor, a 17-year-old girl he met in Hawthorne Park, according to a police affidavit. On Feb. 10, 2015, Caruthers fled a uniformed police officer at the north Medford Walmart who was trying to arrest him on a probation violation warrant. Caruthers was captured outside the store after scaling a fence.

His last conviction was Nov. 1, 2015, for failing to report as a sex offender, for which he received five days in jail and 11 months' probation.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Medford interim police Chief Randy Sparacino speaks Tuesday about the shooting death of Timothy Caruthers with members of the media. Mail Tribune/ Denise Baratta