Medford man arrested after allegedly confessing homicidal plan
A man who worked as a South Medford High School custodian faces an attempted murder charge after police say he took “significant steps” toward planning a “mass casualty event” — including one planned at the high school — and that he obtained multiple rifles some two years after courts prohibited him from owning firearms.
Kristopher Wayne Clay, 24, is in the Jackson County Jail on a string of felony charges surrounding a cache of guns, ammunition and handwritten manifestos found at three locations in Jackson County, according to Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau, who spoke Thursday at a Zoom press conference.
Clay began working as a custodian for the school in February until an investigation began July 20, when he reportedly came into the Medford police lobby, asked to talk to an officer and confessed to having homicidal thoughts and plans to carry out an attack.
The officer placed him under a mental health hold and transported Clay to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center’s behavioral health unit.
Police place a person under a mental health hold when the individual poses a danger to themselves or others, according to Budreau. From there they typically admit a person to the hospital’s behavioral health ward and leave the case to mental health experts.
“In this particular case, we believe that he’d taken some pretty significant steps to carry out his plan,” Budreau said.
Clay was arrested Wednesday after he was released from the hospital.
Budreau called it “unfortunate” that Clay had to be fully prosecuted, because he prevented himself from carrying out his plans by contacting police.
“Had he not come forward, who knows what could have happened?” Budreau said.
Medford School District spokesperson Natalie Hurd said that 45 high school students are currently attending the school’s “Panther Camp” summer program.
The school district terminated Clay’s employment, according to Hurd, and the school district is working closely with Medford police school resource officers.
The SROs, which Hurd said operate as a “liaison between schools and police,” distributed photographs of Clay to school staff and instructed them to call 911 if he was spotted at the school, among other lockdown protocols.
Hurd said the school has secure entrances, strict visitor protocols and security systems that can call police at the press of a button.
“We have these security systems in place for a reason,” Hurd said.
Ron Havinear, the school district’s director of security, said in the press conference that Clay’s keys were confiscated and his electronic key card was disabled.
Police don’t believe Clay ever brought any firearms to school. Budreau said Medford School District personnel and Medford police searched the premises thoroughly and found no threats.
As the police investigation unfolded, search warrants served at his home in the 700 block of West McAndrews Road in Medford and two other residences where Clay would stay or visit yielded rifles he had allegedly assembled, rifle parts, and journals with plans, manifestos and maps that Budreau said made Clay’s plans “pretty clear.”
The writings allegedly described South Medford High School as “at least one of the targets,” Budreau said. Other attacks involving firearms were planned for other public places, but Budreau did not disclose the locations and described the targets as “areas, not people.”
“We are not alleging any specific person,” Budreau said. “He, in fact, was targeting another person.”
“It is more of a mass casualty type event as opposed to targeting specific people,” he said.
Oregon court records show no prior criminal history for Clay, but according to Budreau, he was not allowed to own firearms after a court determination of mental illness in 2019.
Under Oregon law, courts may prohibit a person from purchasing or possessing a firearm for reasons that include demonstrated “past behavior or participation in incidents involving unlawful violence,” earlier threats of violence or “a single incident of extreme, violent, unlawful conduct.”
Budreau said Clay had at least two firearms by ordering gun parts online that “were not a complete weapon,” then assembling them. He also bought completed firearms “for other individuals in his circle.”
Medford police’s only prior contact with Clay was a 2019 arrest on a disorderly conduct charge that the Jackson County District Attorney’s office never prosecuted.
The school district conducts a “multi-layered background check” that includes a check for criminal records, a drug test and a reference check, but everything came back with “no red flags” when they hired Clay in February, according to Hurd and Superintendent Bret Champion.
“In this case, there was nothing missed, there was nothing there,” Champion said.
The school district is now reviewing its background check hiring policies and procedures.
Champion praised the school resource officers and detectives whose efforts worked to “prevent a tragedy.”
“We are deeply grateful,” Champion said. “It is a reminder of why we do training continually in the Medford School District around safety and security, and why our partnership with the Medford police department continues to be an important one.”
Clay made his initial appearance in Jackson County Circuit Court Thursday on felony charges of attempted second-degree murder, attempted second-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon, and misdemeanor counts of unlawfully possessing a firearm and tampering with physical evidence accusing him of damaging or destroying a journal he kept at the hospital.
At the hearing, Judge Laura Cromwell ordered no early release unless Clay posts a 10% bond on $2 million bail.
Should Clay come up with the $200,000 bond, he’ll be ordered to follow conditions that include GPS monitoring, no possession of weapons, firearms or ammunition, no contact with minors, not to come within 1,000 feet of any school in Jackson County, no contact with any alleged victims and polygraph testing upon request to ensure compliance.
His next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 12.
Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.