Man charged in Medford shooting plot listed Hope Village as his address
A former school custodian who allegedly planned a “mass casualty event” before turning himself in to police had lived in Medford’s Hope Village, a tiny-house development for people battling homelessness, prior to his arrest, according to his former employer.
Ron Havniear, Medford School District director of facilities and leadership development, said in an interview Friday that he and his staff never saw any signs of homicidal tendencies in the roughly six months that Kristopher Wayne Clay worked as a custodian at South Medford High School.
“We did not see any behavior issues or performance issues throughout that time,” Havniear said.
Clay had worked the night shift since February, cleaning after school and during the evening during the school year, according to Havniear, who is in charge of safety, security and emergency management at schools and facilities throughout the district.
"He probably didn’t have a whole lot of interaction with students — if any at all,” Havniear said.
Night custodians work with the day shift during the summer, so Havniear said it’s possible that he had more interaction with students during the summer.
“I don’t think Kris had a whole lot of interaction or was present when students were necessarily here,” Havniear said.
The Panther Camp summer program had 46 students enrolled, Medford School District spokesperson Natalie Hurd said in an earlier news report.
According to Havniear’s staff, Clay lived at Hope Village and walked the more than 2-1/2 miles to the high school every day. Jackson County Jail and Jackson County Circuit Court records also list Clay’s address as that of Hope Village, run by nonprofit Rogue Retreat, at 728 W. McAndrews Road.
“We want to respect the anonymity of people that are at Rogue Retreat,” McComas said, adding that the nonprofit cooperates with law enforcement investigations.
Hope Village does not allow weapons on its premises and has a zero tolerance policy for aggressive behavior or threats.
“If anybody shows violent behavior toward another person, they’ll be asked to leave,” McComas said.
Other “basic rules” at the low-barrier shelter include keeping alcohol or drugs on its premises. Rogue Retreat regularly inspects residents’ housing and shelter sites for weapons, drugs or alcohol.
“You won’t find any weapons at Hope Village,” McComas said.
Although Rogue Retreat staff aren’t trained medical providers, they’re often a starting place before connecting a person to medical or mental health providers such as Options for Southern Oregon, ColumbiaCare and Jackson County Mental Health.
“They are trained to care about these people and maybe steer them away in the right direction,” McComas said.
In a follow-up email, McComas said that Rogue Retreat has “more than 40 community partners” that provide services ranging from financial counseling to trauma-informed mental healthcare professionals.
Although McComas couldn’t speak about Clay’s mental health, he wrote in the email that it can take years for some individuals to address their "severe mental illness."
“Trauma informed mental healthcare professionals have told us that people with severe mental illness — delusions, schizophrenic fantasies — often take years before they take action,” McComas wrote. “Yet what we do know is powerlessness and hopelessness of homelessness can fuel the rage.”
“This is why, in our hearts and with sound business practices, we believe our programs are necessary to the health and well-being not only of homeless community members, but our community at large,” the statement adds.
In the email, McComas said that Rogue Retreat “applauds” Clay for turning himself in to authorities.
“He did the right thing, and because of it our community avoided a catastrophic event,“ McComas wrote.
Clay is in the Jackson County Jail on charges of attempted second-degree murder, attempted first-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful possession of firearms and tampering with physical evidence. Clay reportedly entered the Medford Police Department lobby, asked to speak with an officer, and told police he was having homicidal thoughts.
Havniear said the school’s investigation into Clay began July 20, after Clay went to the Medford police station.
Police put Clay on a mental health hold, and transported him to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center’s behavioral health unit.
Police alerted Havniear that night, and began working with school resource officers. His staff and the officers found no weapons or other threats after a thorough search of the school grounds.
Clay was released from the hospital Wednesday. Why Clay was released from the hospital is sealed under patient privacy laws, but Asante spokesperson Lauren Van Sickle said patients in the behavioral health unit who are brought in by police are assessed, treated and released back to police once the patient is stabilized.
“We discharge them back to law enforcement,” Van Sickle said. “It becomes up to them what to do next.”
It’s the same protocol the hospital uses for individuals brought to the hospital for physical injuries by police.
As an example, Van Sickle said that if a person breaks their leg in a crash while eluding police, police will bring the suspect to the hospital, and the hospital will contact police when the individual is medically cleared.
"We treat them, and then when they’re ready to be discharged, we do,“ Van Sickle said.
Update, 4:56 p.m. Aug. 7: Added statements from Rogue Retreat executive director Chad McComas.