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Police officer cleared in shooting at VA

A grand jury today cleared a Veterans Affairs police officer of wrongdoing in the Jan. 25 wounding of a knife-wielding Army veteran who'd sought treatment for mental illness at the VA's White City clinic.

The grand jury spent five minutes weighing more than three hours of testimony from 15 witnesses — three VA police officers, Jackson County sheriff's detectives, a use-of-force instructor, the wounded man's father, several VA staff members and a veteran who was getting services at the clinic — before deciding the shooter was justified under Oregon law.

A release from the Jackson County District Attorney's Office did not name the shooter, but it did note that Oregon law allows officers to use deadly force if they reasonably believe a crime committed by a person is a threat to their physical safety. Court records in the case show only one named person who nearly faced serious injury: Marvin Seifer, shown on a Department of Veterans Affairs website to be a sergeant at the White City facility.

When reached by phone, Senior Deputy District Attorney Laura Cromwell declined to name the shooter, citing officer safety and saying that she knew of one threatening call. The Mail Tribune is filing a public records request for the name.

The grand jury today also indicted the wounded man, Gilbert Matthew "Matt" Negrete, 34, on felony counts of attempted first-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon for brandishing a knife at the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics, the DA's office said. Negrete also faces misdemeanor charges including two counts of menacing and a charge of second-degree disorderly conduct. The victim of the alleged menacing is named as Michael Davis.

On the morning of Jan. 25, Negrete allegedly engaged in violent, tumultuous and threatening behavior at the clinic, menacing Seifer and Davis with a knife before attempting to use the weapon to seriously injure Seifer, the DA's release said. Further details as to what happened leading up to the shooting have not been released because Negrete's criminal case is pending.

In earlier news reports, Negrete's father described the weapon involved as a paring knife.

On Monday, Jackson County Circuit Judge Lorenzo Mejia set Negrete's bail at $250,000 and imposed enhanced conditions should he be released, records show. Negrete remained in the Jackson County Jail Thursday evening. Release conditions include regular check-ins, that he consume no intoxicants and that he submit to random breath and urine tests.

Negrete served in Iraq for one year starting in October 2008 and then in Afghanistan from October 2010 to August 2011, according to earlier Associated Press reports, and was awarded the Army Achievement Medal, which the government says is issued for a soldier who “distinguished himself or herself by meritorious service or achievement ... while serving in a non-combat area."

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.