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Window-smashing suspect arraigned

GRANTS PASS — A Gold Hill man accused of going on a window-smashing spree in downtown Grants Pass early Saturday morning was arraigned Monday on a charge of first-degree criminal mischief.

Jesus Ernesto Garcia, 30, a registered sex offender, was arrested near the downtown post office around 3:30 a.m. Saturday, suspected of breaking windows at three businesses on G Street — Blind George's News Stand, the Oregon Outpost and Wild Rogue Emporium, a new business at G and Sixth streets.

Blind George's owner, Jack Smith, said the vandal took one of the metal rings that holds the garbage bags in the public trash containers along the sidewalk and flung it through his front window. The window was boarded up on Monday, and Smith said it wouldn't be repaired until later in the week.

He said a Wonder Bur employee who was outside smoking a cigarette heard glass breaking and called police. Smith was notified by his alarm company through an early-morning phone call, which he called "a rude awakening."

He and the other business owners were invited to attend Garcia's arraignment today, but Smith said he couldn't break away from work. He said he told authorities, "Just don't let him out."

Jan Bertaggia, who co-owns Wild Rogue Emporium with another Jan — Jan Albright — chatted with customers Monday afternoon as they browsed through the store's trinkets and treasures created by local artists. One of Bertaggia's corner windows offers a view of cars coming down Sixth Street beneath the "It's the Climate" sign; the other corner window is boarded up.

Bertaggia said police called her in the middle of the night to tell her about the broken window.

"They stayed with the store until I got there because I live 30 minutes away," she said.

Her store opened in August, and this is the first crime problem she's had.

"We feel very protected by the community service officers and the police department," Bertaggia said.

A block away, Roger Ulstad of Redwood Glass was prying leftover shards of broken glass out of the front door of the Oregon Outpost as he prepared to install a new pane.

Nothing appeared to have been stolen from any of the businesses targeted.

Grants Pass police Deputy Chief Jim Hamilton said it's unclear why Garcia went on a rampage.

"There was a citizen that saw it and gave a pretty good description," he said. "As the patrol units were coming in, it sounded like he was walking away. They were able to contact him pretty quick."

Hamilton said police had at least one prior contact with Garcia, in 2014. In that case, he was contacted regarding a city ordinance violation but was not arrested.

Garcia was convicted in February of failing to register as a sex offender.

His sex offender status appears to stem from a 2004 case in which he pleaded guilty to three counts of attempting to commit a Class B felony. Details about the crime were not immediately available.

He is currently facing trespassing, harassment, disorderly conduct and other charges in Jackson County in connection with a June 6 incident in which a Rogue River-area resident held him at gunpoint after Garcia allegedly tried to break into his house. At one point, the two struggled for control of the firearm and a round was fired, according to an account the resident gave to police.

In another pending Jackson County case, Garcia is facing fourth-degree assault and harassment charges for a July 2 incident in which two people were injured.

In yet a third open case in Jackson County, Garcia is charged with improper use of an emergency reporting system.

He is accused of calling 911 from a hotel room and making nonsensical claims about a problem with a fire lane, and complained to the dispatcher that he hadn't heard from his girlfriend.

Garcia's next court appearance in the Josephine County case is scheduled for March 30. Saturday's vandalism spree has not been linked to a separate incident earlier this month in which someone smashed a window at the Magic Man at Sixth and H streets and made off with merchandise in the display window.

Reach reporter Melissa McRobbie at 541-474-3806 or mmcrobbie@thedailycourier.com.