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Officers cleared, man charged in Eagle Point standoff

A Jackson County grand jury indicted a man Wednesday on a charge of attempted aggravated murder after he allegedly fired a rifle at police during an Oct. 23 standoff near Eagle Point. The grand jury also cleared the two officers who returned fire of any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors allege Warren Alexander Rich, 33, fired after barricading himself at his mother’s home at 1570 Worthington Road the afternoon of Oct. 23, according to a release by the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office. Sheriff’s Deputy Jesus Murillo and Cpl. James Biddle fired back, but no one was injured.

The standoff lasted roughly nine hours before a SWAT team entered the home after using a robot to determine Rich had laid down his weapon.

Sheriff Nathan Sickler said a standoff lasting nine hours is “unusual, but not unheard of,” and commended his team and resources from other agencies for taking their time to ensure the incident ended without any injuries.

“Not rushing things was crucial ... in terms of having a positive outcome,” Sickler said.

The incident was reported by Rich’s mother about 4:15 p.m., which was just about shift change at the sheriff’s office. The timing added logistical challenges for his department, but Sickler described the overlapping shifts as a boon.

“That actually brought resources a little bit quicker to the scene,” Sickler said.

Sickler said his team and added resources from partner agencies such as Medford police handled the standoff “methodically, and tactically sound.”

Murillo has been with the sheriff’s office for 11 years and is a patrol deputy.

Biddle, a 23-year veteran with the sheriff’s office, has been in officer-involved shootings before.

On Nov. 20, 2000, Biddle was one of two officers who killed Mark Leroy Vincent, 39, during a mental health hold outside Central Point. Vincent, who reportedly suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, had drawn a long knife. Biddle and then-deputy Charles Retzer were determined to have been justified in the shooting, but Vincent’s parents filed a wrongful death suit that the county ultimately settled out of court in 2006 for $135,000.

On April 30, 2010, Biddle was one of two officers who shot and killed Adam Elsman Wehinger, 34, during a standoff at an apartment complex near Eagle Point. A grand jury determined Biddle and Oregon State Police Trooper Tyler Lee were justified in the shooting the following May.

The Eagle Point standoff began after Rich’s mother told police that her son — who is not allowed on her property — met her at her entry gate as she was arriving home and pointed a rifle at her. The gun had been taken from her home, she told police.

The woman backed her car away and fled the scene before calling 911. She told police that her son threatened her earlier in the day.

Within half an hour, several sheriff’s deputies arrived on scene and secured the perimeter, blocking entry to Worthington Road roughly a mile from the home.

SWAT vehicles also arrived, including an armored BearCat that deputies used to attempt to communicate with Rich.

Between 4:45 and 6:15 p.m., Rich moved between the first and second floor several times while armed with at least one firearm, and spoke with deputies through open windows, the DA’s office said. A cellphone was tossed near the porch in hopes Rich would communicate with deputies by phone.

At 6:29 p.m., Rich fired rounds into the air, according to the DA’s office. About eight minutes later, Rich came onto the porch and Biddle and Murillo asked him to pick up the phone. Rich then shot the phone and fired his rifle at Murillo, the DA’s office alleged. Murillo and Biddle, fearing for their safety, fired back but missed. Rich retreated into the house.

Deputies made several attempts to force Rich out of the house in the more than six hours that followed, deploying several canisters of tear gas, according to the DA’s office.

The SWAT team eventually sent a robot into the house, which captured video of Rich unarmed. SWAT members entered the house and took Rich into custody at 1:29 a.m.

Rich is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon on felony counts of attempted aggravated murder, attempted first-degree assault, first- and second-degree burglary, unlawful use of a weapon, felon in possession of a weapon, and a misdemeanor charge of second-degree criminal mischief, according to Jackson County Circuit Court records.

The case was investigated by Oregon State Police with assistance by the Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit, and presented to the grand jury during a 3-1/2-hour hearing by Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Markiewicz.

Court records show Rich has a rap sheet involving nearly four dozen cases and felony convictions dating back to 2006, when he pleaded guilty to possessing methamphetamine. Recent felony convictions include an oxycodone possession conviction in March, and a first-degree criminal mischief conviction last summer after he admitted to spilling lime green acrylic paint on concrete at Hawthorne Park.

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

Warren Alexander Rich