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Grand jury: Sheriff's deputy justified in lethal New Year's Day shooting

A Jackson County grand jury determined Wednesday that a sheriff's sergeant was justified in a Jan. 1 lethal shooting of a man in Central Point, according to a Jackson County District Attorney's Office news release.

The grand jury deliberated for less than five minutes before making their decision, the release said. They determined that Jackson County sheriff's Sgt. Ben Weaver "was fully justified and in compliance with Oregon law."

The shooting occurred just before 8:30 p.m. in the 8000 block of Blackwell Road. Deputies had responded to a 911 call for assault with a weapon and shots fired. Weaver and deputy Thomas Hohl arrived at the scene at about the same time with their emergency lights flashing. Both men heard arguing coming from inside a shop building, the release said. Hohl took cover behind his patrol vehicle and instructed whoever was inside to exit. Weaver provided cover, pointing his rifle while behind his own vehicle.

A man later identified as James Daniel Cecil exited the building and cooperated with police. Just after Cecil exited the building, Hohl heard someone yell "f--- you," followed by a door slam.

"(Cecil) said the remaining male inside the building had a weapon and was a veteran. Mr. Cecil identified the male as Teddy Varner and believed Mr. Varner was having a PTSD issue," the release said.

While Hohl was taking Cecil into custody, Varner "aggressively" exited the building, pointing a custom Glock with a weapon-mounted flashlight that was on, the release said. Weaver, who believed Varner was going to shoot either Cecil or Hohl, fired three shots from his rifle at a distance of about 20 yards. Varner was later pronounced dead at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. An autopsy showed he had been struck in the chest and pelvis. Toxicology results showed he had a blood alcohol concentration of .24, the release said.

Cecil testified that he and Varner had gone to target practice with their firearms earlier that day, then stopped to shoot pool at a bar on the way home. Bar staff "felt Mr. Varner was bothering other patrons, so the bartender asked Mr. Cecil to either calm Mr. Varner down or leave," the release said. The two men did leave, then went to the river to talk and consume more alcohol. They then left the river in separate vehicles and went to the Blackwell Road property. Once there, Cecil testified he saw Varner pointing a gun at him as he yelled at Cecil to get on the ground. Cecil was able to disarm Varner. He also confiscated the holster and extra magazine, then left Varner in the shop building and walked to his house nearby with the gun. Once there, he told his girlfriend about what was happening and returned to check on Varner.

Once there, he found Varner holding a machete and pacing back and forth. At one point, he swung the machete into a wall and damaged it, then threw it through a window after Cecil confronted him about the damage.

After Varner seemed to calm down, Cecil attempted to give Varner his gun back. Varner "attempted to aggressively rip the holster from Mr. Cecil." Cecil pulled the gun back and fired seven rounds into the shop floor. Cecil's girlfriend testified she heard the shots and called 911.

Jackson County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Mike Moran told KTVL News 10 thatWeaver has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. He's expected to return to work Thursday.

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