YACHATS, Ore. (KMTR) -- The Lane County District Attorney’s Office has cleared an Oregon State Police SWAT team in its use of deadly force after a surveillance mission and search warrant ended in the death of an 18-year-old man.
The shooting occurred at a home on Ten Mile Creek Road, just south of Yachats, near the Lane County / Lincoln County line.
An Oregon State Police SWAT team was at the home on May 31, 2012, conducting surveillance in a plan to serve a search warrant related to an assault case under investigation by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. The incident ended in the death of 18-year-old Sam Mullane of Yachats, a person not involved in the case.
Lane County’s Interagency Use of Deadly Force Investigation Team (IDFIT) has been investigating the shooting for the last month, as the incident occurred on property within Lane County.
Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner said the three Oregon State Police troopers who fired at Mullane were justified in their use of deadly force.
Gardner addressed the shooting in a press conference on Friday, June 29th, saying four OSP SWAT team members were at the home when the shooting took place. Investigators said the team was conducting surveillance for a SWAT raid that was supposed to take place some time later.
According to Gardner, the SWAT team members knew two people involved in an assault were in the home and knew armed patrols of the property were common. Investigators reported the men that troopers were to arrest had also made comments in previous weeks about how they “would not being taken to jail".
Around midnight, investigators say Sam Mullane came out of the home carrying a deer rifle and a flashlight. Investigators believe Mullane was looking for troopers. Investigators said Mullane then shined a light on the troopers' position in rough grass, prompting the troopers to stand up, identify themselves and order Mullane to drop the gun.
Gardner stated when troopers ordered Mullane to drop his weapon, he responded by shouting “**** you” back and attempted to run for cover. As he ran, three troopers shot at Mullane, hitting him twice.
“If you get a guy with a deer rifle, who’s got the benefit of conceal and cover and they're (OSP troopers) all exposed at this very close range, they're dead if that person wants to shoot,” said Gardner.
Investigators reported three males, including Mullane, and one female were on the property on the night of the incident. Before the shooting occurred, investigators believe two people drove away from the property, eastbound on Ten Mile Creek Road.
US Forest Service officers spotted a car down the road before the shooting. Investigators say when USFS officers shined a spotlight on the car, the car turned around and headed back to the residence, alerting Mullane that law enforcement was on the scene.
Eugene Police Detective Jeff Donaca was the lead investigator on the IDFIT process. Donaca said Friday that the shooting has affected the troopers involved. “I did two of the interviews and you could tell this really took a toll on them, to end up in a situation where they had to do something like this,” said Donaca.
A friend of Mullane’s, Ben Elliott, says the incident was out of character for Mullane. "I've known him since he was eight years old and he had probably the kindest, warmest hearts that I had come across on the coast,” said Elliott in an interview with NewsSource 16 on Friday.
“He had just taken over his father's property up Ten Mile (Creek Road) and you know, I guess he just kind of got into the wrong situation with people . . . he wouldn't have ever gotten into the problems if he had known what was going on,” said Elliott.
Investigators say Mullane was shot once in the back and once in the leg. The bullet that hit his back went through his kidney and exited his side. The OSP attempted to save Mullane after the shooting, moving him from the property, but troopers said it was apparent he had died from his injuries.
Mullane did not fire any shots, according to Gardner. Investigators say Mullane was pointing the gun up in the air when he was running for cover.
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office did end up arresting the two men for whom they were looking in the SWAT raid: 25-year-old Matthew Hubney and 27-year-old Justin Wood.
Wood, Hubeny and Hubeny’s mother, Julie Ann Hubeny, are charged in a May 10, 2012 assault of a 46-year-old man who needed extensive hospitalization after the incident.