November 2008

Demanding Accountability

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“Community Caretaking”
At its Ugliest: JoCo vs. White

By Ron Lee
Investigative Reporter

Cave Junction, OR - On April 26, 2008 Robert White Jr. was arrested from outside his own home for interfering with a peace officer, as well as resisting arrest by Josephine County Sheriff's Deputies Iles and Mason.

According to Deputy Iles' incident report, White was an angry, aggressive individual who walked up to him outside of the White home with fists clenched yelling obscenities when he and Deputy Mason were conducting a "community caretaking function" by searching the home against the wishes of White's wife and brother, who were both inside at the time. In Iles' own words, "Robert attempted to brush past me on the porch and I took hold of his right arm ... Robert just kept repeating that we were not invited and that I had better let go of him ... At this time, Deputy Mason returned to the porch [from inside the house] and took hold of Robert's left arm ... We pushed Robert up against the side of the house ... and I then took Robert to the ground in the front yard ... I retrieved my Taser from my belt and ... I placed the Taser on Robert's chest and pulled the trigger." Iles' story continues with one more tasing and the eventual handcuffing and arrest of Robert White Jr..

What Deputy Iles fails to mention is that the Whites are not unknown to him. In fact, Deputy Iles knows them very well, having been involved in a physical conflict with the Whites, and others, several years earlier on August 21st, 2004 at a beer garden at the Josephine County Fair.

One of the County Fair security guards who witnessed the 2004 conflict stated, "I hold the deputies, and specifically Iles, one-hundred-percent liable for the riot that ensued that evening and believe the plaintiffs [Whites] did nothing to elicit the official mistreatment they suffered."

The Department settled the suit, which had cited excessive force, negligence and battery against several officers, but specifically Iles, costing the Josephine County taxpayers a settlement of $45,000.00.

The actual physical conflict at the fair was a culmination of several days of intimidation by Deputy Iles toward members of the White family as outlined in their complaints. According to Pam White, Robert White Jr.'s mother, Iles had approached her in an intimidating fashion on more than one occassion during several days of the fair. So much so, in fact, Pam decided not to attend one of the evenings out of fear that she'd run into Iles again.

It is painfully obvious that there is a history between Deputy Iles and the entire White family.

Man with a knife

On the April 2008 night of Robert White Jr.'s arrest, a call was placed to the Josephine County Sheriff's Office regarding a man with a knife. Iles and Mason were dispatched to investigate claims that a young man named Dustin was headed back to a party off Caves Hwy. to "slit some throats." Various people at the party claim that Dustin was confronted and kicked out of the party earlier after he had beaten his girlfriend/cousin, and that he had made threats about coming back with a knife to hurt people. So real was this threat that Dustin's own Grandmother was the one who called police after he had come back to a separate residence, taken a butcher knife and headed out. Even the party-goers believed he'd be back, one saying, "a few of us went down to the street with bats ... we thought he was going to come back with a knife."

As per Isles' report, they responded to this call and were talking to the grandmother when he and Deputy Mason heard "loud voices ... coming from the vicinity of where [blacked out] had described" and the two deputies headed out to investigate. In Deputy Mason's report, however, it was described as "noise" which prompted them to drive off and look for its source. Both reports say that as they drove they heard a single gun-shot, which, if you have ever lived in the Illinois Valley, is not uncommon, but given the circumstances, according to the deputies, they believed that their subject could have made it back to the party and that the situation could have escalated. So, the deputies headed in the direction of the gun shot leading them to the White residence.

Earlier in the Evening

Robert White Jr. is a hard working family man. He works out of state, and when he is back during those brief times, he also tends his farm's fields. Oftentimes, this means working through the night. His primary responsibility is to his wife and their two daughters.

Shelly and Robert White Jr.

At about 7:30 p.m., the White's, including their children and Robert's brother Jimmy, headed to their local pizza parlor to meet with some of their friends and their children. Shortly thereafter, they headed to Kerby for a child's birthday party and at approximately 10:20 p.m. headed home.

A Shot in the Dark

Once home, Robert's brother-in-law Kenny and his girlfriend, Amanda, were coming out of their trailer, which is on the White's property, and told the White's that they were headed out to go to Amanda's mother's home for a visit. Kenny visited for a brief time as they put the children in the house and Amanda started her pick-up. After saying goodnight, Kenny headed toward the pick-up and Robert headed toward the back of the house where their tied-up dogs were barking. Looking out the window, Robert saw a coyote, and since they were having issues with coyotes harassing their animals, he retrieved his hand-gun and, at about 10:30 p.m., fired a round into the ground about 30 ft. out into the dirt to scare off the coyote.

After putting his pistol away, Robert was in the bedroom when his wife told him that there was a truck parked near the front of their drive. Looking out the window, he saw the parked truck, and soon a sheriff's patrol car turning from Caves Hwy. onto the road near his drive. From another room, Robert's wife, Shelly, watched as Amanda and Kenny pulled onto the road from the drive. She noticed two patrol cars near the parked pickup with their lights on as well as their spotlights. As Amanda and Kenny neared the other truck, whose passengers were now out of the vehicle near the back of their pickup, Shelly watched as a deputy waved his flashlight and heard a muffled yelling. Shelly leaned forward and opened the window to see if she could hear what was going on. She listened as Amanda and Kenny were told to turn off their engine while the deputy waived his flashlight back and forth with one hand, the other was on his waist. According to Shelly, it was soon after that both Robert and Jimmy headed out to the tractor and onto the field to finish harrowing. Shelly left the bedroom and set about changing a diaper. Soon, Jimmy, whose ankle was previously injured came back into the house. It had been about 20 minutes since she had first seen the patrol cars and Shelly was wondering what was going on. Shelly looked out the window to see Amanda and Kenny pulling away and the two from the other truck get in their vehicle and drive by the driveway followed by the patrol cars, who stopped and sat briefly at the end of the drive shining their lights into the field before turning down the drive toward the house. As she watched out the window the phone rang and Jimmy answered it. Still watching, with her 8 month-old daughter in her arms, Shelly saw the deputies shine their flashlights a few times into the field and then head for the front door.

Community "Care-taking"

What happens next can only best be described by the words from one who was there. From a statement Shelly White wrote regarding the incident she described it as follows: "...I opened the front door as they came to the steps. I said hello to the officers ... They said hello and introduced themselves and continued on with how they were there for a 'community care giving' and they stated they heard a gun shot from this residence and asked if it was true, I responded and said yes. He asked why there was a shot fired. Jimmy was still talking on the phone ... but I was getting an uncomfortable feeling so I asked for Jimmy to hang up the phone and to come here. I told the officer I was not the one who fired the shot, my husband was. He said he needed to know why the shot was fired. Jimmy ... said that there was a coyote in our backyard and a shot was fired to scare it off, because we have problems with them chasing the dogs. The officer asked why my husband wouldn't get off the tractor and we told him he has work to do. He was home for the weekend ... and so he had things to get done before he left again. Officer [deputy] Mason then asked how many people were in the house and I explained that it was just my three-year-old daughter, who got off the couch and came over to me, my 8 month-old baby whom I was holding, and Jimmy, who was standing next to me. I said we're all fine. Officer Mason insisted that they needed to come in and search our house. Jimmy quickly said no you may not ... Officer Mason began to raise his voice and ... said by law he needed to come in and see the gun. He put one foot on the doorstep as if he was going to come in. Both Jimmy and I said no you can't. ... Officer Mason became vigorous and demanded to come in and search the house ... I looked at my daughter and seen that she was starting to get upset. I walked her over to the couch where she could sit, and started back to the door when Officer Mason came in like there was no stopping him. I stepped out of his way because in my mind I felt he would come through me if I didn't ... As Officer Mason started to search my house, I heard my husband come around on his tractor. ... I watched as the officer went to my room and then down the hall to my daughters' bedroom. I turned towards the door when I heard my husband come up to the front porch. I could see the left side of his body through the doorway with Jimmy still standing in the doorway on his crutches. My husband told Officer [deputy] Iles, who was still outside on the porch, that, 'you are not welcome here and you need to get your partner and leave.' He repeated himself several times. Then voices began to raise and I heard Bobby [Robert] say to Officer Iles that he [Deputy Iles] needed to let go of him. Jimmy also said, 'hey, you don't need to grab him like that.' Just then Officer Mason ... came through the house and stopped at the front door. Bobby then repeated himself ... that they were not welcome here and they needed to leave. The next thing I knew Officer Mason slammed my husband against the side of the house and down to the ground they went. I rushed to the door where I saw my husband on the ground with Officer Mason trying to hold his arms down, and I saw Officer Iles grab for his Taser gun. I panicked and got scared, because now my daughter was screaming in a hysterical cry for her dad. She had followed me to the door. I ran down the steps and yelled at Officer Iles please not to do that ... He looked at me and put his hand up and said, 'you need to step back.' I watched as Officer Iles tased my husband in the chest, belly, and legs. ... I turned around to see [my daughter] crying so loud and I feared what she might see of what was happening to her dad. I brought her back in the house..."

The narrative goes on to tell how Deputy Iles continued to Tase Robert once he was on his belly and also while he was being handcuffed. It says how more deputies arrived and told her to stay on the couch with her children while they continued to finish the search. Shelly tells of an older deputy who had arrived and asked her what had happened. After she told him the events and that she thought there must have been a mix-up, Shelly alleges the deputy responded by telling her that they were responding to a call of a young man walking up and down the street with a knife and that, "I think you hit it on the head; it's all just a big mix up ... but I will deny it in court if I have to." Soon after, the deputies left the inside of the home. Deputies Mason and Iles came back to the front porch and informed Shelly that Robert was being transported to jail. Shelly, frustrated with them yells out, "you guys show up and arrest my husband and leave me here alone with two kids, with some weirdo walking around with a knife in his hand? Thank you very much!" Robert was then carted away.

Recently, a reader sent in a link to a description of the "Community Caretaking Function" by AELE Law Enforcement Legal Center. In reading the description of the Basic Requirements for this function, it is clearly evident that this case did NOT meet the basic requirements. Had the deputies IMMEDIATELY travelled to the home after hearing the gun shot and go in to see if someone was injured, it might stand up to the requirements. But, because their judgement was to spend some 25 minutes to get to the home and there were NO other indications that there was any immenent danger to anyone in the home, it just doesn't pass muster. Please, read it for yourself! And, take action! Call the Josephine County, Oregon, District Attorney's Office and demand they drop these charges before they further embarass themselves by continuing the false prosecution of another unwinnable case. He may be reached by calling

At the Real Scene of the Crime

The people, at the nearby party who were standing out on Caves Hwy., waiting for the "Man with a knife" to come back, state that as deputies passed by them they flagged down the cars, with only one stopping. They maintain that they told the deputy that "this is where the problem is" but he drove away toward the road leading to the White's home - with no deputies to ever return.

Fortunately for everyone, Dustin, the real problem, never did come back to the party and slit throats like he had suggested.

But what the heck, deputies got A man. How curious that it happens to be a man whose family has had so many issues with Deputy Iles, one of the arresting officers.

Now, Robert White Jr. is awaiting his day in court against charges that should have never been filed. Charges that, ultimately, affect all of our ability to protect our families from warrantless acts of law enforcement.

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