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DA: Officers justified in shooting during deadly Illinois Valley standoff

The Josephine County District Attorney's office says it has cleared seven officers who used deadly force in a standoff that resulted in the death of the gunman and a hostage.

Posted: Jan 12, 2021 4:50 PM
Updated: Jan 12, 2021 4:55 PM

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The Josephine County District Attorney's office says it has cleared seven officers who used deadly force in a December standoff at an Illinois Valley property that resulted in the death of the gunman and a hostage.

The hostage situation escalated from a domestic violence incident on the morning of December 7, prompting a major response from multiple law enforcement agencies. It ended in gunfire later that day. The two fatalities were later later identified as 56-year-old Donald Guest and 70-year-old Sandra Reynolds.

Because the deadly standoff saw multiple officers fire their weapons, it has been under a multi-agency investigation led by the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, the Medford Police Department, and the Oregon State Police Crime Lab.

According to Josephine County District Attorney Josh Eastman, local dispatch received a call from a neighbor of 400 Pinewood Way just before 7 a.m. that Monday morning, with the neighbor reporting that a woman had run from the property, leaving behind her phone. Her husband, Donald Guest, and property owner Sandra Reynolds were still inside.

"Through the neighbor, the wife reported that her 'husband has a gun and is threatening violence,'" the DA's office said. "As the call continued, the wife informed the neighbor who informed dispatch that it had been both physical and verbal and Guest had pointed firearm at her and Reynolds and threatened to hurt [Reynolds and himself]."

While deputies from the Josephine County Sheriff's Office were beginning to respond to the property, another call came in to dispatch, this one transferred from Florida. Guest's son told dispatchers that his father had called, saying that he'd pointed a gun at Reynolds and was contemplating suicide.

A third call, this one from Reynolds' sister in California, reported that Guest had called her and said there "was a problem," but would not let her talk to Reynolds.

A final call came in from Guest himself, transferred from the Ashland Behavioral Health Unit. During the conversation, Guest reportedly told dispatchers that he was "sitting holding someone at gunpoint” and was “fixing to go to prison or kill myself — one or the other.”

According to the DA's office, the Sheriff's Office began working with Guest's family over the next several hours in an attempt to talk him down. During that time, Guest's sons reported that Guest had said “he was going to put two in her chest and one in her head, and one in himself.” The Sheriff's Office also reportedly tried to contact Reynolds directly under the guise of being a repair company, but to no avail.

Just before 10 a.m., the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety called in SWAT support, both from the local agency and Oregon State Police. Snipers, entrance teams, negotiators and mental health professionals went to the scene.

"Based on the information known at the time of the SWAT call-out as outlined above, SWAT and the other units on scene were working under 'target of opportunity' paradigm – meaning that deadly physical force had been authorized," the DA's office said. "Despite this authorization, a SWAT sniper monitored Guest’s behavior within the house for more than two hours."

Over the next several hours, negotiators tried to get Guest to come out or release Reynolds.

Around 1 p.m., the DA's office says that a OSP SWAT sniper was able to spot Guest inside the house with a gun in his hand. As an armored vehicle drove up the street, another SWAT sniper saw Guest becoming increasingly agitated, "so the sniper decided to take the shot if the opportunity presented itself."

Just before 1:30 p.m., the sniper fired into the house at Guest, but Guest was still alive. Nine seconds later, the DA's office said, police heard multiple shots from inside.

Seconds after the first shots, SWAT teams converged on the house and "incapacitated" Guest. The DA's office said that four members of GPDPS used lethal force, as well as three members of the OSP team. Both Reynolds and Guest could not be revived.

"Reynolds was in a reclining chair with her small dog that was also deceased," the DA's office said.

The resulting investigation — including ballistics assessments and autopsies — concluded that Guest had fired multiple shots at Reynolds, striking her a number of times. Guest was hit and killed by law enforcement, the DA's office said. The investigation also found that Guest had "potentially" fired a shot in the direction of SWAT officers as they came in.

"Additionally, due to grain weight differences amongst the bullets, Detectives confirmed that Reynolds was not hit by any of the SWAT members rounds," the DA's office said.

The Josephine County DA's office reviewed the investigation and found that all seven officers were justified in using deadly force, and no further action is "anticipated nor merited."

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