DA details investigation of deadly Wolf Creek self defense shooting

A newly released report from the Josephine County District Attorney's office describes the inexplicable exchange of gunfire on a Wolf Creek property in early April.

Posted: May 5, 2020 3:19 PM
Updated: May 5, 2020 3:31 PM

WOLF CREEK, Ore. — A newly released report from the Josephine County District Attorney's office describes an inexplicable exchange of gunfire on a Wolf Creek property in early April that left one man dead.

The DA's statement details the conclusions of an investigation into the deadly shooting. On the morning of April 2, 29-year-old Preston Sweaney drove onto the property of Jerry Seibert on Speaker Road near Wolf Creek. Seibert and another tenant were there talking when they suddenly heard gunshots.

According to the DA's office, Seibert grabbed a rifle and went out to investigate the sounds of gunfire. As he walked down the driveway, several shots flew his direction.

Seibert fired two shots in return. He later told investigators that he thought the second shot hit the person in the vehicle — later identified as Sweaney. Seibert then went back up the driveway and called 911.

"Seibert did not know the vehicle and it does not appear Seibert knew Sweaney," the DA's office said.

When law enforcement arrived on the scene, they searched Sweaney's vehicle — finding a rifle in his lap, a pistol and shotgun in the passenger seat, alongside cash and methamphetamine.

Sweaney was later identified by the Josephine County Sheriff's Office, using his tattoos for comparison.

Other witnesses in the area backed up Seibert's account of events. The DA's office said that evidence both on the scene and gathered via an autopsy showed that Sweaney had been shot in the left side through his driver's side door, but that he had also shot himself in the lower side of his face.

"In a situation where self-defense is used, the reasonableness of the person’s use of self-defense must be disproven by the State beyond a reasonable doubt," the DA's office said. "Based on the totality of the circumstances that occurred on April 2, 2020, the reasonableness of Mr. Seibert’s actions to use deadly force to protect himself and others based what occurred on his property – an unknown person in an unknown vehicle on Seibert’s property, firing a weapon multiple times, and fires a weapon at Seibert as he is coming down the driveway are all factors in the reasonableness of Seibert’s use of deadly force."

The DA's office concluded that the state would not be able to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt, prompting them to not press charges. It also noted that use of force is always analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

"In each case involving the use of self-defense, a fact specific inquiry into the reasonableness of the use of self-defense must be made to determine if such actions are justified under Oregon law," the DA's office said.

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