KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — A Klamath Falls Police officer was legally justified in shooting a man reportedly seeking "suicide by cop" in November, a grand jury determined on Friday.
The shooting happened on November 12, when officers responded to a domestic disturbance call involving 34-year-old Robert Lee Faulkner. According to Klamath Falls Police, Faulkner appeared angry and armed when they found him hiding in a bush. One officer shot and wounded him in the encounter.
"Law enforcement routinely place their lives at risk when responding to volatile domestic disturbances," the grand jury's foreperson wrote in a statement. "Unfortunately, there are times when a suspects’ behaviors and interactions with law enforcement create circumstances where it is reasonable for an officer to believe their life and the lives of community members are in danger."
The grand jury's statement identified the officer who fired his weapon as Sergeant Maury Smith. The evidence revealed that Sgt. Smith found Faulkner in the bush, apparently holding a handgun.
"Sergeant Smith shouted directions at Faulkner to show his hands. Mr. Faulkner pointed a gun at Sergeant Smith. Sergeant Smith fired his service weapon injuring Mr. Faulkner," the foreperson wrote. "Law enforcement immediately rendered emergency medical services in a compassionate and professional manner. Mr. Faulkner was transferred to Emergency Medical Services and transported for medical care."
An investigation of the shooting later found that Faulkner's gun was an "airsoft or BB gun" modified to look like a true handgun. The jury found Sgt. Smith's perception that Faulkner was holding a real weapon "reasonable and rational under the circumstances."
"We regret the circumstances that forced Sergeant Smith into a decision law enforcement never wants to have to make. Mr. Faulkner is very fortunate to have survived. We hope he obtains the services he needs to address his mental health condition," the foreperson concluded.