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Grand jury finds deputy 'fully justified' in deadly shooting near Wimer

A deputy from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office shot and killed Rodney Purslow while responding to a domestic abuse call on Queens Branch Road near Wimer.

Posted: Jun 24, 2021 2:48 PM
Updated: Jun 24, 2021 5:41 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — A deputy with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office has been cleared of any wrongdoing arising from a shooting near Wimer in May that left one man dead, according to the county District Attorney's office.

On the morning of May 18, a man named Gordon Purslow called 911 to report that his adult son, Rodney Purslow, had attacked him. Gordon said that he "thought his son was going to kill him," according the DA's office narrative. He told dispatch that he had escaped from the property to get away from his son, but Rodney remained at the house with access to guns.

Deputies started responding to the house on Queens Branch Road near Wimer while dispatch told Gordon to wait outside until officers arrived. A short time later, Gordon called 911 again to report that Rodney had left the house in a silver Jetta, heading toward Ditch Creek Road.

The first officer on the scene was Deputy Travis Cote, a veteran law enforcement officer who has been with Jackson County for 3.5 years. Cote got in contact with Gordon and noticed injuries on the man's face and neck — learning in the process that Rodney could be armed and had made statements threatening "suicide by cop," according to the DA's office.

While Gordon went to secure his dogs on the property and Cote waited out front, a silver Jetta pulled into a dirt area in front of the property. Cote tried to signal the driver to wait.

"Deputy Cote saw at this point that Rodney Purslow had a rifle pointed in his mouth, and starts giving him directions to 'put it up,'" the DA's office said. "During this time, Rodney Purslow drives the car closer to Deputy Cote, stops and starts to rev the engine. Deputy Cote stated he was focused on Rodney Purslow's hands and the rifle was now lowered."

Cote reported seeing that Rodney was manipulating the bolt-action, then seeing the man raising the gun.

"With the information that Deputy Cote had regarding the assault to Gordon Purslow, the threats of suicide by cop, the lack of verbal or physical response by Rodney Purslow to Deputy Cote's commands, and the firearm being raised by Rodney Purslow, Deputy Cote believed his life and the life of Gordon Purslow were at risk, and responded to Rodney Purslow's action by firing his duty weapon eight times through the windshield of the car; in a matter of two seconds," the DA's office said.

Cote radioed to other deputies that shots had been fired, pulled Rodney out of the car, and requested a medical response. Rodney died at the scene, and it was later determined via autopsy that he'd been hit seven times in the torso.

"During the investigation a phone was found in Rodney Purslow's car that had a message sent to a doctor stating, 'You might want to cancel my appointment Friday because I will more than likely be dead by then, thank you goodbye,'" the DA's office said.

Investigators who searched the Jetta found a short-barreled .22 caliber rifle with a round in the chamber.

Grand jury proceedings commenced on Thursday. After 25 minutes of deliberation, the Jackson County grand jury determined that Deputy Cote's actions were "fully justified" and in compliance with Oregon law.

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