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Two suspects appear in court after shooting in Merlin during marijuana deal 'gone bad'

Court documents filed by the arresting officers illuminate more details about what transpired late Tuesday night.

Posted: Feb 26, 2020 4:43 PM
Updated: Feb 27, 2020 4:20 PM

MERLIN, Ore. — Two Josephine County men made their first appearance in court on Thursday following a drug deal-related shooting that left another man with serious injuries.

The shooting itself went down in the late hours of Tuesday night. By Wednesday, an Oregon State Police spokesman was only able to confirm a few details about the Merlin-area shooting. He characterized the incident as a probable "marijuana sales deal gone bad."

32-year-old Tanner Gilmore received a serious gunshot wound to the hand, and was taken by paramedics to a Medford hospital before being transferred to Riverbend Hospital in Springfield, OSP said.

Officers soon found two men believed responsible for the shooting, 30-year-old Zachary Leahy and 24-year-old Christopher Watson. They were both arraigned in court on Thursday.

According to probable cause statements filed by the arresting officers, Leahy and Watson were looking to buy marijuana and "dabs." They met with Gilmore and another man at a house, then Leahy allegedly told them that he was taking the product, and they could leave empty-handed.

"The victims became vocal about the robbery and Watson entered the living room area, leveled off a shotgun at the victims," police said. "[Gilmore] pulled a pistol out, fired rounds into the ceiling, and Watson shot the victim in the hand and right shoulder."

Gilmore ran out of the house, injured from the shotgun blast, before Watson allegedly picked up the man's fallen handgun and left the house as well — getting into a car and driving away. Police said that Watson stopped at the 6th Street bridge and tossed Gilmore's gun through the open car window and into the river before heading to his mother's house in Grants Pass.

According to the statements, Leahy later admitted to officers that he'd set up the "drug rip." Watson also reportedly admitted to shooting Gilmore.

Leahy was lodged on charges for Robbery I and Assault I, with bail set at $250,000. Watson was lodged on charges for Assault I, Robbery I, Tampering with Physical Evidence, and Unlawful Use of a Weapon. He's also being held on $250,000 bail.

This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.

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