Sheriff says man arrested in Chiloquin standoff was in 'mental distress'

A Chiloquin man is in jail following a nearly eight-hour armed standoff along U.S. 97 that began on Sunday afternoon.

Posted: Jan 19, 2020 3:33 PM
Updated: Jan 21, 2020 4:11 PM

CHILOQUIN, Ore. -- A Chiloquin man is in jail following a nearly eight-hour armed standoff that began on Sunday afternoon, according to the Klamath County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies responded to a "shots fired" call just after 1:30 p.m., directing them to the 37000-block of Highway 97 near Chiloquin. The Sheriff's Office said that shots were fired at deputies from someone inside of the cabin when they arrived.

The officers tried in vain for several hours to coax the suspect, later identified as 55-year-old Steven Earle White, out of the cabin. According to the Sheriff's Office, White refused to give himself up.

"Certainly it was obvious to our negotiator that he was in some sort of mental distress," Klamath County Sheriff Chris Kaber told NewsWatch 12 on Monday. "And so we know that he had personal tragedy in his life a short time ago with a relative passing away, and we believe that's probably what started this."

Sheriff Kaber said that anytime a deputy tried to approach the house on Sunday, White would open fire.

At about 9:30 p.m., the deputies prepared to force their way inside, deploying an armored vehicle to get closer. The Sheriff's Office said that White had since started a fire inside the cabin "in an attempt to evade arrest," and flames poured from one side as officers moved in.

Though White reportedly escaped outside and into the nearby trees, deputies were able to find him and take him into custody.

According to a probable cause statement filed by the arresting officer, White called 911 "repeatedly" prior to the incident, but for non-emergency purposes. His calls included "inviting law enforcement to watch football and to inform us TMZ and CBS would contact us if something happened to him," the officer reported.

Deputies who responded to the scene were assisted by units from Klamath Falls Police, Oregon State Police, and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement. The Sheriff's Office said that neither White or any first responders were injured in the standoff, but one patrol vehicle was damaged by gunfire.

The probable cause statement indicated that a deputy's patrol vehicle was struck four times, damaging the passenger-side door and mirror.

White was booked into jail for a number of charges, including Improper Use of 911, Unlawful Use of a Weapon, two counts of Attempted Aggravated Murder, two counts of Menacing, Criminal Mischief in the First Degree, and Arson in the First Degree.

On Monday, NewsWatch 12 visited the cabin and met with members of White's family. The cabin itself is partially burned and riddled with bullet holes.

"I would be in tears, like — I knew this was going to happen. I knew someone was going to get hurt," said Kelsey White. She's the niece-in-law of Steven White. "She built that cabin. That cabin was her whole life."

Sheriff Kaber and Kelsey White had similar ideas about what happened. Steven White's mother had passed away recently — and he had been suffering ever since.

"After grandma passed away no one has been able to go get any of her belongings, family heirlooms or anything . . . because of Steve," Kelsey said. "Now half of it's burned, we really don’t know where to go from here."

When asked if she would go visit Steven in jail to get some of her questions answered, Kelsey White said that she would have to think about it.

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