Klamath Basin News, Friday, 12/17 – Chiloquin Man Pleads Guilty To Two Counts of Attempted Aggravated Murder

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Friday, December 17, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 32. Overnight, freezing fog after 10pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 17. Calm wind.

Saturday Patchy freezing fog before 10am. Partly sunny, with a high near 37. Mostly cloudy overnight, with a low around 23.
Sunday A slight chance of rain and snow before 7am, then a slight chance of snow during the day with a high near 42. Chance of precipitation is 30%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.Sunday NightA chance of rain and snow before 7pm, then a chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 26. Chance of precipitation is 30%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Monday A chance of snow before 1pm, then a chance of rain and snow between 1pm and 4pm, then a chance of rain after 4pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 41. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
Tuesday A chance of snow before 1pm, then rain and snow likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 40.
Wednesday A chance of rain and snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 40.

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Hiway 97 at LaPine

Today’s Headlines

A Chiloquin man pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of attempted aggravated murder after standoff with police last year. 

Steven Earl White, 57, was committed to the custody of the Psychiatric Security Review Board through the Oregon State Hospital for a total of 40 years, after he was found to be a danger to others on January 21, 2020.

White fired multiple rounds at two Klamath County Sheriff’s deputies who were dispatched to his home after repeated 911 calls. 

White’s 911 calls were “irrational and illogical,” a statement from the Klamath County District Attorney’s Office said.  After the two deputies arrived at White’s residence, White yelled at them, ordered them off his property, and began firing his weapon at them from inside the house, the release said. 

White fired around 10 to 12 shots at a time at the deputies, damaging their vehicles. The deputies said they could hear bullets ricocheting close to them, the release said. 

White was then charged with two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of unlawful use of a weapon, one count of improper use of 911, and one count of criminal mischief for damage to the deputies’ vehicles. White was sent to the Oregon State Hospital as he was deemed unable to aid and assist his counsel.

As of yesterday afternoon, The Oregon Department of Transportation reopened I-5 southbound below Ashland, beginning with the aforementioned “soft” opening for truck drivers and travelers who have been halted at the south end of Ashland — many of them since Wednesday evening.

About 2 hours later, Highway 97 opened between Dorris and Weed, but traffic was being monitored as to avoid congestion after hundreds were left stranded, mostly trucks. ODOT put out a notification of the official reopening at 12:19 p.m., saying that I-5 southbound was back open to traffic and warning that congestion and delays are expected until all of the backed-up traffic moves through.

Caltrans said that I-5 is now open in both directions, warning of backups until traffic has cleared. To keep updated on up to the minute highway information, log onto tripcheck.com.

The Klamath Tribes named Vernon Alvarez as the chief of police for the newly formed public safety department of the Klamath Tribes.

The Klamath Tribes initially began the process of developing a Public Safety Division in 2011 after Oregon legislators enacted Senate Bill 412, which recognizes tribal officers as state officers.

The process was revived in 2019 when the Klamath Tribal Council appointed a committee under the helm of Councilmember Willa Powless and administration general manager George López. The committee met biweekly for more than two years to establish public safety department, which became official upon the hiring of Chief Alvarez.

The Klamath Tribes was one of two tribes in the nation to receive technical assistance from the Department of Justice’s Collaborative Reform Initiative Technical Assistance Center to create a new department. The public safety division will focus on community policing, according to the tribes.

Love’s Travel Stops opened its Klamath Falls location on Thursday.

The location at 250 Dan O’Brien Way is open 24/7 and includes more than 13,000-square-feet, including 94 truck parking spaces, 80 car parking spaces, seven diesel bays, five showers, laundry facilities a CAT scale and more.

The Love’s in Klamath Falls currently has around 40 team members and is still hiring, according to the company. To apply for an open position, visit jobs.loves.com. A Carl’s Jr. restaurant located in the store is planned to open on Jan. 17.

In honor of the grand openings, Love’s said it will donate $2,000, which will be split between Mazama High School and the Klamath County Sheriff’s Department.

Klamath County needs plenty of precipitation this winter, but lots of snow brings tricky road conditions.

While snow tires and chains are a good bet, someone still has to clear city streets and state highways so they remain passable.

The city of Klamath Falls street division, and Klamath County Public Works have been at it for a few days now, preparing and then operating in snowy conditions. The Oregon Department of Transportation is also hard at work, but said residents should expect less service than they are used to due, to a staffing shortage at the state agency.

The city of Klamath Falls has 12 full-time employees working the plows around town, according to Chuck Cox, streets and equipment manager for the city street division. Along with the snow plow crew, there are two mechanics and two managers. If conditions get difficult, the two managers — Cox included — aren’t afraid to hit the streets and start plowing snow themselves.

The street crew can also pull operators from other city divisions to help if need them, Cox said. Luckily, the snow storm that first reached Klamath Falls on Tuesday can be managed with available resources.

Around the state of Oregon

Tule Lake National Monument was awarded a $44,600 grant from “The Fund for People in Parks” to complete renovations for the first on-site visitor center.

The park hopes to have construction complete by July 2022. Since 2009 the Tulelake-Butte Valley Fairgrounds in Tulelake, California has hosted the park’s contact station. In 2022, park staff will move to a renovated building at the National Monument known as the ditch rider house.

The house will serve as Tule Lake National Monument’s visitor center. The new temporary visitor center will have a small exhibit area to orient visitors to this important story, as well as restrooms and a sales center for books and other items related to the Tule Lake story. In the meantime, the historic carpenter shop building from the incarceration center era will be restored for use as a permanent visitor center. Maintenance staff from Lava Beds National Monument has completed most of the work to renovate the ditch rider house. The last major components are the accessibility features that allow access for all visitors.

To accomplish this last task, the park applied for and successfully competed for a grant from the Fund for People in Parks to finish construction.

There are 19 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,527. OHA reported 909 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, bringing the state total to 404,229. Klamath County reported 10 new cases, Jackson County reported 67.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (3), Benton (15), Clackamas (88), Clatsop (17), Columbia (11), Coos (29), Crook (5), Curry (4), Deschutes (60), Douglas (25), Hood River (3), Jackson (67), Jefferson (9), Josephine (25), Klamath (10), Lake (1), Lane (65), Lincoln (16), Linn (36), Malheur (2), Marion (76), Morrow (3), Multnomah (133), Polk (28), Tillamook (10), Umatilla (14), Union (1), Wallowa (1), Wasco (5), Washington (121), and Yamhill (26).

It’s been one year since Oregon started administering the COVID-19 vaccination

Now, 70% of the state has had at least one shot. That’s equal to three million Oregonians.

Here’s how the numbers look now:

  • 73.5% of adult Oregonians are fully vaccinated.
  • 64.1% of the population as a whole is fully vaccinated.

The latest group to become eligible are kids 5 to11 years old. The Kaiser Permanente doctor says the vaccine rate with that age group is a bit concerning. It’s at about 26%. It’s worrisome because when you look at pediatric case rates in Oregon, the 5-to-11-year-old group currently has the highest rate.

The omicron variant is looking to be highly transmissible, and that’s partly why Dr. Dillon says getting vaccinated and boosted is so essential.

Vaccine clinics continue across the state

You can protect yourself against severe disease from all COVID-19 variants by getting vaccinated and receiving a booster if you are eligible. Primary vaccinations and booster doses build up antibodies that lower the chance of infection and reduce the severity of illness, including hospitalizations.  

Sites around the state are vaccinating large numbers of people seeking immunization against COVID-19. These “high-volume” sites offer all three COVID-19 vaccines and are open to everyone eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination or booster. 

There is no cost and you do not need to register. 

Vaccines are safe and effective. Insurance is not required. If you cannot access a high-volume site, you can: 

  • Contact your doctor’s office; 
  • Text ORCOVID to 898211 (English and Spanish) or email ORCOVID@211info.org (language help available); 
  • Call 211 or 1-866-698-6155, toll-free, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, including holidays; or 
  • Search for a site near you on the Get Vaccinated Oregon locator map

For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, third doses and boosters, visit our webpage

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has called a press conference for Noon on Friday to address the state’s ongoing response to COVID-19.

She’s expected to be joined by representatives from the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Health and Science University.

Just a day shy of the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 vaccination in Oregon, state officials say that more than 3 million people have gotten at least one dose.

The first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was administered in Oregon on December 16 of 2020. Since then, according to the Oregon Health Authority, more than 3 million people have sought vaccination — about 70.4% of the total Oregon population.

There is likely an even larger share of Oregonians who have received the vaccine, as the OHA data does not include people who received doses through federal providers such as the US Department of Veterans Affairs. OHA continues to encourage Oregonians to get vaccinated, get booster shots where eligible, and wear masks in indoor public settings as impacts from the Delta variant linger and the first Omicron cases appear.

Dispatch, Law Enforcement Work Together to Rescue Armed Suicidal Subject

BUTTE FALLS, OR. – At 8:40 Thursday morning, Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon (ECSO) dispatch received a call for an armed suicidal woman lost in the woods overnight after ingesting pills.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies and an Oregon State Police (OSP) trooper found her vehicle stuck in the snow 90 minutes later near the intersection of 3738 Forest Service road and Butte Falls-Fish Lake Road. 

An ECSO dispatcher was able to establish phone communications and kept the woman engaged by being compassionate, emphasizing her self-worth, and giving her someone to talk to. The dispatcher stayed on the line for nearly an hour until law enforcement arrived. 

JCSO deputies and the OSP trooper talked her into disarming herself and receiving the help she needed. Due to snowy conditions on the road they walked her to an awaiting Mercy Flights ambulance. The patient is receiving care at a local hospital. 

During the holiday season it is especially important that we reach out to our loved ones and get them the help they need before it is too late. You’re not alone. Help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. – Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office

The reward continues to grow for information that leads police to the suspect responsible for poisoning wolves in Northeast Oregon.

The reward now stands at nearly 50-thousand dollars. The public has donated a thousand dollars and the Oregon Hunters Association donated 500-dollars. Pledges started coming in two weeks ago when the reward fund was first announced. All five members of one wolf pack were killed along with three other wolves and several other animals.

Oregon State Police and the Oregon Department of Wildlife are investigating.

Nearly 27,000 Oregon households have received rental assistance relief due to hardship from pandemic

State issues more than $187 million in federal emergency rental assistance 

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) announced today that as of Dec. 15, OHCS and local program administrators (LPAs) have paid $187.5 million in federal emergency rental assistance to 26,940 households, up from $170.2 million and 24,705 applicants last week, through the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP). 

OERAP continues to be one of the nation’s top-performing programs and is ranked fourth in the nation, up from sixth last week, in the percentage of federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds paid out and obligated, as tracked by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

During today’s media briefing, OHCS announced that with the recent legislation passed, there will be additional funding to continue helping Oregon families. The agency plans on accepting new applications in mid-January. 

There was also important information on the new protections for tenants. Eric McClendon, director of Referral and Information Services at the Oregon State Bar, shared the following:

  • Renters who fall behind on current or future rent now have until June 30, 2022, to apply for rental assistance to access the safe harbor period ending on Sept. 30, 2022. If they apply before June 30, they cannot be evicted before their application is processed. Renters must show their landlord they applied for the program to receive the protections. 
  • The new legislation overrides the previous safe harbor period of 60 days statewide and for some local jurisdictions (except in Multnomah County, unincorporated Washington County, and Lane County when it’s 90 days) that was previously passed by the Oregon Legislature.
  • As a result, tenants have protection from eviction for nonpayment of rent by showing their rental assistance application to their landlord. 

The Oregon State Bar has several programs that can assist with housing issues. Tenants can call 503-684-3763 or email legalhelp@oregonstatebar.org for more information.

Fred Meyer Employees In Oregon And Washington Ready To Strike Friday Morning

Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 union are set to strike against Fred Meyer and Quality Food Centers starting today, if a last-minute deal isn’t reached.

The strike is scheduled to last seven days.

The union represents more than 29,000 workers in Oregon and Washington. Members voted a week ago to authorize a strike, citing what they say are unfair labor practices and salary issues. The two companies are both subsidiaries of The Kroger Co .

“These employers refuse to acknowledge that their worker’s wages are not keeping up with the cost of living, leaving them and their families at risk while providing food for our community,“ UFCW 555 secretary-treasurer Sandy Humphrey said in a news release Dec. 11.

The union has been in negotiations with the companies for a new contract since July. Fred Meyer locations statewide could be impacted.

Family trying to find another missing woman in Josephine County

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The family has started a Facebook page and asking for help with searching for Rachael. https://www.facebook.com/rachaelbehnkeSG/

The Grants Pass Police Department said 39-year-old Rachael Behnke was last seen dropping her child off at a Grants Pass school on Friday, December 10. She was reported missing on Monday.

According to investigators, Behnke left her cellphone at home and her current whereabouts are unknown.

Behnke was last seen driving a white 2016 Ford Explorer with Oregon plate 684 MTH.

Last known location was at North Middle/Highland Schools area. Please check security cameras and Ring door bells.

Anyone with information regarding Behnke’s whereabouts is asked to call Grants Pass police at 541-450-6260.

Rentec Direct Supports Southern Oregon Children Through Salvation Army Angel Tree Program in Grants Pass

For the third year, property management software company hosts local Angel Tree to brighten the holiday season for children in need

Rentec Direct, the highest-rated property management software solution, is supporting children in need this holiday season by participating in the Salvation Army’s annual Angel Tree program.

The Angel Tree program gives donors in local communities the opportunity to provide new clothing, toys and other gifts to children in need to help brighten the holidays. This year, Rentec was able to support nearly 30 children through its local Angel Tree.

“The holidays should be a time to celebrate, but unfortunately our community is still working to recover from the impacts of the pandemic,” said Nathan Miller, President of Rentec Direct. “With so many Americans behind on housing payments and struggling to make ends meet, we are proud to support both the Angel Tree program and the Salvation Army Grants Pass Corps to do what we can to help families in our own community who are in need of assistance this holiday season.” 

The Salvation Army Angel Tree program allows anonymous donors to “adopt” children who would otherwise go without gifts during the holiday season. Found in local malls, businesses and churches, Angel Trees are decorated with angel tags displaying the name, age and gender of a child in need. Donors can remove as many tags as they wish from the tree and purchase gifts to donate to the child described on the angel tag. Thanks to the Salvation Army’s partnership with Walmart, the program provides new clothing and toys to more than one million children and families in need each year. 

This is Rentec’s third year hosting an Angel Tree in the Grants Pass community. Rentec Direct prioritizes philanthropy as a company and carefully selects organizations to support that will benefit its local community. Several angels from the Rentec tree were adopted on behalf of the company, and Rentec employees also participated in the program individually. 

About Rentec Direct

Rentec Direct offers industry-leading property management software and tenant screening solutions for real estate professionals. Features include online rent payments, tenant and owner portals, the industry’s largest vacancy listing syndication network, full property, tenant, and owner accounting, 1099-MISC reporting and more. Rentec Direct was recognized as Real Estate Company of the Year in the 2021 American Business Awards®, was named one of the Most Customer Friendly Companies of the Year in the 2021 Best in Biz Awards, has been named to the Inc. 5000 List of Fastest-Growing Private Companies for five years in a row (as of 2021), and was also included on the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Entrepreneur360 list for Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America. www.rentecdirect.com

A former Oregon dentist is accused of stealing nearly eight-million dollars in COVID-19 relief funds.

The Oregon U.S. Attorney’s Office says 43-year-old Salwan Adjaj of West Linn faces federal charges of Aggravated Identity Theft and Wire Fraud.

According to court documents, Adjaj allegedly used the names and employer identification numbers of fictitious businesses on dozens of fraudulent loan applications he submitted to the Small Business Administration and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Investigators say he converted the money to personal use. Adjaj was arrested on Tuesday.

OSU Marching Band Delayed on Snowy I-5 Pass on Way to Bowl Game in LA

Both directions of I-5 are back open after whiteout conditions forced the Oregon Department of Transportation and Caltrans to shut the roadway down which caused major headaches for travelers.

That included Oregon State University’s marching band who were heading to Los Angeles for Saturday’s bowl game.

The delay forced the band to cancel a gig they were supposed to play Thursday night in Santa Monica but their biggest concern was making it in time for the big game on Saturday.

The band is also slated to play in the pep rally Friday at the Chargers/Rams stadium in L.A.

The Oregon State Beavers and Utah State Aggies will meet Saturday night in the first-ever Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl. Utah State won the Mountain West championship game in its first season under coach Blake Anderson. Oregon State is playing in a bowl for the first time since 2013. 

Heavy snow, blizzard conditions and stuck vehicles prompted the closure of a portion of the West Coast’s major interstate linking California to Oregon as the latest of back-to-back storms pushed through, authorities said.

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