- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) - Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Weber was shot twice.

The bullet that entered his side is what’s called a through-and-through. Nothing vital was nicked or hit as the bullet passed through him. The bullet that entered his jaw was a different story, bouncing around bone and causing considerable damage.

Weber is a professed “private guy” who loves being a patrol officer, joking with his colleagues and helping serve the public when he’s on the beat.

He has been through multiple surgeries from the wounds and is looking ahead to quite a bit of surgical work and downtime before he’s ready to be back on the job.

The Klamath County Sheriff’s Office deputy believes he’s healing well and is in good spirits, for someone who has survived the trauma of being shot.

“Considering I didn’t want to get shot in the face - (and I don’t recommend getting shot in the face, he quips) - I’m walking, I’m talking,” Weber told the Herald and News in a lengthy interview.

“Yeah, this hurts like snot,” he said pointing to his jaw. “There’s been a couple times where it’s almost dropped me, but it’s healing.”

Weber was wounded the morning of Aug. 27 in the 2600 block of Bisbee Street. He was conducting a routine traffic stop when one of the people in the stopped vehicle got out and opened fire, then fled the scene.

Several citizens from the nearby houses came to Weber’s aid, calling 911 and checking on his condition. One local man, Michael Jay Cooper, was recognized by the sheriff’s office for running to Weber’s side and wrapping a towel around his head to staunch the bleeding.

Weber was rushed to Sky Lakes Medical Center and then life-flighted to the Oregon Health and Science University Hospital in Portland.

“I remember the whole thing … the last thing I remember is fighting with the nurse about my wedding ring, because she wanted to take it and I said, ‘No you can’t, it belongs to my wife, only she can have it,’” Weber said.

He could not discuss the particulars of the shooting because the case against the suspects is pending in Klamath County Circuit Court.

The right side of Weber’s jaw now has four metal plates in it. Three hold the jaw in place while the fourth ties them all together.

Several teeth were broken or destroyed by the bullet. The deputy will receive implants for those, but the procedure to root in replacement teeth could take anywhere from six months to a year to complete.

Weber said the side wound didn’t cause him too much trouble, as the bullet passed through what he jokingly calls his “tactical fat.”

“Pretty much, I was sitting up two days later, three days later,” he said. “It was itchy, scratchy for a while. When I got home it lingered, and now it (the pain) is just gone.”

Weber returned home from the hospital on Sept. 5. He’s a deputy who loves to chat up people. He said one of the more difficult parts of his stay was when he was hooked up to a respirator and couldn’t talk.

During that portion of his treatment, Weber would write down whatever he wanted to say or gesture to get his point across.

More important to him than his recovery was the effect the shooting had on his friends and family.

“What my family had to go through, people I love, coworkers, it bugs me,” Weber said. “I know I’m going to get better. I had people I went to college with asking, ‘How are you doing?’ People I used to work with, ‘How are you doing?’ “

He said the pain in his jaw is sometimes worse these days than it ever has been as the damaged nerves regenerate. In a way, that’s a good sign as it means the nerves in the right side of his face are healing.

The downside is that healing can bring with it some searing pain. Weber said he has bad days and good days, but largely he’s able to move around town and do what he wants. At times he gets fatigued quickly.

He said he’s hoping to return to light office duty soon, but he also realizes it might be several months before he’s ready to be back on the streets.

Weber, 40, was born in Portland. His family moved around a few times when he was growing up. He has lived in Roseburg, Eugene, Medford and Ashland.

His older brother became a police officer in Portland, and Weber followed in his footsteps after graduating from college with a degree in sociology.

“I always kind of wanted to be a police officer,” Weber said. He sports a rubber bracelet called the “thin blue line,” a symbol of a patrol officer.

He worked with juvenile offenders in Ashland, with mental health cases in Jackson County and as a parole and probation officer for three years. But his goal was to be a patrolman.

After going through the police academy program in Salem, Weber was hired as a law enforcement officer in Ashland and then Jacksonville. He came to Klamath County in 2008.

He’s been hit by a stun gun and pepper sprayed as part of his training.

“I want to know and experience what other people will experience if they are used on them,” he said.

In his six years here, Weber said he’s come to know the community well - including its problem areas and some of its repeat offenders.

What he loves about the job is that no two days are alike. “It combines a couple of things. You get to do new things every day. You meet new people every day . it’s never the same,” Weber said of his job. “With this you at least get to help people, there are puzzles to solve.”

Weber describes himself and his wife as private, self-sufficient people. As such, he said he found the outpouring of community support following the shooting surprising and overwhelming.

“I’m pretty sure I spend a lot of time writing thank-you cards, I don’t think it’s enough. I don’t know how many different law enforcement agencies (helped out in the investigation) . I wasn’t there, I don’t know,” Weber said.

“I know I can’t say thank you to everybody . it kind of overwhelms me, I don’t know what to do sometimes. I have three or four boxes of letters . People I’ve never met from Arizona, Oklahoma. People who read the story on the internet,” he added.

In the wake of the shooting, personnel poured in from across the state to assist in the search for the suspects. Three people were arrested within a day.

Community members and co-workers started benefit funds, online fundraising campaigns and hosted events to cover the parts of Weber’s recovery not paid for by his insurance. He said he feels humbled by the support.

One of Weber’s biggest takeaways from the shooting is that he would like to see more support for law enforcement officers all the time, not just during dramatic events, such as the one he had to go through. He said it’s not about positive affirmation so much as it’s about making sure the county has adequate coverage and protection.

“There are great people in this community, but it seems like we’re in a state where we don’t know what to do to support law enforcement,” Weber said. “It’s our community, we can do so much with it. I think people just need to kind of do more, expect more, and just kind of run with it.”

Weber added he’s not sure what the exact solution should look like. He likes to describe himself as a patrol deputy first and foremost, and that’s the job he’s looking forward to coming back to.

Sheriff Frank Skrah said he anticipates Weber coming back fulltime by summer or early fall 2015. It could be sooner, as long as the deputy is physically and mentally cleared for duty.

“He’s a strong kid, in my heart of hearts I know he’s ready to come back, he’s that strong a kid,” Skrah said. “He’s a good employee, he’s a great employee and he’s a good guy.”

___

Information from: Herald and News, https://www.heraldandnews.com

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