- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - A prosecutor in Oregon is trying to decide whether a grand jury should look into the shooting of a state prison inmate by a guard.

Umatilla County District Attorney Dan Primus will have to determine whether revealing the guard’s name would create a security risk at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, the East Oregonian (https://bit.ly/1ycRGQa ).

A corrections officer in a tower shot Jayson Matthew Withers, 26, as Withers and another inmate attacked a third prisoner Aug. 29 in a recreation yard, investigators said.

The name of the guard hasn’t been made public.

Primus said it’s been his practice to take officer-involved shootings to a grand jury to determine whether the use of force was justified.

But, he said, all those cases involved police agencies, not corrections officers, and the names of the officers had already been made public.

Primus said he won’t reveal information about the investigation because a grand jury will evaluate evidence against an inmate identified as a second attacker, 22-year-old Cameron Hayes. He is serving 11 years for robberies committed in Gresham, according to law enforcement records.

The prosecutor said he’s finishing a review of the investigation done by Oregon State Police and a team of local officers.

State law requires Oregon counties to have a plan for respond when officers from a police agency use deadly force, but the 2007 law did not take prisons into account.

Umatilla County’s doesn’t set out a timeline, and it says whether to submit an officer-involved shooting to the grand jury is the prosecutor’s call: “The district attorney has the sole statutory and constitutional duty to make the decision on whether to present a matter to a grand jury.”

The police chiefs in Hermiston and Pendleton told the East Oregonian that grand jury reviews of officer-involved shootings are beneficial.

“Reasonableness” is the state’s standard for an officer deciding to use deadly force, and that’s subjective, said Pendleton’s chief, Stuart Roberts.

But if members of a grand jury find a shooting was lawful, he said, that’s validating for the officer and reassuring to the community.

Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston said the grand jury review was a benefit after officers shot and killed a bank robbery suspect on New Year’s Eve 2012. The grand jury determined the shooting was justified, and Edmiston said that helped build the community’s confidence in its police force.

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Information from: East Oregonian, https://www.eastoregonian.info

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