by Adam J. Wehrley
Rainier Police Officer Russ George, 45, was seriously injured by a gunshot fired by a Washington man he pulled over in Rainier Monday, June 23, at approximately 12:28 p.m.
Officer George intercepted a red Kia Spectra driven by Christopher Eugene Elliott, 30, of Waitsburg, Wash., after Columbia 9-1-1 Dispatch received a complaint of the driver “going back and forth between the lines on the highway, tailgating and ‘flipping people off’” near Deer Island.
As George approached the vehicle’s driver’s side, Elliott shot him with a .44 magnum revolver and fled the scene.
The bullet passed through Officer George’s hand and was stopped by his ballistic vest, causing trauma to his hand and chest.
A Rainier Police Department (RPD) reserve officer, who was with Officer George at the time, assisted him to St. John Medical Center. He was later transported to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center for further treatment. He is currently listed in fair condition.
The suspect vehicle fled westbound on Highway 30 from the scene of the shooting and was reported near Larson Road.
Road blocks were set up throughout the area as far as the intersection of Highway 47 and Apiary Road. Officers from RPD, Clatskanie, Scappoose, Vernonia, St. Helens, the Oregon State Police (OSP), Cowlitz and Clatsop counties searched the area roads for Elliott’s car.
Reports were received of the suspect vehicle on Kallunki Road near the Port Westward gate. Witnesses followed the vehicle on Beaver Falls Road towards Clatskanie, then down Depot Road, just within the city limits and onto Erickson Dike Road. Clatskanie Police Department (CPD) and CCSO officers pursued Elliott onto Collins Road 1.
There Elliott abandoned his vehicle and fled into the trees of a poplar plantation at approximately 1:34 p.m. Officers from Clackamas County, Wilsonville and serval other agencies responded. The Portland Police Bureau provided air support. Television news crews and helicopters swarmed the area.
A single gun shot was heard at 1:39 p.m. in the Collins Road area.
Officers set up a perimeter around much of Beaver diking district north of Clatskanie, awaiting the arrival of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) officers from OSP. Several K9 units were present.
CCSO set up a command center at the Quincy Store and coordinated securing the perimeter. Other officers secured the scene where Officer George was shot. Highway 30 at Veterans’ Way in Rainier was partially shutdown during the investigation until 6:20 p.m.
At 5:04 it was reported that Elliott’s body had been found. He died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound about half a mile from the location where he abandoned his vehicle in tall grass across a drainage ditch from Collins Road. From this location police blockades could have already been seen when a shot was heard at 1:39.
OSP detectives investigated the scene of the shooting in Rainier and the area where Elliott was found.
The .44 magnum with which Elliott shot Officer George and himself was recovered. It was suspected that he was in possession of a second weapon. A Chief reporter discovered a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol at the scene of Elliott’s death on Tuesday, June 24. CPD officers recovered the weapon.
Officer George is a life-time area resident who has served Columbia County in law enforcement since 1993, starting with the RPD until 2001. He served with the Scappoose police and CCSO, then returned to RPD in January of 2013.
The name of the reserve officer present during the traffic stop and shooting is withheld pending completion of an interview by investigators.
On Tuesday, June 24, the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy on Elliott confirming that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. “He had no outstanding warrants and there is no confirmed motive for the officer’s shooting,” said an OSP report.
OSP Major Crimes Section detectives are leading the investigation with the assistance of CCSO, St. Helens and Scappoose police departments, and Columbia County District Attorney’s Office.
Sheriff Jeff Dickerson said, “When someone shoots a police officer, it is an affront to that which we should all hold in common: the desire for peace in our communities through the rule of law.
“The shooting of City of Rainier Police Officer Russ George evoked a tremendous amount of support for the injured officer and his department.
“The Sheriff’s Office salutes Officer George and all of the officers, deputies and troopers who not only take those same risks every day, but also responded to the scene and worked in unison to stop the suspect from advancing any further.”
In Sheriff Dickerson’s analysis, “The suspect only gave up and ended his life once he was hemmed in by the massive response of Officer George’s fellow officers, deputies and troopers.”
Dickerson also thanked the dispatchers, firefighters, medics and local citizens who helped bring this incident to its conclusion.
Witt Expresses Thanks
Representative Brad Witt thanked Officer Russ George for his heroic service to the City of Rainier and the citizens of the surrounding areas.
“Officer George has put his life on the line to keep our community safe for many years. Thankfully, Officer George survived the despicable action that took place yesterday. This event is a reminder that our first responders risk their lives for us every day,” said Representative Witt.
“I can’t put into words how much I appreciate the service of Officer George, his family, and every other first responder in Oregon.
“In the moments after the shooting, the swift coordination between law enforcement agencies to track down the suspect was remarkable,” Witt continued. “We are lucky to be served by the well- trained men and women in the law enforcement community who act with honor and distinction every single day,” Witt Continued.
Officer George’s family expressed their gratitude for the community’s support and requests privacy and no media contact at this time.
Clatskanie’s annual Heritage Days celebration will rev up Saturday, June 28, with the 24th annual Heritage Cruise “Show and Shine” car show and other events and activities in the Clatskanie City Park.
The full schedule of events Saturday begins with the annual Clatskanie Arts Commission (CAC) breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m. in the American Legion Hall, 930 NE 5th Street.
On the menu will be pancakes, eggs, sausage links, biscuits and gravy, coffee and juice for $7 per person. The breakfast is a fundraiser for the CAC.
Approximately 300 collector cars from all eras are expected to park on the grass of the Clatskanie City Park for the Clatskanie Cruisers Heritage Days Car Show from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the 28th. Dozens of awards sponsored by local businesses will be given in a variety of categories.
Another feature in the park that day will be the Chapter T P.E.O. “Pie in the Park” baking contest and pie sale. All pie bakers are invited to enter their pies in the baking contest. (See the photo caption on page 1 for more information).
Vendor Information, Parade Applications, Donation Needed
Other food and vendors will also be available in the park on June 28, as well as on July 4-5. Vendor information is available at: http://www.clatskaniechamber.org/vendor1.html or on the Clatskanie People’s Utility District (PUD) website at: http://www.clatskaniepud.com/uploads/Watts-Happening/Heritage_Days_Packet_2014.pdf.
Questions regarding Heritage Days may be directed to Clatskanie Chamber of Commerce president Mike Clark, 503 467-8600, e-mail TraxTrailers@Frontier.com.
Tax-deductible donations for fireworks or the logging show should be made out to the Clatskanie Foundation. All of the checks for Heritage donations should be mailed to: Clatskanie Heritage Days, P.O. Box 635, Clatskanie, OR 97016. (See donation form on page 2)
Large donors so far include:
BENEFACTORS – (Contributing $200 or more):Clatskanie Cruisers Car Club, Clatskanie PUD, Georgia- Pacific Wauna Mill, Portland General Electric, Evenson Logging, Port of St. Helens, Clatskanie Kiwanis, Gun & Boot & Gear, Le’s Income Tax, Mike and Kathy Engel, Russell & April Spaudling, Colvin’s Pub & Grill, Teevin Bros. Land & Timber Co., Ron & Alice Puzey, Hazen Hardware, The Chief.
PATRONS – (Contributing $100 or more): Steve Pennington, Quality Auto Parts, Westmart, Berry Patch Restaurant, Ellen Tweet
SPONSORS – (Contributing $50 or more): Jim’s Garage, John Salisbury, Attorney at Law, Stanley E. Erickson.
Raffle for Traeger Grill
Raffle tickets for a Traeger grill, donated by Hazen Hardware, will be on sale at the Heritage Days Headquarters building in the city park on Saturday, June 28, and on Friday, July 4.
All proceeds will go towards the costs of putting on the annual community-wide celebration and the fireworks show.
Talent Show Performers Sought
The festivities will continue on Monday, June 30, with a talent show at 7 p.m. in the Clatskanie Middle/High School Donavon Wooley Performing Arts Center auditorium.
The public is encouraged to attend.
Those with questions about the talent show may contact Lori Sherman at 360 431-7910, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline to register for the talent show is June 26.
Sidewalk Sales, Movie Night, Skateboard/Bike Showcase
Local merchants are encouraged to have sidewalk sales June 30 through July 5.
A skateboard/bike showcase is set to begin at 3 p.m. on Thursday, July 3, in the Clatskanie Skate Park, and all skateboarders and bikers are invited to participate.
Sponsors include Colvin’s Pub & Grill, Subway, Latté Da, Bundy’s, Tio’s Quincy Market, Flowers ‘N Fluff, Conestoga Pub & Grill, and Rockcrest Realty.
An outdoor free family movie night will be shown in the city park as darkness falls Thursday night, July 3.
Families are invited to bring their lawn chairs and blankets and watch a family-friendly movie on the grass in the park.
Parade Begins 4th of July Activities
“A Magical Time in Clatskanie” will be the theme of the 2014 4th of July parade down Nehalem Street at 11 a.m.
Longtime Turning Point director and Kiwanis volunteer Sandy Davis has been chosen as the grand marshal of the parade.
The parade forms at 10 a.m. with marching units gathering at Clatskanie Elementary School (CES) parking lot, and motorized units in the back parking lot of Clatskanie Middle/High School. (See the registration form on page 10).
All veterans are invited to march in the parade, or ride on a float sponsored by the Clatskanie Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #2994. Veterans should meet at 10:30 a.m. at CES. Those with questions may call Gerry Simmons at 503 728-2421.
Floats are encouraged to come into the park after the parade and stay on display there during the afternoon.
Logging Show and More Events in Park After Parade
Activities in the park after the parade will include the logging show, Kiwanis bingo, a chili cook-off, rubber ducky races, vendors, booths, a bounce house and live music.
The annual logging is open to all interested in participating, but will showcase forestry students from Clatskanie and Knappa.
Events will include obstacle pole, choker set, axe throw, hot saws, log roll, Jack & Jill and more.
Sign-ups for the logging show are at 10 a.m., with preliminary competition at 12 noon, and the main show starting at 1 p.m.
Chili cooks are encouraged to enter the cook-off, which will take place in the covered barbecue area of the park, with sampling available to the public.
The cook-off, a benefit for the fireworks show, will see awards and prizes given out for first and second place, as well as “people’s choice.”
Judging will be based on color, consistency, taste and aroma.
Entrants should bring at least one gallon of chili already prepared, a table and tablecloth for their display, a serving spoon and any condiments they wish to provide.
A chili cook-off registration form is available on page 2. Robert Keyser is chairing the event. Those wishing further information may contact him at 360 957-4160, or email email@example.com.Pre-registration is strongly encouraged.
Fireworks Show, Illegal Fireworks Banned
The annual Heritage Days 4th of July fireworks show will light up the sky Friday night when darkness falls. The staging area is at the City of Clatskanie wastewater treatment plant at the west end of town. The fireworks can be viewed from the park and from many locations around town.
Clatskanie Police Chief Marvin Hoover has announced that the police department as well as plain clothes officers will be enforcing fireworks law.
Those caught with illegal fireworks will be cited. Violations come with fines of $1000.
Parking in the city park during the 4th of July is limited to senior citizens and disabled persons. Parking permits are available at the Conestoga Pub & Grill in downtown Clatskanie.
All-School Reunion Strut Your Mutt CERT “Dog Days”
The celebration will continue on Saturday, July 5, with the all-school reunion in the park, the “Strut Your Mutt” dog show at 1 p.m. (see application on page 10), and the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Dog Daze event at 3 p.m.
Dog owners are encouraged to bring their pets to the park and compete in a variety of fun competitions.
The all-school reunion, to which anyone who ever attended or taught at Clatskanie schools is invited will begin at 12 noon on Saturday, July 5, in the covered picnic area in the city park.
Alumni Baseball Games
Also on Saturday, July 5, the 5th annual Clatskanie High School alumni baseball games and activities are planned at Ron Puzey Field at Clatskanie Middle/High School.
The day will begin with a home run derby at 1:30 p.m., followed by in/out field practice at 3 p.m. and the alumni game – pitching the graduates of even years against odd-numbered year graduates – at 4 p.m.
The format will be one nine inning game. If it lasts more than three hours, a new inning will not be started.
A player participation fee of $20 is required. The fee will include a commemorative C Baseball game T-shirt. There will be no admissions charge for spectators. A barbecue/concessions stand will benefit Clatskanie Summer Baseball.
Players wishing to guarantee a spot should contact Ryan Tompkins at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503 728-2146 ext. 2248.
CLATSKANIE CHAPTER T P.E.O.’s newest members Megan Evenson and Hallie Parker invite all bakers to enter their best pies in the annual “Pie in the Park” baking contest this Saturday, June 29, in conjunction with the Heritage Days Cruise car show.
For adult bakers (age 18 and older) pies will be judged in the categories of fruit, holiday specialty and sugar-free. Youth (17 and younger) are invited to enter pies in the fruit or holiday specialty divisions. Pies should arrive at the booth located at the southwest corner of the park between 9 and 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Judging will begin at 10 a.m. and winners will be announced at the Heritage Days information booth (located nearby) at approximately 12 noon.
All pies entered in the contest must be homemade – including the crusts. Each baker may enter a maximum of two pies. Pies entered in the contest will be sold from the “Pie in the Park” trailer/booth.
Judges for the baking contest purchased the right to be judges at the annual Kiwanis Gala auction last December. They are Phil Hazen, Eric Evenson and Mike Arthur.
Also sold in the “Pie in the Park” trailer/booth will be pies baked by members of Chapter T P.E.O. Proceeds benefit P.E.O. scholarship programs.
Chief Photo by Deborah Steele Hazen
by Deborah Steele Hazen
(Editor’s Note: In the June 20th issue, The Chief printed a statement from the Rainier School District regarding the discipline records and events surrounding a student suspension on May 29 and student protests on May 30.
In the interest of balanced coverage, we are printing the following summary of a statement from Stephanie Taylor, the mother of the suspended student, who intended to read it at the June 16th Rainier school board meeting, but was unable to read the entire statement because of a two-minute time limit per person on public comments at the meeting. – DSH)
Taylor began her statement with a quote from the Center of Public Education stating that “first and foremost school boards look out for students. Education is not a line item on the school board’s agenda – it is the only item.;” that school boards should “incorporate their community’s view of what students should know and be able to do,” that they should be “accessible to the public and accountable for the performance of their schools,” and that “school boards are the education watchdog for their communities.”
Taylor’s statement reviewed the timeline of events that led up to the May 29th suspension of her son, Naythan. The Taylors gave permission for the school district to release Naythan’s disciplinary records on May 30 after Naythan’s account of the situation was posted on the Columbia County Concerned Citizens Facebook page on May 29. The controversy stirred by that posting resulted in a student protest on May 30.
Taylor said that her son had texted her at 1:18 p.m. on May 22, stating that he would not be playing in the baseball playoff game because he was suspended for “impeding an investigation,” after he had approached Rainier Junior/Senior High School (RJSHS) staff three times expressing his concerns over an Instagram post from another student who said “he was very upset and that he wanted to take his life.”
In her statement, Taylor discussed in detail her conversation with RJSHS Principal Graden Blue, whom, she said told her that her son was being suspended for “impeding an investigation” not for “insubordination” or “being disrespectful,’ but that her son “would not drop the issue and continued to stir the pot.”
Taylor said she expressed her belief that the threat of suicide by another student was reason to “stir the pot.” She also said she expressed frustration to Blue that her son would not be able to play in the baseball playoff game. According to Taylor, Blue agreed to delay the suspension until after the game. At the June 16th school board meeting, Superintendent Michael Carter said that delay of suspension to allow students to participate in sporting events was not in compliance with policy.
Taylor says she also asked Blue about policies and procedure when a student states or makes suggestive statements about suicide, and says she did not get an answer.
Taylor states that Blue told her she would receive a call from Carter. When she had not heard from Carter by Friday afternoon, May 23, she called the district office and again expressed her concerns about the student threatening suicide, leaving a voicemail for Carter to call her.
“I am assuming that Michael Carter did not return to the office that day. So my family took it upon themselves to make sure this kid was safe all weekend. I stated that I would take him to the hospital, do whatever he needs.” Taylor said her son was in contact with the other boy “making sure he was fine.”
On the afternoon of May 27, Taylor said she called the district office and spoke to Carter about the chain of events. She said she was surprised that Carter and Blue had apparently not discussed the situation at that point. Taylor said she heard that her son had used foul language for the first time during a subsequent conversation with Carter later that day.
Taylor states that she also spoke to Blue on that day, questioning him about why she hadn’t heard about the foul language, and asking again about the policies regarding suicide attempts by students.
Blue’s notes from his initial conversation with Naythan indicate that the student was using obscenities.
The school district has repeatedly said that it was investigating the alleged suicide threat, but that it cannot release information about students without their parents’ consent.
Naythan was allowed to participate in the Rainier baseball game on May 28.
It was after Naythan’s suspension on May 29 that the family made the decision to post his statement on the Columbia County Concerned Citizens Facebook page “because we were running into dead-ends in every direction,” according to Taylor.
“The school’s view is foul language – our family’s view is this was someone’s life and we feel bad judgment was used by staff.”
Stephanie reiterated her requests for informaton about policies and procedures around suicide.
“Our family never asked for the protest. We would apologize if inappropriate things were said to staff. We would never support that.”
“Nayt is done with school in Rainier so our reasoning for fighting this fight is to make sure we as a school have appropriate policies in place if another student is in need. Plus those students can trust that the adults will follow through with what needs to be done,” Taylor wrote in her statement.
In the statement read by Rainier school board chair Sean Clark at the June 16th meeting, which was printed in the June 20th issue of The Chief, the school board stated that: “Student mental health needs were attended to and bullying was dealt with according to policy and best practice… The board understands the importance of addressing bullying and suicide prevention, and there are policies and procedures already in place that address these important issues. If a student or individual needs support concerning suicide prevention, the district has and will continue in all cases to offer proper assistance to that individual, but the details of the district’s actions/intervention are always kept confidential.”