Sweet Home Police, school district report gunshots across street from Foster School

Alleged perpetrator of March 19 incident being treated for mental illness, police say

Sweet Home police are investigating an incident that occurred more than a month ago, when a man discharged a firearm in the neighborhood of Foster School, apparently striking the school building.

According to a public statement issued by the police after The New Era went to press Tuesday morning, at approximately 7:43 a.m. Sunday morning, March 19, a Sweet Home Police Department officer heard what sounded like a gunshot in the area of 54th Avenue and Quince Street. The school is bordered by Quince, Poplar and 54th Avenue.

Police said the officer, who was not identified, conducted an area check and contacted nearby residents but was unable to determine the location or source of the noise.

At about 10:11 a.m., a citizen called the police to report the resident at 5400 Quince Street was experiencing a mental health crisis. Officers responded and ultimately placed the resident into protective custody for a mental health hold.

Police “soon determined” that the person in custody likely fired a weapon into the ground, which was the source of the noise the officer initially heard. The case has been referred to the Linn County District Attorney’s Office for review of criminal charges, police said, and the department applied for an Extreme Risk Protection Order which suspends a person’s right to own or purchase firearms.

“Once the ERPO was granted, a detective then applied for and was granted a search warrant to seize the firearms from the residence. The search warrant was executed on March 24, and seven firearms were seized.”

During that process, officers noticed multiple holes in a window of the residence and corresponding holes in the side of the Foster Elementary School building, across the street from the residence.

That information was provided to school officials and to the mental health workers who were assisting with the incident, police said.

As of Tuesday morning, April 25, “the individual is still in treatment and being evaluated by mental health professionals,” police said. “At this time there is no known release date, and we will be notified when he will be released, so that we can continue to evaluate and adjust to the situation. Neighbors in the area have been gracious enough to care for the individual’s dog on a long-term basis.”

The Sweet Home School District issued its own statement, also on Tuesday morning, acknowledging that school officials were notified of the incident during Spring Break

“The police reported that they had made contact with the responsible party and there was no continuing threat to the school and no one was physically at risk,” the school district statement said. “The school district is very appreciative of the Police Department’s work to help ensure the safety of our students and staff. Student safety is our top priority.”

The police statement said the department “understands and empathizes with the concerns of parents and neighbors in the area” and referred questions or concerns to the school district.

“The Sweet Home Police Department takes this incident very seriously and will continue to monitor the situation to ensure the safety of all involved,” the police statement said. “In situations such as this, we must constantly balance the rights of an individual against the public’s need to know. Because this situation was resolved and any potential threat to the public was mitigated upon removing this individual from the situation, information was only shared with the people and entities that had an immediate interest in the case.

“Due to an enhanced public concern and the possibility that the individual may be released from custody at some point soon, we are releasing this information now. We are hopeful that with the ongoing work of all the agencies involved, the individual and the community will move forward in a positive and healthy way.”