Morrow County Sheriff Verlin Denton, left, and Morrow County District Attorney David Allen announced Wednesday that a grand jury had found feputies Brian Snyder and Jeff Lambier justified in the self-defense shooting death of a suspect on April 12.

By Joyce Hensley

Staff writer

HEPPNER — Two Morrow County Sheriff's deputies were found to have shot and killed an Irrigon man in self defense Wednesday.

A Morrow County grand jury took just five minutes in deciding that Brian Snyder and Jeff Lambier were justified in shooting Shane Richard Hartung, 32, on April 12 in his Irrigon home.

The shooting came after Hartung attacked the deputies with a machete, bady wounding both men.

Before firing their weapons, officers attempted to handcuff the suspect. They also used a taser on Hartung without success.

"We're satisfied that the grand jury had a clear understanding of the events of April 12th," said Morrow County District Attorney David Allen. "Non-deadly force was used, but was unsuccessful in stopping the violent attack by the suspect."

"It is my opinion that the deputies used heroic efforts to avoid having to use deadly force against another human being in the performance of their duties," said Morrow County Sheriff Verlin Denton. "Unfortunately, they were left with no choice, as the investigation results clearly indicate."

The deputies had responded to a 911, domestic violence call at the Hartung residence on Fourth Street in Irrigon at 10:47 a.m.

"A female caller reported that she and her intoxicated husband were fighting and she wanted him to leave," said Morrow County Sheriff Verlin Denton. "That he was breaking up things in the house."

When the deputies arrived on scene, Hartung was standing in the door of the residence. His wife, Laurie Hartung, was standing in the yard holding a baby.

He started yelling at the deputies that they couldn't come in his house.

"Deputy Lambier walked toward the porch where the suspect was standing and asked him to come down the steps and talk with them," said Denton. "The suspect turned and went back inside the residence slamming the door. The door struck a 2- or 3-year-old child that had just appeared beside him."

Hartung grabbed the child, "yanking" him inside, then closed the door.

"At that time, the deputies didn't know if they had a hostage situation or not," Denton said.

Lambier yelled to Hartung to "come out and talk." There was no reply.

Hartung opened the door again and began yelling to the deputies that they were not coming in.

The child could not be seen.

As Hartung slammed the door shut, Lambier put his foot in the the door.

The suspect ran into a darkened bedroom.

"Both deputies followed and still didn't see the child," said Denton.

Hartung suddenly turned and struck Lambier in the head with a machete, partially scalping the deputy.

Lambier was down and bleeding profusely.

Hartung then attacked Snyder slashing him across the top of his head, before turning again toward Lambier.

"Snyder was yelling at the suspect to stop resisting," said Denton. "The way to the front door was open. He could have left. Instead Snyder saw him raise the (machete) above his head and strike Lambier again on the head."

Snyder pulled Hartung off of Lambier then tried to wrestle the weapon out of his hand and to cuff him.

"Snyder yelled at Lambier to use his taser on the suspect," said Denton. "At this point Lambier was suffering from blood loss and was having trouble seeing because of blood in his eyes. Lambier was able to see that the suspect was hitting Snyder with machete."

Lambier fired the taser, apparently shocking both Hartung and Snyder.

Hartung again advanced toward Lambier.

"Extremely weak, he knew he could not fight off the suspect," said Denton. "Lambier yelled at the suspect to stop or he would shoot. The suspect continued to advance on Lambier."

The wounded deputy fired one shot striking the suspect in the neck. Hartung fell go the floor.

Snyder drew his weapon and called for assistance and an ambulance.

"As he was calling, he saw the suspect try to get up. He yelled at him to stay down," Denton said. "He yelled repeatedly for him to stop or he would shoot."

Snyder had retreated out into the yard. Hartung followed Snyder out into the yard, getting closer, refusing to stop.

"This guy would not stay down. It was clear to Deputy Snyder that the guy was going to kill them, to get them down then shoot them with their own guns. Snyder fired one shot and the suspect went down," Denton said.

The shot proved fatal to Hartung.

The autopsy showed the bullet entered the suspect's left chest area perforating his left lung.

Testifying before the grand jury Oregon State Police Detective Mike Davis said that evidence substantiated the chain of events that led to the shooting of Hartung.

"An indication of the viciousness of the attack is the large piece of human scalp from Deputy Lambier's head that was found by investigators in the bedroom where the deputies were first attacked," said District Attorney David Allen.

Both deputies were placed on medical leave while their wounds healed.

Snyder returned to active duty recently.

Lambier, who underwent several head surgeries, will return to work in another month.

Toxicology tests on Hartung indicated that he had amphetamine and methamphetamine in his system, plus a blood alcohol content of .04 percent.

Detective Davis' investigation revealed that Hartung had a history of assaultive behavior toward law enforcement, drug charges, weapons possession, burglary and domestic violence in Clark County in Washington.

He was convicted and served a prison sentence in the Washington State Corrections system for second-degree assault, and illegal possession of a firearm.

"Morrow County has good reason to be proud of these two deputies and all the men and women of law enforcement, emergency medical services and communication deputies that were involved that tragic day," said Sheriff Denton. "The Oregon State Police are to be commended for their professional and thorough way they handled the investigation."

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