A Umatilla County Grand Jury on Thursday found Hermiston police Sgt. Jeremy Scott Clarke and Officer Doug Gill were justified in using “deadly force” against an armed robbery suspect at the Hermiston Liquor Store on Dec. 31.

Both were identified on Thursday as officers involved in the fatal shooting of 55-year-old Gregory Melvin Shafer, of the Hermiston area, who, according to court documents, had a comprehensive criminal record.

An investigation of the New Year’s Eve incident was conducted by the Umatilla/Morrow County Major Crime Team and concluded Friday, Jan. 3.

The investigation consisted of witness interviews and video surveillance from the Hermiston Liquor Store and the bank.

Both officers were dispatched to Community Bank, 50 E. Theater Lane, on a report of a robbery at about 3:30 p.m.

Detectives learned the suspect entered the bank and proceeded to force his way behind the banking counter and forcibly removed more than $600 from a till, according to a press release from the District Attorney’s office.

Shafer then left the bank and went directly to the liquor store, where he demanded a bottle of liquor from the store employee, according to the release.

Once inside the liquor store, Shafer stood at the cash register, near the front door and counter.

Both officers were enroute to the robbery when they were redirected to the liquor store.

Clarke and Gill arrived at the liquor store at the same time in seperate vehicles. District Attorney Dan Primus said officers entered the store through the glass front doors with weapons drawn.

Both officers wielded standard duty weapons, one with a .40 Caliber Glock handgun — a firearm issued to all officers — and the other with a Taser X26, according to Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston.

Shafer immediately recognized the men as members of law enforcement, Primus said, and pulled out what witnesses believed was a black semi-automatic handgun from his waistband and pointed it at Clarke and Gill.

In an attempt to use “less than lethal” force, one officer applied the stun gun to Shafer, but it was ineffective, according to Primus.

Officers then fired five shots at the suspect, with three bullets striking him, Primus said.

Primus said the suspect was shot once in the leg, once in the shoulder and once in the abdomen.

Roughly 8 seconds passed from the time officers entered the store to when it appeared the confrontation was over, Primus said in a phone interview.

Primus said it was learned through the investigation the firearm drawn by Shafer was not a semi-automatic, as witnesses and officers believed, but a black pistol BB-gun.

When asked if the firearm was loaded with ammunition, Primus said the BB-gun did not contain enough air to operate.

“To my understanding it was not operable,” Primus said. “It didn’t have the air in it to operate.”

After the incident, Primus said officers attempted to make sure the store was safe. “They cleared the store to make sure there were no further threats,” Primus said.

Shafer’s prior record revealed he was convicted of first-degree burglary and first-degree robbery in 1978, first-degree burglary and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 1982, according to Umatilla County court documents obtained by the Herald.

While serving a prior sentence for a parole violation, Shafer in?September 1988 was sentenced to 10 years concurrently for first-degree assault — in which he was convicted of stabbing a woman in the neck with a knife.

Shafer was also convicted of first-degree burglary with the Corrections Division of the state of Oregon, according to court documents.

Primus presented testimony to the grand jury on Thursday, which after a short deliberation by the jury members, confirmed both officers justified and the case closed.

Edmiston said the last time a Hermiston officer has shot a suspect was an incident in 1994.

“We have had officers shot at within the last 19 years,” Edmiston said. Both officers were placed on paid administrative leave after the incident and that the earliest they could return to duty is Jan. 18, according to Edmiston.

Both officers will be provided with at least one mental health counseling session from a licensed professional.

“My focus all along has been on the well being of our officers,” Edmiston said. “This has been traumatic for everyone involved.”

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