Willamette Valley News, Wednesday 12/1 – Santiam Excursion Trains in Lebanon Adds Historic Steam Engine to Rail Line, Wrongful Death Suit Filed In Fatal Police Shooting Of Eugene Man

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Willamette Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s WillametteValleyMagazine.com

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Willamette Valley Weather

Today– Patchy fog before 1pm. Otherwise, mostly sunny, with a high near 62. Light and variable wind.

Thursday– Patchy dense fog before 11am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 53. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 6 mph in the afternoon.

Friday– Mostly cloudy, with a high near 51. Calm wind.

Saturday– A 20 percent chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 55.

Sunday– Mostly cloudy, with a high near 52.

Santiam Excursion Trains in Lebanon Adds Historic Steam Engine to Rail Line

One of only 62 surviving steam locomotives in Oregon will ride the rails between Lebanon and Sweet Home again.

On Friday, Nov. 19, the Santa Maria Valley 205, a fully restored 1924 Baldwin 2-6-2 prairie locomotive, made its inaugural public run on the Albany & Eastern Railroad from the Santiam Excursion Trains station at 750 S. Third St. in Lebanon to the Weyerhaeuser/Willamette Industries mill site in Sweet Home and back.

Boarding the train for the VIP event and attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony were about 150 community members, railroad vendors, and friends and family of those involved with the 205’s restoration.

Yamhill resident George Lavacot is the train’s primary restorer. With the help of friends, he worked at his Independence shop for 38 years on the 97-year-old train, which was constructed by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania. Built for the San Joaquin & Eastern Railroad (SJ&E), the engine was purchased by the Southern California Edison Company, which used it in the Big Creek Hydroelectric Project north of Fresno.

When the SJ&E line was abandoned in 1933, Edison sold the locomotive to the Santa Maria Valley Railroad, where it moved freight cars until it was retired in May 1950 and displayed at the Santa Maria Fairpark in Santa Maria. Lavacot acquired the locomotive in 1983.

“This has been a labor of love, not only for me, but for many others,” he said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Our shared love, respect and admiration for the steam era and confidence that this project was doable has gotten us here today.”

“First of all,” he continued, outlining his perspective on the daunting project, “a steam locomotive is the closest machine man has created to replicate life itself. They are living and breathing creatures, and sometimes they need a little help from mankind.

“This engine will help the community foster an education for the younger generation of how this nation was built on trains and railroads,” Franklin said. “We’ll be able to share this with generations to come.”

Lebanon Mayor Paul Aziz emphasized “how important this train coming to Lebanon is for us.”

The self-described “rail fan” described his type as “the people you see hanging off of banisters and tripping over hills to get pictures of trains. This is very exciting, and it will bring people from all over the country and world. This baby is one of the most beautiful ones I’ve ever seen restored.”

On July 7, Santiam Excursion Trains officially announced via Facebook that it would be using the steam engine. Three weeks ago, the company began running it to “test the track,” according to Santiam director Nancy Randall.

“We tested it by itself and with different amounts of cars,” she said. “It handles differently than a diesel engine. The grade is different. We wanted to do it right.”

Even test runs drew attention. “People have been more than excited,” she said. “Our social media pages and our phones have been blowing up. People could hear the whistle as the train went through town.”

Randall said Santiam Excursion Trains will “intermix the steam engine into our normal busy schedule,” using it on the Candy Cane Express and other special rides. There may also be future “steam weekend” events.

“This is exciting for our community, what this brings,” she said. “It provides a unique experience and a fun option for people.”

To learn more about Santiam Excursion Trains, call (541) 619-0342 or visit https://santiamexcursiontrains.com/ and follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/santiamexcursiontrain/

Wrongful Death Suit Filed In Fatal Police Shooting Of Eugene Man

The family of a 40-year-old man who was shot and killed by a Eugene police officer in 2019 after he was stopped for walking in the street has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Eugene, the officer, and his supervisors.

Eugene officer Samuel Tykol shot Eliborio Rodrigues Jr. after attempting to take him into custody upon spotting him walking in the road shortly after midnight and grabbing a plastic bottle out of a recycling bin at a home.

The suit alleges Tykol forced Rodrigues into an unnecessary and unwarranted confrontation, failed to de-escalate the encounter and then used unreasonable deadly force.

When Rodrigues declined to show the officer his ID and asked for a sergeant, the officer took him to the ground, a struggle ensued and the officer sprayed Rodrigues in the face with his pepper spray, according to police and body camera footage.

Lane County District Attorney Patty Perlow found that the officer’s use of the deadly force was justified, noting Rodrigues repeatedly punched Tykol and turned the officer’s Taser against him before Tykol fired three times, killing Rodrigues.

Melinda McLaughlin, a Eugene police spokesperson, declined comment about the suit, citing the pending litigation, but she sent a copy of the district attorney’s summary of the shooting investigation by the Interagency Deadly Force Investigative Team.

“The use of deadly physical force by Officer Tykol was lawful under the circumstances of fighting for his life,” Perlow wrote in her summary of the shooting.

“We expect our local law enforcement officers to keep our neighborhoods safe. Officer Tykol was engaged in good police work making contact with Mr. Rodrigues under the circumstances of the late hour, dressed in dark clothing, walking in the street of a neighborhood,” Perlow wrote.

But she added that she hoped Eugene police and other Lane County law enforcement agencies would review the shooting and their policies “to make sure they are designed to promote the safety of our officers and citizens when an officer is alone and a citizen who has committed a pedestrian violation but no observed crime, becomes uncooperative.”

She also cautioned that people should realize “that it is never safe to fight with law enforcement and, if you believe that a stop was unlawful, to raise that issue in a court of law.”

Attorney Michele Burrows said in the lawsuit that the officer asked for Rodrigues’ identification on Nov. 30, 2019, but had no legal basis to do so, and that Rodrigues refused, exercising his constitutional right.

Rodrigues often collected cans and bottles at night to provide extra money to support his family as a father of four children, the suit says.

“There is no discussion from Officer Tykol about what crime ‘walking on the street’ actually constitutes and why it justifies detention and arrest,” Burrows wrote in the suit.

Tykol grabbed onto Rodrigues and called for nonemergency backup though he gave no explanation why after Rodrigues asked for a sergeant or a “real police” officer to respond. As Rodrigues asked Tykol if he was being detained or arrested, Tykol pulled Rodrigues to the ground and said he was being charged with interfering with an officer, according to the suit.

“The officer has escalated the encounter without cause or reason,” Burrows wrote.

According to the Lane County district attorney, Tykol was on top of Rodrigues, trying to handcuff Rogrigues’ hands behind his back, but Rodrigues got free and ran into the road. Tykol chased him and at one point, Rodrigues stopped running, turned toward him and started punching the officer, the district attorney’s summary said.

Rodrigues broke free again; Tykol chased him and tackled him to the ground. They fought and Rodrigues got on top of Tykol as Tykol fired his Taser stun gun at Rodrigues’ stomach to no effect, the summary said. Rodrigues grabbed the Taser and drove it into Tykol’s crotch and leg before Tykol pulled his gun and fired three times into Rodrigues’ abdomen.

The suit highlighted the comments of retired Eugene police auditor Mark Gissiner, who called the initial stop of Rodrigues a “violation of this man’s constitutional rights” during a public meeting in June. Gissiner said he was stunned that none of the approximately 300 members of the Eugene police force or 15 to 20 command officers had a problem with the officer’s initial contact with Rodrigues.

“No one did,” Gissiner said, and went on to criticize the encounter as “overpolicing of petty issues” that got out of hand.

“Walking about – you have a right to do that … a pedestrian violation is not an arrestable offense,” he said.

Gissiner told a local civilian review board that he wasdisappointed in police leadership: “Where are you? Where is the leadership here in terms of recognizing this initial contact was flawed from the beginning? That’s the far bigger problem in my view.” Gissiner retired in February.

The lawsuit accused the police department and Tykol’s supervisors of “failing to conduct a reasonable and appropriate investigation of the stop including asking questions, forcing Mr. Rodrigues into a confrontation and using outmoded force response techniques against a passively resistant suspect.”

It seeks unspecified economic, noneconomic and punitive damages.

Earlier this year, the University of Oregon filed a federal lawsuit against a former campus officer, alleging he lied in police reports and withheld key evidence in an alleged malicious prosecution of Rodrigues, who was stopped at gunpoint while riding his bicycle in 2018. Campus Officer Troy Phillips was fired for dishonesty, failing to disclose to a Eugene municipal prosecutor that his Oct. 27, 2018, stop of Rodrigues was videotaped and audio recorded through his police car’s mobile camera, the university suit said.

New Safe Sleep Site Under Development In Eugene

A developing “safe sleep” site in Eugene called Everyone Village aims to house 30 people by year’s end on a 3.5 acre space in West Eugene.

Organizers plan to have 17 RVs and 13 mini-shelters installed by late December. There’ll also be overnight security and a monitored entrance at the front of a newly-acquired warehouse on Janisse Street.

Next year, 60 to 100 more units will be available. Planners hope to work with the City of Eugene and Lane County on further development and to have students from eight school districts building those additional micro-shelters.

Partners involved in launching Everyone Village also include PIVOT Architecture, the Rexius Family, and Builder’s Electric. More information and applications can be found here.

Oregon reports 1,054 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 19 new deaths

There are 19 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,161. The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,054 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 391,099.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (7), Benton (13), Clackamas (55), Clatsop (6), Columbia (12), Coos (64), Crook (19), Curry (9), Deschutes (97), Douglas (52), Harney (5), Hood River (18), Jackson (73), Jefferson (10), Josephine (14), Klamath (50), Lake (12), Lane (79), Lincoln (14), Linn (30), Malheur (4), Marion (65), Morrow (4), Multnomah (121), Polk (50), Sherman (1), Tillamook (3), Umatilla (28), Union (2), Wallowa (3), Wasco (12), Washington (77) and Yamhill (45).

Yesterday was the deadline for roughly 38-thousand state workers, contractors and volunteers in Oregon to show they are fully-vaccinated against COVID-19.

Workers unions and state leaders negotiated a six-week extension from the original vaccination deadline from the original October 18th date. The extension mainly covered those working in the Department of Corrections, the Department of Agriculture and the Forestry Department.

The Conquer Covid in Klamath campaign announces its winner for the week.

Jeanne Roster of Klamath Falls won a complete Kitchen Appliance Package. Jeanne was selected in a random drawing of all Klamath County residents that have entered at conquercovidinklamath.com.

Each week the prize changes and this week it is winter clothes and winter boots for the whole family. The drawing for this week’s prize will take place on Monday morning.

Other Weekly winners to date include:
– Elizabeth Gaxiola of Bonanza who won a Big Screen TV, Home Theater System and Pizza gift certificates
– Gillian Bradford of Klamath Falls who won $6,000 in groceries from Grocery Outlet
– Nolan Napier of Chiloquin who won a top of the line Traeger Grill and 12 bags of premium pellets.
-Patricia Merrill of Klamath Falls won $4,800 in gasoline for her vehicle.
– Terri Torres of Klamath Falls won $5,000 worth of furniture for her home.
– Nicola Cherry of Klamath Falls won a $2,400 free standing pellet stove.
– Kelly Hawk of Klamath Falls won $2,500 in groceries from Grocery Outlet
– Ashleigh Carter won a $2500 Gasoline Card
– Christian Ramirez won a 65” TV, Sound System and an additional smart flat screen TV
– David Wiles won $2,500

There is a different prize each week along with the Grand Prize, which is the winners choice of a new Dodge RAM pickup or a new Dodge Durango SUV. There are numerous runner-up prizes as well.
To enter Klamath County residents can go to conquercovidinklamath.com.

There is nothing to buy and no charge whatsoever to enter. The site also lists prizes, rules and vaccination sites.

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Gov. Brown Sets Special Session On Rental Aid Protection For Tenants

Gov. Brown has called a special session of the Oregon Legislature to extend temporary protections against eviction for tenants awaiting rental assistance.

She also said she wants lawmakers at the Dec. 13 session to approve up to $190 million to replenish rental assistance, until more federal money comes in, and to help tenants make the transition once that rental assistance ends next year.

The Oregon Department of Housing and Community Services will stop accepting new applications for rental assistance as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1. The agency announced weeks ago that pending applications — an estimated 20,000 await review — would exhaust Oregon’s $289 million allocation from the U.S. Treasury for assistance. It has paid applications for about 22,000 households with the help of extra staff, an outside vendor and community action agencies in Oregon counties.

Lawmakers set aside a total of $200 million in state funds for rental assistance during a special session nearly one year ago. But all of that money was spent by June.

“I am continuing to work with federal officials at U.S. Treasury and the White House to secure additional federal emergency rental assistance funding for Oregon, but it is clear that a state solution is needed to address the urgent and immediate needs of Oregon renters,” Brown said Tuesday in her announcement of the special session.

“And, we must begin laying the groundwork now for the transition to local eviction prevention services after federal pandemic emergency programs draw to an end.”

Senate President Peter Courtney, the Legislature’s senior member, has gone through 26 of the 46 special sessions in Oregon history — counting the Dec. 13 meeting — and has presided over 11 of them. He has seen runaway special sessions with no apparent ending, though he was not in charge of them.

“Special sessions are the most difficult of all sessions,” the veteran Salem Democrat said. “Everything must be carefully planned. We have a lot of work to do. I hope we will be ready.”

The Democratic leaders of the housing committees in both chambers say they have been working for months to craft a plan that can win legislative approval. The statement by Rep. Julie Fahey of Eugene and Sen. Kayse Jama of Portland said this:

“After months of work, we have developed a proposal to extend the state’s bipartisan safe harbor protections and provide additional funds for direct rent assistance that will benefit both tenants and housing providers. As we head into the holiday season and the coldest winter months, this special session package will prevent heartbreaking evictions and support small housing providers who have made major sacrifices throughout the pandemic.”

Representatives of Stable Homes for Oregon Families have taken part in the talks, as well as previous legislative efforts. Their statement:

“We also appreciate all the state lawmakers who have been working together on a solution. Tenants are counting on the legislature to ensure no one loses their home while their applications are pending and also to provide additional funding to help keep people safe and stable during this time of ongoing economic upheaval.”

The Democratic majority leaders in both chambers, Sen. Rob Wagner of Lake Oswego and Rep. Barbara Smith Warner of Portland, are responsible for rounding up votes. Their statement:

“From the start of the pandemic, Oregon has committed to protecting individuals and families at risk of eviction. We can take action in a special session to ensure this doesn’t happen and that we keep our promise to Oregonians. No one should lose their housing because of administrative delays.”

“The Great Balloon Bomb Invasion” documentary filmed in Klamath County makes its world premiere

A new documentary film, “The Great Balloon Bomb Invasion,” which focuses on the use of balloon bombs sent from Japan to do damage in the United States during World War II, will be featured beginning Thursday on the Discovery+ streaming platform.

Executive director Stu Chait said the documentary “will lift the lid on a relatively lesser-known attack” though the use of balloon bombs. Between 1944 and 1945, Japan launched more than 9,000 bomb-rigged balloons across the Pacific Ocean. Because the U.S. government prevented the news media from reporting on the bombs, the incidents remain largely unknown outside of Klamath County.

The only deaths caused by balloon bombs happened in the woods outside of Bly on May 5, 1945, when six people on a picnic were killed after finding what turned out to be a balloon bomb. Elise Mitchell and five children died in the explosion. The site where the bomb went off has since become known as the Mitchell Monument.

Earlier this year, a film crew led by Chait was in the Klamath Basin. Filming at the monument was done June 13 after visiting and filming at the Klamath County Museum in Klamath Falls. The filming was done before the Bootleg Fire burned and devastated a large portion of the surrounding area.

The Mitchell Monument received special attention from fire crews and was not damaged. Filmmakers did record a series of interviews with people associated with or knowledgeable about the bomb in Bly. The film makes its world premiere on Thursday, Dec. 2 streaming on Discovery+ https://m.imdb.com/title/tt16234644/

A group of former Republican elected officials have dropped their challenge to new Oregon congressional districts.

The move comes after a judicial panel last week unanimously dismissed a challenge to the new maps pushed through by state Democrats. Rather than appealing their case to the Oregon Supreme Court, challengers led by former Secretary of State Bev Clarno opted to let the matter rest. That means that a new plan that could lead to Democrats holding five of the state’s six U.S. House seats will become operative Jan 1st.

Oregon gained an additional U.S. House seat following the latest census. A separate plan for redrawing the state’s 90 state House and Senate seats to reflect population changes was granted final approval by the state Supreme Court earlier in November.

Democrats hold overwhelming majorities in the Legislature. The congressional map that will now take effect was slammed by the GOP as a gerrymander in Democrats’ favor. They argued that Democrats had improperly split Portland among four districts, giving them a Democratic lean that would be hard to counteract.

Oregon residents can expect to pay more at the Christmas tree lot this year.

Officials say a variety of factors has led to what is believed to be a ten-to-30-percent spike in prices over last year
across the Pacific Northwest.

Christmas tree farm owners say supply chain and transportation costs have been a huge factor.

They say forest fires, drought, and extreme heat this summer in the Pacific Northwest took a collective toll on this year’s tree crop.

The Beaverton Holiday U-Cut Tree Farm tells reporters the summer heatwave killed more than 60-percent of the trees they planted last winter.

Police Seek Public’s Help: Missing Myrtle Creek Woman, 77

— Police made a public appeal for help locating a woman who left home early Saturday morning and hasn’t been heard from since.

Myrtle Creek Police say Bonnie Jo Short, 77, left her residence around 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 27, 2021. She is about 5-foot-4 and weighs around 110 pounds with grey hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing blue slacks, a grey and black striped sweatshirt, black boots and a grey robe.

Short was driving a silver 2015 Ford Escape bearing Oregon license plate 900MLJ.

“It is unknown where Bonnie may have gone, and her cell phone appears to be shut off,” police said. “If you have any information regarding Bonnie’s whereabouts or have seen her vehicle, please contact the Myrtle Creek Police Department immediately at 541-440-4471.” 

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'MISSING $50,000 CASH REWARD for the successful location and physical recovery of Shane Sprenger Missing . Snce: 11/3/2021 Last Seen: 51160 Mckenzie Hwy Vida, Oregon Details: White male, 47 years old, 6'1 approx 180 lbs Shane was believed to be wearing camouflaged jacket and dark colored work pants. His truck was located on Mill Creek Road, near Blue Rive Reservoir. Please share and help us bring Shane home!! Thank you. Foul play has not been ruled out. Please share any information at all, that may lead to the whereabouts of Shane. PLEASE CONTACT LANE COUNTY SHERIFF AT 541-682-4150'


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