Willamette Valley News, Thursday 1/26 – Fatal Apartment Fire In Eugene, Lane County Sheriff Detectives Arrest Internet Child Sex Crimes Suspect

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

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Willamette Valley Weather

…AIR STAGNATION ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 11 AM PST FRIDAY… * WHAT…A period of stagnant air with light winds is expected. * WHERE…Coast Range of Northwest Oregon, Central Coast Range of Western Oregon, Central Willamette Valley, South Willamette Valley, Northern Oregon Cascade Foothills and Cascade Foothills in Lane County. * WHEN…Until 11 AM PST Friday. * IMPACTS…Air stagnation could result in the development and persistence of poor air quality.

Fatal Apartment Fire In Eugene

One person is dead and another person was injured after an apartment fire broke out near 29th and Willamette early Wednesday morning.

Officials on scene with Eugene Fire said multiple people were rescued from two different apartments.

When firefighters arrived, smoke and flames could be seen from the building.

In a press release, Eugene Springfield Fire says that crews arrived within four minutes of receiving the call and were able to contain the fire to the first apartment and get the fire under control by 5:15 a.m.

The fire was put out in about 30 minutes and was contained to a single apartment at the Colonial Apartments building, Eugene Springfield Fire officials said. It did not cause greater damage to the building, officials said.

Two people lived in the apartment. One person died from fire-related injuries and the second was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Eugene Springfield Fire says the initial evaluation of the fire showed that 8-10 people in the building would be displaced as a result of the fire; however, “due to the quick response time and containment of the fire” residents were able to return to their apartments.

The Eugene Police Department, CAHOOTS, and EWEB provided on-scene assistance. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

Lane County Sheriff Detectives Arrest Internet Child Sex Crimes Suspect

Lane County Sheriff’s Office detectives recently received information from the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force that approximately 30 separate files of child pornography had been uploaded to the internet using the messaging platform ‘Kik’ from a residence in Veneta.  Detectives served a search warrant on the house and were able to develop information indicating that a former resident, 45-year-old Lon Curtis Coffey, had uploaded the images. 

Detectives additionally learned that approximately two years ago, Coffey had attempted to groom an 11-year-old girl to solicit sex. With permission from the child’s guardian, detectives used the child’s Facebook account to message with the suspect. Within two days of messaging, Coffey stated he wanted to have sex with the now 13-year-old girl and advised he would drive down to the Eugene area from Albany to meet. Detectives confronted Coffey upon his arrival and he was taken into custody.

Coffey admitted to uploading the child pornography from the house in Veneta.  He additionally advised he has been involved in child pornography for over 10 years and has exchanged thousands of files.

Please contact Lane County Sheriff’s Office detectives at 541-682-4150 if your child has had contact with Lon Coffey.       

Albany Police Department Officer Wounded in Shooting

CORVALLIS, Ore. – On Wednesday, January 25, 2023, at approximately 12:20 p.m., Alex Cameron Greig, 19, of Albany reported he had physically assaulted his girlfriend.

Officers from the Albany Police Department (APD) responded to the residence on Valley View Drive NW in Albany. Upon arrival, Officers reported shots fired from inside the residence. One APD Officer was injured by flying glass and transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of minor injuries. 

Greig surrendered to Officers on scene and was taken into custody without further incident. 

“We are very fortunate that no police officers were seriously injured and the suspect is in custody. We appreciate the professionalism of both Albany Police Officers on scene and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office who is taking the lead on the investigation”, Chief Harnden, APD.

The Benton County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) is conducting the ongoing investigation of the incident and will release more information as it is available. 

Lane County Launches Fentanyl Aware Campaign To Address Growing Risk

Lane County Public Health today announced the launch of a Fentanyl Aware campaign, aimed at addressing the increasing supply and use of fentanyl in Lane County. The effects of fentanyl, a powerful illicit opioid, are seen in the increased calls to 911, emergency room visits, and deaths. The campaign seeks to counteract those effects by promoting knowledge and safety through risk awareness and education. 

“Ultimately, we hope the outcome of this campaign is saved lives,” said Lane County Public Health Community Health Analyst and Fentanyl Aware campaign coordinator, Alexander LaVake. “To that end, we will be providing youth, families, and community members with the tools to stay safe, respond to an overdose, and provide strategies to lower the risk of overdose.” 

The campaign will include tools like Narcan education, information on the signs and symptoms of an overdose and how to respond, and resources throughout the community. 

Fentanyl Aware will promote these educational tools on web and social media channels as well as through partnerships and educational opportunities with several school districts and community organizations. 

To learn more and follow the campaign, visit http://fentanylaware.com 

Lane County To Conduct 2023 Homeless Point-In-Time Count Today

Every year, Lane County Human Services Division (LCHSD) conducts an annual census of people experiencing homelessness on a single night, called the Point-in-Time (PIT) Count. This is part of a federal requirement from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for communities across the nation who receive funding for homelessness work. This year’s count will be conducted from 7 a.m. on Thursday, January 26th to 7 p.m. on Friday, January 27th.  

“Homelessness is a condition that extends far beyond the more visible symptoms we’ve come to characterize it with,” said Lane County Health & Human Services Director, Eve Gray. “You can’t solve a problem that you can’t see, and getting a clear, dynamic understanding of homelessness is the first step to solving it.”  

The PIT Count is meant to serve as a snapshot of homelessness Lane County in order to provide a sense of the general scope and state of homelessness. While the data collected is important for benchmarking and funding purposes, it’s important to recognize that the number of individuals experiencing homelessness is likely greater than what is able to be captured in this snapshot. 

This year, teams of LCHSD staff members will conduct a physical count of individuals who are unsheltered in the Eugene/Springfield area, Veneta, Florence, Junction City, and Coburg. That data will be cross-referenced with the Homeless by Name List, a database of individuals who are experiencing homelessness and have interacted with service agencies in order to provide a more complete picture.  

Additionally, Lane County is a Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) Community, selected by HUD to test best and promising practices and implement a coordinated community plan to end youth homelessness. As part of this effort, LCHS will be taking extra steps to ensure youth who are experiencing homelessness are captured in the 2023 PIT Count, including those who are unstably housed or couch surfing. These efforts include pop-up magnet events on the day of the count to bring youth in to complete a survey. Just as with the broader count, these surveys will be cross-referenced with our HBNL and, if the young person is not already captured, they will be included in our count, provided they meet HUD’s definition and parameters for submission in the PIT Count. Those unstably housed or couch surfing will not be included in the data provided to HUD, but will be captured in local data to inform our YHDP planning efforts. Youth surveyors will be available through the Eugene Library, Youth ERA, Lane Community College, and youth-specific outreach in the metro and rural areas on the day of the count. This year’s youth PIT Count strategies have been vetted and approved through the YHDP Youth Executive committee. 

The full report from the PIT Count won’t be available for several months after the count is conducted.  

Program To Assist Businesses Impacted By Covid-19 Closes Friday

A program to assist businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic closes on Friday.

Business Oregon has partnered with the CCD Business Development Corporation to offer $3 million in funding. It is paid for with money from the Oregon Community Development Block Grant program CARES Act funding for communities impacted by COVID-19.

Small Business and Microenterprise Grant Assistance grants of $2,500 to $30,000 will be awarded per business. Microenterprises whose owner meets low- and moderate- income criteria can quality for up to $10,000 in grant funding. Small businesses can quality for $2,500 per employee retained for up to $30,000 in funding.

Small businesses and microenterprises must meet certain criteria to be eligible:

  • Was in business prior to March 8, 2019
  • Can document COVID-19 impact, including lost revenue, mandated closures, workforce issues, supply complications and the like
  • Was generally stable/strong prior to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Has an owner and/or employees who meet low- and moderate-income criteria

Applications for this grant program will be processed on a lottery basis. At the time the program closes, all submitted applications will be randomized and processed. To register and apply, go to: www.ccdbusiness.org/oregonsbma

Open enrollment has ended for 2023 health coverage: Enrollment options still available for many people

(Salem) – During the 2023 open enrollment period, 141,963 Oregonians enrolled in health insurance coverage, the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace announced today.

The open enrollment period was from Nov. 1, 2022 to Jan. 15, 2023 for 2023 health coverage. People who missed the open enrollment deadline may still have an opportunity to get health coverage through the Marketplace if they experienced a qualifying life event such as moving, involuntarily losing health coverage, having or adopting a child, marriage, a change in citizenship, and being released from incarceration. Enrolled Tribal members, Alaska natives, and people who have lower income can enroll in health coverage at any time throughout the year.

Oregonians can preview plans and savings available to them by answering a few short questions at OregonHealthCare.gov. The website is also the best place to find a health insurance expert who can give one-on-one help with the application and enrollment process by phone, email, or in person. Visit OregonHealthCare.gov today to get started.

### The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace, a part of state government, helps people get health insurance when they do not have job-based coverage, and do not qualify for the Oregon Health Plan or another program. The Marketplace is the state-level partner to HealthCare.gov. For more information, go to OregonHealthCare.gov.

Unemployment Rate Rises Again Even As Oregon Adds Jobs

According to the latest report from the Oregon Employment Department, 6,100 jobs were added to Oregon’s workforce in December. The December total was less than the 8,200 jobs added the previous month.

Most of that growth was in the private sector, which did set a record total of just short of 1.7 million jobs, 22,500 ahead of the previous peak in February 2020.

The sectors with the largest job gains in December: Manufacturing, 2,400; construction, 1,300, and professional and business services and local government, each at 1,100. The local government category includes public schools. About 500 jobs were lost in the other-services sector.

“No broad sector of Oregon’s economy lost jobs,” Gail Krumenauer, Employment Department economist, said in a videotaped statement accompanying the monthly report.

Construction continued its rapid expansion in December. The industry added 10,200 jobs in 2022, for an annual growth rate of 9.1%. Gains were widespread throughout the industry, with all published components growing between 5.9% and 14.9% over that 12-month period. Building equipment contractors (3,700 jobs, or 11.5%) and building finishing contractors (2,200 jobs, or 14.9%) grew at the fastest rates.

Leisure and hospitality – lodging, restaurants and bars – gained 600 jobs on top of a revised gain of 1,500 for November. That sector remained below its peak reached prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but the 16,900 jobs added in the past 12 months account for about a quarter of the overall private-sector job gains.

However, Oregon’s statewide unemployment rate for December was at 4.5%, the fifth consecutive month it has risen from a low 3.5% in May, June and July. The national average was at 3.5%. For Oregon, the most recent time it was 4.5% was back in September 2021.

Oregon’s rate was at a modern record low 3.4% in the fourth months between November 2019 and February 2020, just before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic resulted in business shutdowns and curtailments that caused a record one-month jump to 13.2% in April 2020.

But employers still added 81,000 jobs during all of 2022.

Krumenauer said that despite the rising rate, Oregon has rarely recorded an annual rate below 4.5%.

This occurred during the 14 months prior to December, when the rate averaged 3.9%. Also, from 2017 through 2019, the rate averaged 3.9%. But prior to late 2016, Oregon’s rate never dropped below 4.5% in any month dating back 40 years — from 1976, when comparable records began, to October 2016.

“Oregon’s unemployment rate has remained relatively low by historical standards,” she said. “But job growth remains strong.”

Get immunizations updated before School Exclusion Day Feb. 15

Parents must provide schools, child care facilities with kids’ vaccine records

Portland, Ore. – The third Wednesday of February (Feb. 15) is School Exclusion Day, and the Oregon Immunization Program reminds parents that children may not be able to attend school or child care that day if their records show missing immunizations.

Under state law, all children in public and private schools, preschools, Head Start and certified child care facilities must have up-to-date documentation on their immunizations or have an exemption.

“Immunization is the best way to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as whooping cough and measles,” said Stacy de Assis Matthews, school law coordinator at the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Public Health Division.

“Just a few years ago, we saw several measles cases in the Northwest, and Central Ohio just experienced a severe measles outbreak with more than 30 unvaccinated children hospitalized,” Matthews said. “There also were recent polio cases in New York state. We don’t want another disease outbreak in Oregon of on top of COVID-19. Immunizations are the most effective way to stop the spread of measles and other diseases, to keep kids and school communities healthy and safe.”

If a child’s school and child care vaccination records are not up to date by Feb. 15, the child will be sent home if they don’t have an exemption. In 2022, local health departments sent 26,149 letters to parents and guardians informing them that their children needed immunizations to stay in school or child care.

A total of 5,118 children were kept out of school or child care until the necessary immunization information was turned in to the schools or child care facilities. This year, reminder letters to parent will be mailed by Feb. 1.

COVID-19 vaccinations are not required for students in Oregon schools or child care. OHA strongly recommends everyone stay up to date with COVID-19 immunizations. Parents can check with their health care provider or pharmacist about current COVID-19 recommendations.

Parents seeking immunizations for their children should contact their child’s pediatrician or local health department, or contact 211Info by dialing 211 or visiting to 211info.org. No one can be turned away from a local health department because of the inability to pay for required vaccines. Many pharmacists can immunize children 7 and older; parents can contact their neighborhood pharmacy for details.

Additional information on school immunizations can be found at the Immunization Program website.

Statewide school vaccination data is available on the OHA website, or at OHA’s new School Law Immunization Dashboard.

Personal stories on why people in Oregon are deciding to vaccinate can be viewed by visiting OHA’s Facebook and Twitter pages. OHA also invites people to join the conversation and share why they vaccinate by using the hashtag #ORVaccinates on social media.

As a parent, Dr. Choo talks about why she vaccinates her children: https://youtu.be/aDy7sseKs24

Reverend Dr. Currie discusses whether there are legitimate reasons for religious exemptions: https://youtu.be/D6XnPm1N4iQ

Hear how Sarah’s powerful conversations changed her mom’s long-held views on vaccinations: https://youtu.be/dPB2sfySwJQ

Honduran Man Arrested in Portland Trafficking Rainbow Fentanyl and Firearms Charged in Federal Court

PORTLAND, Ore.—A Honduran man residing in Portland is facing federal charges after he was arrested moving two kilograms of rainbow-colored fentanyl and several firearms between two Portland-area motels.

Jose Isidro Zuniga Torres, 47, has been charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to possess and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl.

According to court documents, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Tigard Police Department are engaged in an ongoing investigation into the suspected trafficking of illegal narcotics from Mexico for distribution and sale in Oregon and Washington state. To date, law enforcement officials have charged or arrested eight individuals with connections to an international drug trafficking organization and seized more than five kilograms of powdered fentanyl, four and a half kilograms of heroin, three kilograms each of cocaine and crystal methamphetamine, 45,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl, and 12 firearms.

As part of this investigation, on January 23, 2023, investigators were surveilling a motel in Portland when they observed two men, one later identified as Zuniga, exit a room carrying multiple boxes. The two men loaded the boxes and several additional bags into a vehicle and began driving toward another area motel. The investigators followed the vehicle and observed the two men unload the boxes and bags into a room at the second motel.

The next day, on January 24, 2023, investigators executed a federal search warrant on the second motel room. After making entry into the room, Zuniga was arrested without incident. Investigators located and seized more than 2 kilograms of hard, rainbow-colored fentanyl packaged for distribution, 417 grams of counterfeit oxycodone pills (M30s) containing fentanyl, 393 grams of crystal methamphetamine, 49 grams of cocaine, and eight firearms. 

Zuniga admitted to possessing most of the drugs found in the motel room. He further told investigators the firearms were to be shipped to Honduras and were wrapped in tinfoil and clothing to avoid detection by law enforcement.

Zuniga made his first appearance in federal court today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jolie A. Russo. He was ordered detained pending further court proceedings.

This case is being investigated by the DEA, HSI, and Tigard Police Department. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.

A criminal complaint is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

With big changes proposed, state to hold off on release of next wildfire risk map

SALEM, Ore.— The Oregon Legislature will be considering a number of recommendations for changes related to the statewide wildfire risk map during the 2023 session, some of which would substantively change the map itself. Following conversations last week with the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire Programs Advisory Council, the state has decided to postpone the release of an updated draft of the map, which was planned for March 2023.

“As we’ve been working with Oregon State University on technical adjustments to the map and planning for community outreach and engagement, we’ve also been keeping a close eye on the policy conversations happening in different venues,” explained Cal Mukumoto, Oregon State Forester and director of the Oregon Department of Forestry. “There were some great recommendations that came out of the Wildfire Programs Advisory Council’s first annual report✎ EditSign✎ EditSign and opportunities identified✎ EditSign✎ EditSign by Wildfire Programs Director Doug Grafe related to the map that I hope the Legislature gets the opportunity to explore during this session.” 

Those recommendations are in addition to several bills proposing a variety of changes ranging from which areas are assigned a risk classification to abolishing the map entirely. “We want to avoid expending resources on work that may not align with new direction that may come from the Legislature this session,” Mukumoto said. Without knowing what decisions will be made by the Legislature, the department does not yet know how long it will take to implement that direction.

Members of both the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and the Wildfire Programs Advisory Council have expressed support for continued mapping of wildfire hazards to identify where to direct investments in wildfire mitigation activities including fuels reduction and building defensible space. 

“Our goal this session is to get resources and expertise to Oregonians already doing good work on the ground to protect their properties and neighborhoods,” said Sen. Jeff Golden (D), Ashland. Golden chairs the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and was the chief sponsor of SB 762. “It’s important to get that done and to do all we can to ease the homeowner insurance challenges that the era of megafires has brought us before moving forward with any map.”

There is also broad recognition of the need for increased outreach, education and engagement with communities. “We need an integrated, coordinated and robust communications and outreach effort across all Senate Bill 762 programs to help property owners understand what their classification means, how they can better protect their homes and what resources are available to help them with that work,” said Mark Bennett, chair of the Wildfire Programs Advisory Council.

OSU, ODF’s partner in the development of the map, will lend technical expertise to upcoming educational efforts related to wildfire risk and hazard. “We are prepared to support state agencies in education plans and will help develop and implement an operational plan as needed,” said Tom DeLuca, dean of OSU’s College of Forestry. Other state agencies with SB 762 responsibilities that have a nexus to the map are Office of the State Fire Marshal, Department of Consumer and Business Services – Building Codes Division and the Department of Land Conservation and Development.

“The success of this whole program depends on strong collaboration between state government, local leaders and property owners in wildfire-prone areas. Building that partnership has to be job number one over the coming months,” Golden explained. “When we feel like we’re pulling in the same direction, we’ll be ready for a much better conversation about the map.”

While the Legislature is in session, the department will:

  • Continue to work with OSU on exploring technical adjustments in response to feedback received on the initial map, including concerns related to irrigated lands and classification differences on adjacent lots. 
  • Follow the progress of bills related to the risk map to plan quickly and appropriately for any rulemaking actions or other activities required to implement new or changed legislative direction.
  • Work with the Wildfire Programs Advisory Council to identify community needs and with partner agencies to leverage opportunities for outreach, education and engagement.

OSP Conservation K-9 Team Announces Expansion

(SALEM, Ore.) – At first glance, Scout might look like he’s a typical, playful pup, but this 18-month-old, black Lab is developing a nose for crime. Meet the newest member of the Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Conservation K-9 team. Scout along with his handler, Trooper Shae Ross will be following in the footsteps of the first anti-poaching team in Oregon made up of K-9 Buck and Senior Trooper Josh Wolcott.

The OSP Fish & Wildlife Division, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) Stop Poaching Campaign, and the Oregon Wildlife Foundation (OWF) held a joint press conference to announce the expansion of the OSP Fish & Wildlife Conservation K-9 team Jan. 25 at ODFW headquarters in Salem.  

“Adding another wildlife detection K-9 team provides another asset to our division to address poaching issues and increase awareness across the state,” said OSP Fish & Wildlife Division Captain Casey Thomas. “Senior Trooper Wolcott and K-9 Buck have done a great job of getting this program started. Adding a second team will increase the program’s efficiency and reduce the excessive travel strain of the current team. I want to thank everyone involved in establishing, maintaining, and supporting OSP’s Conservation K9 program,” continued Thomas. “This program wouldn’t be possible without them and these strong partnerships.”

Speakers at the event included: Senior Trooper Wolcott, Trooper Ross, Stop Poaching Campaign Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife Yvonne Shaw and Oregon Wildlife Foundation Executive Director Tim Greseth. A demonstration by Buck and Senior Trooper Wolcott followed the presentations. 

“Oregon’s fish, wildlife and other natural resources belong to all of us,” stated Stop Poaching Campaign Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife Yvonne Shaw. “The partnership between Oregon Wildlife Foundation and the OSP F&W Conservation K9 program helps to protect these natural resources for current and future generations. OWF’s generous donors recognize the value of these dogs, which offer a unique connection between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” continued Shaw.

OWF, in collaboration with OSP Fish & Wildlife Division, launched Oregon’s first Wildlife K-9 team in 2019. K-9 Buck and Senior Trooper Wolcott have conducted numerous poaching investigations and logged hundreds of hours in the field since the inception of the program. The current team is located at OSP’s Springfield Area Command but has worked across the state over the last 2.5 years.

The effectiveness of the K-9 program led OSP leadership to the recent approval of the additional team (Scout and Trooper Ross) at the OSP Area Command in Bend. As with the inaugural team, OWF donors have generously agreed to help cover the costs of this program expansion. Ongoing canine expenses, primarily veterinary care, are financed by public donations to OWF.

“Oregon Wildlife Foundation is pleased to be able to support the OSP Fish & Wildlife Conservation K-9 program and our partnership with Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division,” said OWF Executive Director Tim Greseth. “We greatly appreciate generous donors stepping up, once again, to expand this successful program and help us introduce a new K-9 team to the public.”

Oregon Wildlife Foundation accepts public donations to the OSP Fish & Wildlife Conservation K-9 Fund to offset expenses associated with the canine members of the teams. Donations to the fund help defray the costs of veterinary care, training equipment and related supplies. To support and learn more about the OSP Fish & Wildlife Conservation K-9 program visit www.myowf.org/k9team


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