DA: 'Prosecuting this young man would be a waste of time'

DA: 'Prosecuting this young man would be a waste of time'

EUGENE, Ore. - A man shot by police after firing shots at cars in a mall parking lot will not face criminal charges because he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of the incident, according to the district attorney.

Michael Thomas Mason, 27, was in the midst of a PTSD-related meltdown when he fired a gun at cars in the Valley River Center mall parking lot, District Attorney Alex Gardner said Tuesday.

"There's no reason to believe that he was even directly threatening other people," Gardner said.

Bullets hit one and possibly two cars, Gardner said. Mason or his family will pay to repair the damages, he said.

"Obviously firing a gun inside city limits puts people at risk," he added. "Obviously there has to be immediate law enforcement response to that. Obviously law enforcement has to prevent him from that.

"When he had this meltdown, it was just that," Gardner said. "It's a meltdown, and he's not recognizing family members, he's not responsive to their conversations."

Mason served in Iraq and witnessed the deaths of dozens of his fellow soldiers, his family said in a prepared statement.

"We hear a lot about post-traumatic stress, and a lot of people make claims about it and in some cases where it doesn't seem to be merited," Gardner said. "There is no question but that this was a real episode."

As a result, the DA won't pursue any criminal charges against Mason.

"In my opinion, given the circumstances, prosecuting this young man would be a waste of time even if it was possible to prove that there was some criminal intent, which frankly I believe there clearly wasn't any criminal intent," Gardner said. "He was not mentally present during this episode, and so in my opinion based on the evidence, he's not criminally liable, and putting the system through the expense to establish that beyond a reasonable doubt would be absurd." 

Mason has remained hospitalized since the Dec. 15 incident.

"At this point I understand he's parapalegic," Gardner said. "I understand his medical condition to be touch and go. There's hope that he will regain greater use of his arms. He has some movement in his arms."

Gardner also said the officers involved in the shooting, Sgt. Bill Solesbee and Officer Marcus Pope, were justified in using deadly force against Mason.

"It's clear based on the circumstances that the decision the officers made were consistent with the requirements of Oregon law," he said.

 

The police officers shot Mason at a location off River Road, but the incident started earlier in the parking lot of Valley River Center with a report of a man firing shots at cars.

No one was injured, but police have said the shooter hit two cars.

Police got a cell phone number for the suspect Mason from a relative, Police Chief Pete Kerns said after the shooting.

That enabled crisis negotiators to talk to Mason as police tracked him down.

Less than an hour later, police caught up with him on Zane Lane off River Road. Chief Kerns said that when Mason stopped driving, he showed some threatening behavior.

"The suspect's hands and body were constantly in motion," Kerns said. "Throughout the front portion interior of the vehicle, his behavior was unpredictable and did not comply with officers clear instructions."

Kerns said that's when Solesbee and Pope shot the suspect.

"I heard police coming this way, sirens very quickly," said witness Darrell Bassett. "I heard the sirens stop right down here and right after that I believe I heard three shots."

Police gave first aid to the suspect until medics arrived and took him to the hospital.