No sheriff's deputies on duty at time of shooting

No sheriff's deputies on duty at time of shooting
George, who lives around the corner from where the shooting took place, said cuts to the sheriff's office budget couldn't have come at a worse time.

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Two suspects are still on the loose after a shooting left a man in the hospital fighting for his life.

The shooting happened just after 4 a.m. Sunday on Harbor Drive, an area of Springfield patrolled by the Lane County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies say two men broke into the home, got into a fight with Jesse Blackstone and shot him. Blackstone remains in the hospital where he has been upgraded from critical to fair condition.

There is no description yet of either of the suspects.

No sheriff's deputies were on duty when the call came in. Why? You can blame budget cuts.

Detective: Shooting not drug-related, not random

KVAL News caught up with investigators at the scene Monday.

"It is not looking like a drug-related crime at this time," said Detective Sgt. Spence Slater with the Lane County Sheriff's Office.

Nor do detectives think the shooting was a random act, Slater said. They think some sort of dispute sparked the violence that led to the shooting.

The shooting happened when the sheriff's office had no patrols on the roads as a result of budget cuts.

Slater said Springfield police filled in while deputies were called out from home.

The sheriff's office is only staffed 20 hours a day because of budget cuts.

In Sunday's shooting case, Springfield police officers were nearby and were able to respond within two minutes.

KVAL News wanted to know what would have happened if the incident happened further out in the county where there are no police departments and residents rely on the sheriff's office.

"It could have been quite an extended response time," Slater said.

And that has county residents worried in the wake of a fresh round of budget cuts planned for the sheriff's office.

"It's very unfortunate that the jail had to be cut with 84 jail beds in addition to going to 20-hour patrols," said Steve Sieczkowski with Citizens for a Safer Lane County.

Sieczkowski said the situation may get worse next year with the county facing more federal cuts. That potential deficit could be $8 million, he said.

Sieczkowski said the group wants to get a Lane County charter amendment on the ballot to ask voters to guarantee a certain level of money from the county budget be dedicated to public safety.

The Lane County Commission plans to talk about the sheriff's office funding issues at a meeting Tuesday.

Neighborhood worried about lack of law enforcement

KVAL News tried to take the pulse of the neighborhood to get some people on Harbor Drive to talk about public safety but most of the folks we spoke with were very skittish and didn't have much to say.

A man who identified himself as George, a Harbor Drive resident for more than 20 years, said the cuts couldn't come at a worse time.

He lives just around the corner from the cul-de-sac where the shooting took place. Beyond the shooting, he said he is concerned about speeding and public safety in his neighborhood.

He pointed to the ground and said the level of public safety on his street has "deteriorated on a line that's going down."