College Place man pleads innocent in shooting at officer

Jay D. Jeffrey also entered an alternate plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

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WALLA WALLA -- A man accused of shooting at a College Place police officer in early May pleaded innocent Monday afternoon to three criminal charges.

Jay D. Jeffrey, 42, also entered an alternate plea of not guilty by reason of insanity through his attorney, William McCool. However, McCool said he may ask that the alternate plea be withdrawn depending on how the case progresses.

A trial date will be scheduled later. The trial may not be held until the first of next year.

Jeffrey is charged in Walla Walla County Superior Court with first-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and aiming or discharging a firearm. He allegedly held police officers at bay outside his home at 639 S.W. Second St., College Place, for about 6-and-a-half hours in a standoff that began about 10 p.m. May 3.

Officials said two College Place officers had arrived at the residence to check on reports from neighbors that Jeffrey had weapons and was acting strangely. Jeffrey was inside and wouldn't allow the officers to enter, but directed one of them -- Officer Robert Benfield -- to go to an open sliding glass door at the side of the home, according to a police report filed in court. Jeffrey then allegedly fired three rounds at Benfield, who was nearly hit.

The two officers retreated for cover and backup from other law enforcement jurisdictions arrived at the scene. About 2 a.m. on May 4, Jeffrey fired a weapon while in the house and walked outside twice carrying two different firearms, the police report says. He surrendered at 4:25 a.m.

Jeffrey, who has been released on bail, underwent a mental evaluation, after which experts determined he is competent to stand trial.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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