Officer will face grand jury in shooting death of Athena man

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The police hunt for Tere David King started Saturday evening and ended Monday morning with a fatal police shooting. Umatilla County District Attorney Dan Primus said police investigators are piecing together the events that led to King's deadly confrontation with Athena police Sgt. Erik Palmer.

Oregon State Police is leading the investigation. Primus said he plans to present evidence of this shooting to a grand jury as soon as he can and would provide more information following the outcome.

Primus said police sought King, 55, of Athena, in connection to a disturbance Saturday evening at a Milton-Freewater residence, but he got away from multiple officers during a high-speed chase. Milton-Freewater police issued a probable cause affidavit to arrest King on the following: unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm by certain felons, pointing a firearm at another, recklessly endangering another person, reckless driving, second-degree criminal trespass and fleeing or attempting to elude police.

The firearm charges involved a civilian, Primus said, and the eluding and reckless endangering charges involved police.

Palmer at about 7:20 a.m. Monday found King in his Ford F150 pickup south of Highway 11 on Pambrun Road. King aimed the pickup at Palmer, who shot out its tires, according to Primus. Primus said the Ford had flat tires, and photos taken by the East Oregonian also appeared to show the pickup had at least one flat.

King got out of the pickup and had a firearm, but Primus said he could not reveal what kind at this time. Palmer shot King once, killing him, Primus said, but he did not know yet how many times Palmer fired at the pickup or at King in total. Primus said investigators are looking into that and other details, as well as putting together a time line to know how long Palmer waited for backup before he took action.

Palmer was involved in two previous shootings — one fatal in 2008 and another in which he wounded a man in September 2011. He worked as a Pendleton officer during those shootings.

Primus has been district attorney since August 2011 and presented evidence of three officer involved shootings to grand juries, including Palmer’s second shooting. Those grand juries determined officers were justified in using deadly force.

State police spokesman Lt. Gregg Hastings said most officers can go an entire career without having to fire a gun. He and Primus said they were not aware of a database that tracks police shootings to compare how outside the norm that may be.

The Oregon Health Authority’s Office of Disease Prevention and Epidemiology collects information on violent deaths in Oregon, including deaths involving police intervention. Police killed 21 people in Oregon in 2010 and six in 2011, according to the office’s reports available online. The reports, though, do not show if any of the officers were responsible for more than one death.

The office did not return a phone call by deadline Tuesday.

King in 2000 went to prison in Oregon after pleading guilty to first-degree kidnapping and felon in possession of a firearm. The state dismissed attempted murder, rape and other charges in the case, according to court records.

Public records also show King was a brother, an uncle and a father.

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