Sheriff Fred Steen has used a particular event that occurred in Wallowa on July 29 as an argument for creating a public safety district in Wallowa County. The comments that he has made should be carefully scrutinized by those of us who would be expected to pay for an "increase" in our public safety services.
On the evening of July 29, my son, Bill Robb, and family (daughter-in-law and 10-year-old grandson) were driving through Wallowa when they witnessed a violent attack with one man hammering away at another man, usuing a large metal object on a sidewalk. My son pulled over, jumped out of his vehicle and raced over to jerk the aggressor off the severely wounded man and persuaded the attacker to leave the scene. Blood, hair and scalp tissue littered the area.
My son immediately called the sheriff's office to report the attack while my daughter-in-law attempted to stem the bleeding of the semi-conscious victim. The attacker returned to the scene a second time, wielding a tire iron, threatening to kill the "SOB." At this time, Bill thought to himself: "Is he talking about me or the man lying on the ground?" Nevertheless, my son, putting his own life in jeopardy, held off the attacker by putting himself between the assailant and the victim.
Bill called the sheriff's office not once but multiple times and yet no one responded. He was left out to dry and forced to put his life on the line to protect another and our county law enforcement didn't deem it important enough to respond to the lower valley. Someone might have showed up at the hospital after the victim was taken there by ambulance, but an officer did not respond to Wallowa. Sheriff Steen said the call was eventually answered. When was "eventually?" Days later when the person was arrested? The attacker has since been charged with attempted murder.
The frightening and documented truth is there was an officer available to answer that call, but he chose not to. If that call had come from Joseph or Enterprise, would the response have been different? Of course, and probably by multiple officers. There are those at the sheriff's office who won't respond to calls from Wallowa because they are peeved that Wallowa cancelled its service protection agreement with the sheriff's office, so they refuse to answer calls.
Apparently, one must belong to a certain community or social stratus in the county to qualify for public-safety services. This kind of behavior is inexcusable and extremely dangerous to us all.
There are excellent officers who represent us in this county and they do it faithfully and well, and I applaud them. My issue is with an officer or officers who would refuse to respond to an incident of this magnitude and with those supervisors who allow and/or condone such behavior. There are policies, procedures and laws that address the handling of such an incident, but they were not followed. This is a travesty of an officer's oath of office to "protect and serve" and an insult to those who serve faithfully and well.
It would appear possibly our greatest danger is from within law enforcement itself. Who will be the next person or persons endangered by a no-response call? Whose life might be lost because the law-enforcement service we have is not administered effectively or properly or the right person is not on duty when we need them?
I request the sheriff's office, district attorney and county commissioners to consider the liability they incur under such circumstances. What if this had resulted in a death instead of attempted murder? What if Bill had not been there to intervene? Or what if the attacker had returned with a gun or knife? How many injuries or deaths might have occurred, including that of a mother and child? I know my grandson is still traumatized.
I will not vote for a public safety district tax until the current agency proves itself capable of effectively managing the resources it does have and is willing to serve the county in its entirety, no matter where we live or who we are. I encourage others to consider doing the same.