Four surgeries later, gunshot victim nearing Gold Hill trip

A Gold Hill man shot during an altercation with an irate miner two weeks ago likely will be home soon after multiple surgeries to try to save his arm, but friends say it may be six months before he knows whether the surgeons succeeded.

Gregory Glen Graybill's right arm took a blast from a 12-gauge shotgun during a confrontation with 61-year-old Ronald Eugene Spears on April 5.

Graybill and a group of friends were riding in off-road vehicles on public land near Kerby when they encountered Spears, who said they would damage his mining claim.

A dispute developed over whether the vehicles could legally cross Spears' claim. Witnesses have said Spears put the shotgun against Graybill's chest and said he would shoot him.

Graybill turned the gun aside just as it discharged.

The blast caused massive muscle, bone and nerve damage between Graybill's shoulder and his elbow, and he was initially expected to lose his arm. He was transferred to Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland after emergency treatment in Medford.

During his fourth surgery on Monday, surgeons "took a 4-by-12-inch strip (of tissue) off his leg and grafted it onto his arm," said Karren Claassen, his partner.

Claassen said Graybill is in good spirits and expects to return to his Sardine Creek home this weekend, but there is no guarantee the surgeries will save his arm.

"The doctors said if he doesn't have any movement in his hand after six months, they will take the arm off and leave about a four- to six-inch stump," she said.

Spears has been charged with first-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon. He could face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of seven and a half years under the Measure 11 assault charge, said Josephine County Deputy District Attorney Ryan Mulkins.

Spears remains in jail on $75,000 bail.

U.S. Forest Service officials said Spears does not have an approved plan of operation for mining or for occupying the land. Prior to the incident, the Forest Service was unaware Spears was living on forestland, said Rob Schull, staff officer in charge of mining operations.

"It was a surprise to us," Schull said. "There was no level of mining to justify the level of occupancy."

Schull said miners can remove valuable minerals from federal forestland where they stake a claim, but they do not own the land. Off-road vehicle use is allowed as long as drivers obey any posted rules and don't damage resources.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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