Man who shot at teens on greenway headed to state mental hospital

Mental illness caused a homeless man to open fire on three teens walking along the Bear Creek Greenway in February, a Jackson County Circuit Court judge ruled.

Joseph Edward Matejko, 54, is bound for the Oregon State Hospital after being convicted Thursday of two counts of attempting to commit a class B felony. The teens were not seriously injured when Matejko fired a black-powder pistol at them Feb. 19 about a mile from Medford's U.S. Cellular Community Park.

Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia found Matejko guilty except for insanity following a 45-minute trial based on attorneys' stipulation to the case's facts. Mejia acquitted Matejko of attempted murder charges.

"(The judge) didn't believe ... he was forming the intent to intentionally kill anybody," said Jeremy Markiewicz, chief deputy district attorney for Jackson County.

Matejko told Mejia he was only trying to scare an 18-year-old man, a 17-year-old girl and another female companion who he thought were threatening him, said defense attorney Michael Bertholf. Struck by mable-sized balls fired from Matejko's antique replica pistol, the 17-year-old girl and 18-year-old suffered bruising. The other girl was not injured.

Matejko evaded police for a couple of hours after the teens called 911 from Black Bear Diner. He had shaved off his beard and cut his hair by the time police found and arrested him. He has remained in the Jackson County Jail since February.

"That's one of the things that we run into more and more," said Bertholf of the mentally ill landing in jail and prison.

Mejia sentenced Matejko to 10 years under the supervision of the state's Psychiatric Security Review Board. Patients in such cases usually spend at least a year in the State Hospital, said Bertholf. But Matejko could be released to the community following treatment.

— Sarah Lemon

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