Family asks for leniency for driver

Family asks for leniency for driver

Family and friends of a man accused of driving a van into their midst during an altercation in a Medford parking lot Saturday say he is ill and needs help, not jail time.

Defenders of John Leroy Burns Jr., 39, appeared at his arraignment Monday before Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia.

Burns' intent was to harm himself when he allegedly struck four people in downtown Medford before driving off in her van, said Jean Falgout, who identified herself to reporters as Burns' wife.

"I'd like to see if he can come home for the holidays," said Falgout.

Medford police at about 4 p.m. Saturday responded to a report of a motor-vehicle collision involving two pedestrians at the parking lot of the Jackson County District Attorney's Office, 714 W. 10th St., Medford. Police said witnesses told them Burns brandished a knife and threatened to kill himself before driving off.

It remains unclear what caused the dispute in the parking lot, but none of the victims were seriously hurt.

Burns remained lodged Tuesday in the Jackson County Jail on a single count each of felony hit and run, second-degree assault, reckless driving, resisting arrest, menacing, four counts of harassment and six counts of reckless endangering.

Burns' bail was reduced from more than $1.1 million to $250,000 by Mejia.

Falgout later told media representatives that both she and Burns are suffering from terminal illnesses. The couple have been seeking psychiatric counseling, she said. But Burns became despondent and drove off with a loaded gun, threatening suicide.

"He had my (380.-caliber handgun) loaded," Falgout said. "And he had it in his mouth to blow his brains out."

Police said Burns' son, 25-year-old son Justin Chapman, and Robert Andis, 16, approached the van to retrieve items for Falgout. Burns became angry, brandished a knife and began to leave the vehicle. But Andis and Chapman pushed the driver door closed to prevent Burns from exiting, police said.

While Andis and Chapman tried to get out of the way, Burns pulled forward toward them and a group of four other people. Chapman was struck by Burns' vehicle, causing him to fall to the ground, and Andis was sideswiped, pushing him into a parked vehicle. Two other people were struck by the vehicle Burns was driving, however, they were not injured.

Chapman was transported to Rogue Valley Medical Center, where he was treated and released. The extent of his injuries, although not life-threatening, are not known. Andis reported minor injuries, but declined medical treatment.

After Burns fled in the van, Falgout advised police Burns had her handgun with him. Immediately following the incident, Burns called and sent text messages to Falgout indicating he was going to kill himself.

Burns' location in a rural residential area off Dark Hollow Road was determined with the assistance of his cellphone company, police said. Burns had fled the vehicle and was located with the help of a Medford police canine unit. Jackson County sheriffs deputies also aided in the search.

Burns was taken into custody after struggling with officers during the arrest. The loaded handgun was found on the ground next to him, police said.

Chapman was in court Monday to support his father, who appeared via video from the jail. Burns' face was battered and bloody. He was seated in a wheelchair.

"He has all this family here in the courtroom to defend him," said Chapman. "I feel that my dad needs to get out. He didn't mean to do all the harm that he did."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email

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