Five men face charges in weekend fights

A carnival worker had part of his thumb bitten off in a midnight fight, then was beaten with a stick hours later Sunday morning in a continuing clash, Medford police said.

The string of fights landed five men in jail on charges that included assault, harassment and disorderly conduct.

Police were called to a fight near Target on Crater Lake Avenue shortly after midnight Sunday, Medford police Lt. Tim Doney said.

Several groups of workers from the Davis Shows Northwest carnival set up in the parking lot of the Rogue Valley Mall told police that there had been a fight between intoxicated, off-duty workers arguing about taking breaks.

A 49-year-old man from Santa Cruz, Calif., had the tip of his left thumb bitten off when he punched another man in the mouth, Doney said.

He was taken to Rogue Valley Medical Center and police dog Tiko searched for the missing digit, which was found in a clump of grass near the bridge that carries Crater Lake Avenue over Bear Creek. Surgeons couldn't reattach the flesh and had to remove the exposed bone of the thumb, leaving the victim with a permanent disfigurement, Doney said.

As police tried to piece together what had happened in the drunken melee, one intoxicated carnival worker, Elias French, 53, of Milwaukie, confronted police and was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He was lodged in the Jackson County Jail, but has since been released.

At about 10 a.m. Sunday, police were called to another fight near Target and found that the victim with the missing thumb and his brother were preparing to leave the carnival when they were attacked by four other carnival workers.

One assailant hit the victim in the face with a tree branch, knocking him down.

Then, the others kicked and punched him until a woman driving by saw the fight and scared the attackers off by honking her horn and calling 9-1-1 on her cell phone, Doney said.

When police arrived, the victim pointed out three of his co-workers who allegedly had assaulted him and they were arrested. Bryan Andrew Sayward, 21; Joseph Ellion Polach, 37; and James Richard Neal, 24, were each arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, harassment and third-degree assault. The three, who have no permanent addresses listed, all remained in jail Monday on $35,000 bail each.

After searching the carnival grounds, police found Donald Wayne Johnson, 35, hiding under a semi-trailer, perched near the wheels. He was arrested and lodged in jail on charges of disorderly conduct, harassment and second-degree assault, stemming from his suspected role in swinging the branch to strike the victim. He remained in jail Monday on $1,010,000 bail.

Doney said alcohol was involved in the altercation and the men were initially uncooperative when talking about the midnight fight. The victim at one point told officers that a wild animal had torn off his thumb, but became more cooperative after the second fight, which was witnessed by passers-by, Doney said.

"Carnivals have employees of a transient nature," he said, noting that the victims, witnesses and suspects were leaving town as the carnival departed. All the information collected by investigators will be sent to prosecutors to decide if other charges are warranted.

One of the owners of the traveling show based in Clackamas, Geraldine Davis, said all the men involved in the fights had been fired.

"We don't need that around here," she said.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail

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