A Central Point man is accused of firing at least a dozen shots from an AK-47 in White City on Thanksgiving night, terrifying the neighborhood.
Jaime Dilton Dannery Merlos, 34, was arrested this morning on a felony charge of unlawful use of a weapon alleging he fired a semiautomatic rifle in the air about 8:30 p.m. in the area of Terrmont Street and Castle Circle.
Merlos allegedly fired an AK-47 in the air during an apparent Thanksgiving party, according to Jackson County sheriff's Sgt. Eric Henderson, but the automatic gunfire terrified others in the neighborhood in the wake of a trio of Jackson County shootings earlier this week.
"Someone who called in was hiding in their house because they were scared," Henderson said, adding that neighbors believed it was "something serious."
Of the three prior shootings this week, the first, on Monday in Medford, has been confirmed gang-related. A Central Point shooting Tuesday and a Medford homicide Wednesday remain under investigation. Merlos isn't believed to be involved with the prior shootings in any way.
Adding to the gang anxiety Thursday night were callers' reports that "a lot" of shots were fired. Investigators recovered 12 shell casings from the scene, Henderson said.
"Most of our information came from just scared people in the community," Henderson said.
Henderson said witnesses provided a distinctive vehicle description after it fled the scene: a dark-colored Chevrolet Silverado pickup with a flat pickup bed rack and an inner-tube.
Coincidentally, deputies had made contact with Merlos in a similar vehicle earlier Thursday in Gold Hill investigating an unrelated suspicious circumstances case.
"That's why it stood out to us," Henderson said.
A White City deputy arrested Merlos this morning after stopping a 2003 Chevy he was driving that matched the description in Thursday's incident. Inside the truck, investigators found an AK-47 with no stalk that matched witness descriptions, plus five rounds of ammunition, including unspent bullets matching casings investigators found at the scene, according to police.
Merlos, who lives in the 9900 block of Blackwell Road, was arrested on a felony charge because someone could have been hurt in the area where he fired the weapon, Henderson said.
"The problem is that area is really super saturated with people," Henderson said. "What goes up must come down, right?"
Police are still piecing the investigation together, according to Henderson. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the JCSO tip line at 541-774-8333.
Merlos also was arrested on misdemeanor counts of second-degree disorderly conduct, recklessly endangering another person and driving while suspended.
As of this afternoon, Merlos was lodged in the Jackson County jail on $20,000 bail. No charges have yet been filed in Jackson County Circuit Court in the case.
Court records show Merlos has a pending DUII charge from an arrest in September. In 2010, he faced a felony fourth-degree assault charge, but ultimately admitted to a misdemeanor charge.
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.