news-903200331-ar-0-0.jpg
Man paralyzed in standoff gets prison

Man paralyzed in standoff gets prison

A wheelchair-bound Eagle Point man was sentenced Thursday to a year-and-a-half in prison after pleading guilty to the attempted assault of a sheriff's deputy during a 2008 standoff with police.

Dan Waggoner, 43, pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted assault, unlawful use of a firearm and interfering with a police officer. He was given 18 months — the maximum sentence allowable under Oregon law — by Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Ray White.

People who use or threaten violence toward police create a danger to the officers, to themselves and to society, the judge said.

"There has to be accountability, there has to be responsibility, and there has to be a deterrent," said White.

Jackson County sheriff's Deputy Eric Henderson shot Waggoner five times after he failed to drop his weapon and instead pointed a .38-caliber handgun at the officer during a two-hour standoff with police on Feb. 24, 2008.

In a packed courtroom, Waggoner's friends and family, Henderson's family and fellow law-enforcement officers listened intently as Henderson read an emotional statement prior to the sentencing.

Deputies had responded to Waggoner's Dahlia Terrace home in the Eagle Point hills after receiving a 9-1-1 call from Amy Brown, the mother of three of Waggoner's children. Brown told sheriff's deputies Waggoner had loaded firearms in the home, already had fired a shot and that he was threatening suicide.

Henderson had been a deputy for only a year-and-a-half when he faced a distraught and armed Waggoner that rainy Sunday evening. Henderson shouted for Waggoner to drop his weapon when they were on a hillside outside Waggoner's home, he said.

"I wanted to give Mr. Waggoner a way out of that situation," said Henderson.

Instead of complying, Waggoner turned and pointed the .38-caliber handgun directly at the young officer. Henderson was forced to make a decision that would forever change many lives. Relying upon his officer training, Henderson fired his weapon, hitting Waggoner five times, he said.

"It didn't hit me until I stood up, after handcuffing Mr. Waggoner," Henderson said. "I started to cry."

Hospitalized for months after the shooting, Waggoner was facing six charges — the most serious being the Measure 11 charge of attempted aggravated murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison — prior to accepting a negotiated plea agreement hammered out between his defense attorney, David Orf, and Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston.

A pale and tearful Waggoner apologized to Henderson and all the officers who responded that evening. He had no idea the gun was in his hand and had no intention of hurting anyone, Waggoner said.

"I was looking for a place to hide," he said. "I was not looking for a confrontation. I just wanted to get away."

A Jackson County grand jury in March 2008 deliberated less than 15 minutes before indicting Waggoner. The jury also determined Henderson was "fully justified and in compliance with Oregon law" in the shooting.

But even though his actions were justified, the emotional fallout has been difficult for Henderson and his family to deal with, Henderson said. He, at first, considered quitting law enforcement. And his wife has continuing fears for his safety, the deputy said.

"I have been sentenced to carry the results around all my life," Henderson said, urging White to hand down a maximum sentence against Waggoner.

"My life is worth it," he said, adding anything less will send a message that puts officers further at risk, and shows that the justice system is weak.

"This is not the Wild West," Henderson said.

Friends and family members also wept during Waggoner's sentencing. Waggoner was depressed over the failure of his relationship with Brown and a pending foreclosure on his property. Brown has said she regrets calling 9-1-1 for help during the domestic crisis. She also has said Waggoner still has a bullet lodged near his spine and is paralyzed.

Orf said his client was in "a severe depressive episode" at the time of the standoff. Family and financial pressures in Waggoner's life had "crashed with tragic results," he said.

"He made bad decision after bad decision," said Orf.

While acknowledging the events were tragic, the judge dismissed Orf's argument. Everyone involved in standoff situations are under emotional distress of some sort, White said.

"All this could have been avoided if you didn't choose that path," said White, ordering Waggoner to get his affairs in order and report for prison in one week.

Waggoner also was given an additional concurrent sentence of 90 days in prison on the firearm charge, plus three years' post-prison supervision. He must not have contact with Henderson.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

Share This Story