Man shot was desperate for help, family says

Man shot was desperate for help, family says

EAGLE POINT — Distraught family members of a suicidal Eagle Point man shot by a sheriff's deputy Sunday say Dan Waggoner was depressed and desperate.

"I was there the whole time. He had a nervous breakdown. He just needed some help and they shot him up," said Amy Brown, the mother of three of Waggoner's seven children.

Jackson County sheriff's deputies responded to a 9-1-1call placed by Brown in the 1100 block of Dahlia Terrace at 3:40 p.m. Sunday. Waggoner was shot after he exited the home and refused to put down his gun.

"He was clearly instructed on multiple occasions to put down the weapon," Sheriff Mike Winters said.

Waggoner, 45, remained late Monday in critical "touch-and-go" condition in the intensive care unit at Rogue Valley Medical Center after surviving surgery on Sunday night for multiple gunshot wounds to his chest, Brown said.

Brown, 27, who no longer lives with Waggoner, had driven to his house. Waggoner was threatening to commit suicide over the breakup of their five-year relationship and a pending foreclosure on the property, she said.

The entrance to the driveway was locked, so Brown approached on a neighboring property. She became terrified for his safety after hearing gunfire coming from the home.

"He'd told me, 'They can take my house and they can take my body with it,' " said Brown. "I heard a shot and I thought he did it."

Leaving her three young children in her Dodge van, Brown raced to the home. "I was calling 9-1-1 as I was running. I got him to come out. And he did put the gun to his head."

Waggoner's home sits on rural acreage at the end of a long, deeply rutted, muddy driveway. The property is covered with spindly oaks, junk cars and rusty barbed-wire fencing. The home is filled with broken plumbing and awash in mold, said Brown.

After moving out, Brown still maintained daily contact with Waggoner. Now guilt, remorse and anger torment her, because calling for help may have cost her children their father, she said.

"If I could reverse time, I'd never have made that 9-1-1 call," said Brown.

Deputies were informed by Brown that Waggoner was suicidal and armed with a shotgun and other weapons, including a hand grenade, Winters said. Jackson County's SWAT team and negotiators, Oregon State Police and Shady Cove police also were called. The negotiator's approach didn't work with Waggoner, Brown said.

"SWAT ended up going up the driveway. Dan called me, he said, 'Amy, get SWAT out of here or I'm gonna die.' Dan was scared. He couldn't rationalize," she said.

Waggoner fired shots at the SWAT armored carrier. A deputy shot Waggoner after the armed man came out of the rear of the home following a two-hour standoff, said Winters.

Ruth McCall has a 9-year-old son with Waggoner. She, too, spoke with Waggoner the afternoon of the standoff. Waggoner was calm during their conversation, she said.

"He said he was in a standoff with the sheriff's department," said McCall. "He said him and Amy had gotten into a domestic. He was really calm. He said this would all blow over. It was the last thing he said to me."

Both women said Waggoner is a good man, but prone to fits of rage during which he throws or breaks things. However, he has never physically hurt anyone — and Sunday's tragedy was never a hostage situation, they insist.

"He may have a temper, but he's never harmed anyone," Brown said. "He's never pointed the gun at me or the kids."

"Dan just had one of his flip-out moments," McCall said. "He couldn't handle not having Amy and the kids in his life. He let things escalate to a point where he couldn't turn back and he didn't know what to do."

Court records show Waggoner has one criminal conviction in Oregon, misdemeanor harassment, from 1994.

The Waggoner family has a history of mental illness, McCall said. McCall was engaged to Waggoner's younger brother, Jon Edward Waggoner, who committed suicide in the home on July 16, 2000, she said.

Brown said she had tried to get Dan Waggoner to seek help for his depression after he previously threatened suicide. But Waggoner refused counseling, she said.

"He's never had therapy. He was scared to seek it," Brown said.

Winters said calls involving the mentally ill are increasing. Of the 30 sheriff's units working Sunday, 28 were assigned to suicide calls throughout Jackson County. These types of calls can be extremely volatile, creating a dangerous situation not only for the deputies, but for the individual as well, Winters said.

"We deal with this on a daily basis," said Winters. "The last thing we want to do is get involved in a use-of-force issue. It's difficult on the officers that are involved, and on the families that are involved."

The deputy involved in the shooting has been placed on paid administrative leave while a full investigation by the Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit continues.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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