Police defend actions in fight with driver

An Alaskan man accused of assaulting two Medford police officers during a drunken-driving stop in December claims he was the victim of police brutality.

Police, however, say he initiated the brutality when he took a swing at an officer and dragged a female officer to the ground as she was trying to handcuff him and then struck her repeatedly.

"Yeah, I was a victim of police brutality," Chad Ray Paxton said last week. "I don't even like to talk about it."

Paxton, 27, declined to discuss his case further. But he provided the Mail Tribune with photos, police reports and a videotape of the incident that resulted in him being charged with two counts of assaulting a public safety officer, and a single count each of second-degree assault, resisting arrest, interfering with a peace officer, driving under the influence of intoxicants and second-degree disorderly conduct for allegedly punching one officer in the head and tackling and striking another officer. His trial is scheduled for May 21 in Jackson County Circuit Court.

According to the police reports, Paxton and two female passengers were pulled over at about 2:10 a.m. Dec. 22 in front of a convenience store near the intersection of West Main Street and Lozier Lane by Medford Cpl. Tom Venables, who was then joined by Officer Jenny Newell.

Video taken at the scene through the windshield of Newell's police car that rainy night shows Newell attempting to have Paxton perform field sobriety tests while Venables kept an eye on Paxton's two passengers.

When Newell attempts to arrest Paxton, Venables approaches them to provide support. But the trio quickly tumble to the ground in front of the car Paxton was driving, the video shows.

Newell's report states that when she reached for her handcuffs, Paxton erupted, punching at Venables' head, then taking her face-down onto the sidewalk in a bear hug.

Paxton then began punching Newell in the back of the head with his closed fists, Venables said.

"I began striking Paxton with closed fists and delivering knee strikes to his torso and face to disorient him and allow Paxton to focus his behavior towards me," Venables said.

"The male was attacking and beginning to win the fight that Officer Newell and I did not know was coming," Venables said.

Fearing for her safety and Venables' if she lost consciousness, Newell said she also continued to struggle while Paxton battled Venables.

"At one point during the struggle I heard Corporal Venables deploy his Tazer (sic)," Newell said. "The suspect yelled, 'Ouch,' but continued attacking Venables and me."

Newell said she was trapped under Paxton and her breathing was restricted. She called for backup and used both of her legs to push Paxton away.

The video and the police reports detail Venables delivering several hard blows to Paxton's head as the fight spills out onto the parking lot near the driver's side of the vehicle.

"Upon observing the video in my patrol vehicle after the fact, I observed that I struck Paxton ten to twelve times," Venables wrote.

The two female passengers were standing on the passenger side of the vehicle when Paxton broke free and ran toward Lozier Lane with Venables and Newell in pursuit.

Shilo Chrystine Schalk, 36, described as Paxton's girlfriend, can be seen in the video getting out of the vehicle, and crossing in front of the police car. Off camera, a male voice yells, "What are you doing? Get out of here!" (Correction: The spelling of Schalk's name has been corrected in this story.)

Lt. Mike Budreau said at the time of the incident that Schalk attempted to leave the scene by stealing a police car, but was thwarted by a civilian in the car who had accompanied the officers on a ride-along. Officers arrested Schalk on charges of unlawful entry into a motor vehicle and attempted unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. She was lodged in the Jackson County Jail on $8,000 bail. Court records show formal charges were not filed against her.

Venables and Newell chased Paxton through the parking lot near the Thunderbird Market then lost sight of him. Paxton was discovered hiding in a pile of scrap metal. He continued to refuse to comply with officer commands, Newell said.

"The suspect had his hands underneath him and I did not know if he had acquired a weapon," she said.

Newell said she and several other officers eventually were able to place handcuffs on Paxton after a canine unit was deployed.

Police photos show a battered Paxton with blood dripping from several head injuries. The images also show lesser injuries to the arresting officers.

Newell said she transported Paxton to Rogue Regional Medical Center after he was finally placed in custody. In the hospital parking lot another officer helped Newell place Paxton in leg irons, place him in a wheelchair and take him into the emergency room, she wrote.

Paxton had two lacerations on the back of his head that required staples. He also had a laceration above his left eye that required stitches. He complained of torso pain and back pain from the Tazer probes, Newell said.

Newell said she discovered Paxton had 25 arrests in Alaska "for several serious and violent offenses."

When he refused to allow a blood draw to determine his level of intoxication, Newell obtained a search warrant from Jackson County Circuit court Judge Lorenzo Mejia. Paxton's blood-alcohol sample at the jail registered .13 percent, she said. The legal blood-alcohol level for drivers in Oregon is .08 percent.

Medford police Chief Tim George did not respond to a request for an interview Monday, but at the time of the incident, Budreau laid the blame for the fracas on Paxton.

"He put up a fight and ultimately lost," said Budreau.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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