An Eagle Point man who in September ran over a shooter standing in the middle of Interstate 5 with a semi-automatic weapon says he felt he had no choice after the man raised his gun and began firing.
Tom Moxon and his son were among several Southern Oregon residents who received state awards for their efforts to save lives and prevent further tragedies during 2017 incidents in Jackson County. They were honored by the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association during a ceremony held this month in Bend. Several Jackson County Sheriff's Office employees and a search-and-rescue volunteer also received awards.
Moxon and his 9-year-old son each received a Distinguished Action Award for their reactions Sept. 30 after they encountered a shooter in the middle of I-5 while driving to a sporting event in California.
The boy was the first to notice the man was armed, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.
The Mail Tribune is not using the boy's name at the family's request.
After realizing escape routes were cut off, Moxon ran over the gunman, who was armed with an AK-47, a high-capacity drum magazine and 50 rounds of ammunition.
The shooter, Neal Brian Norman, 50, of Pacific Grove, California, died on the freeway on the Siskiyou Pass near the Oregon and California border.
"Norman was killed as a result of being struck by Moxon's vehicle and the threat to our community was ended," Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler wrote in nominating the father and son for the Distinguished Action Award. "I firmly believe the actions of Tom and (his son) not only saved their own lives but potentially saved the lives of many who would have encountered Norman on the highway that morning."
The incident began unfolding in the early-morning hours when Norman entered Callahan's Mountain Lodge near the Mount Ashland exit at about 6:30 a.m. He murdered Ryan Paul Bagley, a cook at the lodge, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Norman stole Bagley's Subaru Legacy wagon, drove south on I-5 and stopped the car in the road, blocking both lanes of southbound traffic, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Moxon, who was driving a Dodge Ram pickup, said he came upon the car positioned broadside in the roadway.
"We stopped short of him not knowing what it was," he said. "It looked and felt odd. We were about 45 or 50 yards away."
Moxon said the man had the hatch of the car open in the back but, at first, didn't have his gun ready.
"Then it became evident we were about to be shot. I was looking for an escape route and there wasn't one. I started to go up the highway. I thought, 'I'll take bullets the whole way.' I looked down the highway. He started to raise the rifle," Moxon said.
Moxon then drove his truck at Norman and the car blocking the highway.
"There was no thinking. It was 100 percent reaction," he said. "You don't know what you're going to do. It just happens. Something inside of you takes over."
Moxon's truck was hit with four bullets, according to the Sheriff's Office.
After striking Norman, Moxon drove to a safe location and called 911, the Sheriff's Office said.
Sickler said in the nomination letter than Moxon and his son faced a terrifying and life-threatening event. He said no one could have planned a more appropriate response to the scenario.
"Their actions not only saved their lives, but we believe they prevented further tragedy in Jackson County," Sickler wrote.
Months after the incident, Moxon said he no longer experiences a surge of adrenaline when thinking about what happened.
"It doesn't have as much of an effect now. I just try to put myself in a healthy state of mind and try to see the outcome as a good thing," he said.
The hardest part has been watching his son have to come to terms with the incident.
"There's been a lot of talking about it," Moxon said. "He's got more scars than I do, but he's doing really well. He's processing. I'm teaching him to process it and put it in perspective. I'm trying to tell him this is something most people don't have happen in their lifetime. So we're done. Ours is behind us."
Moxon said his most difficult thoughts come when he imagines the worst-case scenario for how things might have ended for him and his son.
He said the Sheriff's Office, and especially Sickler, have done everything possible to help his family.
"They bought us pizza the night of the incident. They've helped us all the way along. They've called me before I've called them," he said.
Moxon said receiving the Distinguished Action Award has helped with the healing process.
The father and son received a standing ovation from the audience during the Bend ceremony.
A teen is saved
Roseburg residents Scott Richardson and James McWaters were given a Life Saving Award for pulling a teen with two broken legs from a burning vehicle near Hyatt Lake east of Ashland.
The two Bureau of Reclamation subcontractors were headed home from work on the Hyatt Lake Dam when they saw a car lose control on the road, crash between two trees and catch on fire.
Richardson pulled over, and the two hurried to aid Zackary Komm, 18, who was screaming for help in the burning wreckage.
McWaters cut Komm free of the seatbelt that saved his life during the crash impact. McWaters, Richardson and Klamath Falls resident Dan Rodriguez — who had also stopped at the scene — pulled the teen from the vehicle.
The three men recounted their experience to the Mail Tribune a few days after the crash.
Richardson suffered third-degree burns on his hand because he reached behind Komm’s back, which had caught fire. The deep burn on his hand was caused by a piece of melting plastic from the fire.
With cell service limited where the wreck happened, Richardson rushed to phone for help at a restaurant while McWaters and Rodriguez tended to Komm, who was unable to walk after the crash. They had carried him about 15 yards from the wreckage when the car exploded.
Komm had been returning from a hunting trip, and ammunition in the car caught fire.
The teen would have perished in the blaze if the men had not stopped and pulled him from the wreckage, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Komm was airlifted to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center for treatment.
Ashland Fire & Rescue, Greensprings Rural Fire District and Oregon Department of Forestry all assisted with the rescue and efforts to contain the fire, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Many firefighters arrived quickly because they had just started an evening training event nearby, according to the Greensprings Rural Fire District.
Graham Wilson, a volunteer and Sheriff's Office search-and-rescue team member since 1999, received a Meritorious Service Award for his years of service.
He has helped save lives by participating in more than 800 search-and-rescue missions, giving more than 14,000 hours of his time, according to a nomination letter.
"The time he has given is impressive, however, the primary reason Wilson deserves this award is his mindset," Sheriff's Office Sgt. Shawn Richards wrote in the nomination letter. "He has consistently been the first in and the last out his entire career."
Richards added, "He will drop anything and respond anywhere if he believes he can make a difference."
Wilson has served as a ground searcher, team leader, man tracker, high-angle rope rescuer, dive tender and volunteer search manager. He also serves on the Illegal Cartel Marijuana Eradication Team, eradicating and cleaning up illegal grows across Southern Oregon, according to Richards.
Richards himself was honored with a Council Chair Award. He is the supervisor of Jackson County's search-and-rescue team and also serves as the Search and Rescue Advisory Council chair for the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association.
Jackson County Sheriff's Office Capt. Dan Penland was honored with the Jail Commander of the Year award.
Jail commanders throughout the state regularly call upon Penland because of his expertise with Oregon jails. He has worked for the Jackson County Sheriff's Office since 1981, according to a nomination letter.
During his career, Penland has always worked to improve the fair and equitable treatment of prisoners and to seek efficient ways to run the corrections division. He has been a long-time advocate for rehabilitative programs and is a key partner for Jackson County Circuit Court's Mental Health Court, according to the nomination letter.
Defendants who go through Mental Health Court receive mental health care and other services designed to keep them from cycling through jail, the streets, local emergency rooms and psychiatric facilities.
The Sheriff's Office Civil Division received the Concealed Handgun License Support Staff of the Year Award for dedicating staff time and using improved technology to catch up on a backlog of concealed handgun licenses and license renewals. Processing wait times were reduced from 10 to 12 weeks to 1 to 2 weeks, improving customer service for county residents, according to a nomination letter.