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Oregon Deputy Arrests Innocent Man to Protect Family; County Pays $12,000 to Settle

"This incident is the most egregious abuse of power I have ever seen," said attorney Edie Rogoway, who represented an Oregon man who was arrested for reporting criminal activity of relatives of the responding deputy. The County quietly paid him $12,000 to avoid a lawsuit.

On January 26, 2015, Jim Koitzsch, 57, was watching television in his isolated Grant County, Oregon, home when he heard gunfire. He stepped onto his front porch to investigate and heard a round whiz past his head.

"I almost got hit," Koitzsch told a police dispatcher. "I need an officer up here." Grant County deputy sheriff Zach Mobley responded, telling the dispatcher he knew the people in that area.

Police video shows a shaken Koitzsch, describing the shots. He said there were four, a pause, then four or five more. He pointed toward the house across the street as the source of the gunfire.

"Are you're absolutely positive it came from right here?" Mobley asked. "One hundred percent," said Koitzsch.

Unbeknownst to him, however, the home he was pointing at belonged to Terry and Leann Coalwell. Leann is the sister of Mobley's wife. Before responding to the call, Mobley had telephoned the Coalwell residence and later claimed in his police report that his 15-year old niece told him she had not heard any gunshots.

Once Mobley had finished questioning Koitzsch, he said he needed to speak to another neighbor who heard the gunshots. Mobley first called Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer.

In his written report, Mobley claimed that he told Palmer that only the kids were home at the Coalwell residence, but they did not have access to guns, which were kept in a safe. He does not report how he knew that information.

"Sheriff Palmer told me to go ahead and arrest Mr. Koitzsch," Mobley wrote in his report. "I told Sheriff Palmer that I was checking with him because I wanted to make sure it wasn't a conflict since the Coalwells are my family."

Before arresting Koitzsch for initiating a false police report, Mobley interviewed neighbor Dorothy Thexton, 66. He did not tell her that he intended to arrest Koitzsch for making a false report.

Thexton is also seen on video, reporting that she heard a series of gunshots coming from the direction of the Coalwell residence. Her grandson said it sounded like a rifle. Mobley reported his conversation with Thexton but omitted her grandson's comment.

Mobley claimed that he then went to the Coalwell residence and interviewed his niece. He said she told him that nobody had been shooting and that all the guns were locked in the safe. He did not include video of that interview in his report.

Mobley later told Koitzsch that he personally checked the Coalwell gun safe and

determined that it was locked. Mobley then arrested Koitzsch for initiating a false police report. The crime is a misdemeanor that carries up to one year in jail.

Palmer approved the arrest and later promoted Mobley to Undersheriff, his second-in-command. Koitzsch spent the night in jail.

Three days later, Grant County District Attorney Jim Carpenter dismissed the charges, citing Thexton's corroborating statement. "It is clear that shots were fired in the area, which is what Koitzsch reported," wrote Carpenter in a memo to Palmer.

"To hide the fact that his relatives were allowing their minor children to have access to loaded firearms while home alone, Deputy Mobley arrested and jailed an innocent man," wrote Rogoway in a notice of intent to sue the County that she filed on Koitzsch's behalf.

The County quickly paid Koitzsch $12,000 to settle the case, but Palmer, Mobley, and the County all denied liability.

The case comes as Sheriff Palmer faces a state criminal investigation for tampering with officials records in another case. He is also facing a state administrative investigation as to his fitness to retain his law enforcement certification. One would assume Mobley will soon be facing similar investigations of his own.

Source: The Oregonian/OregonLive 

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