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Sheriff's detective Chris Merrifield retires after 25 years of service

Detective Lt. Chris Merrifield has done just about every job you can do in the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office after beginning his career in 1994 as a deputy.

He’s decided he’s done enough, though, as Merrifield hung up his badge Friday after 25 years of service. He said it’s been a long and satisfying journey.

“Sometimes you get to see immediate things and sometimes you’re planting a seed,” he said. “You never get to see the results, but the important thing is to keep it in perspective. If you’re doing your job right, you’re doing so much more than people think.”

After being hired as a full-time deputy in 1994 by then-Sheriff John Pardon, Merrifield became a street crimes investigator and supervised the sheriff’s Riddle substation. Merrifield served on the Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team, commanded the patrol division and the detective division. He was on the hostage negotiation team and the tactical response team. He was also a street crime investigator and a member of the road patrol. He also served as rangemaster and firearms instructor.

“I’m very thankful I got to be involved in all those things,” he said. “They were great opportunities, I love them.”

Merrifield said when he first came on the force, the thrill was a major factor, but the priorities eventually changed.

“In your youth, you start out thinking it’s going to be an exciting job, and it is. You’re exposed to things I don’t think anybody else is exposed to and has to deal with,” Merrifield said. “But you realize that if you’re going to last in this business, you’re not looking for the excitement and you learn that you’re really there to help other people.”

Merrifield worked for five different sheriffs over his 25 years.

“Every sheriff I worked for, from my perspective, the guys always got to do their jobs,” he said.

He has worked for current Sheriff John Hanlin for the past 10 years. Hanlin praised him for his contributions to the department.

“Lt. Merrifield’s steadfast dedication to justice and to the communities we serve will be missed,” Hanlin said. “He has been a valued member of this agency and has contributed greatly to the agency’s success.”

Merrifield said he wasn’t interested in law enforcement until he took a college class at what was then Southern Oregon College in Ashland.

“I took a criminology class and I liked it and started taking a couple of more, and then I made it my major and graduated with a bachelor’s in criminology,” Merrifield said.

Merrifield said there were some puzzling cases over the years that never got solved, and that bothered him. But he said the sheriff has made sure that as he leaves, the cold cases don’t just get put on a shelf and disappear.

The department has been turned over to Lt. Kelley Bean, who has been a supervisor for several years and is on the tactical team and DINT.

“He has a ton of experience so there’s not a drop-off at all. My guess is there’s going to be an improvement,” Merrifield said, laughing.

Merrifield plans to take a few months off before he decides what he wants to do next with his life. After 25 years in law enforcement, he’s ready for a change, but he’ll also savor all the memories.

“It’s the people and watching the amazing things they do,” he said. “You get to be along for the ride and watch them do it. It’s pretty incredible.”


Local_biz
Umpqua Health sued for breach of contract

Umpqua Health Alliance is being sued for almost $10,000 for allegedly failing to reimburse an employee for moving expenses, according to a lawsuit filed last week.

The plaintiff, Tasha Cockrum, said in the lawsuit she signed an employment agreement that included relocation reimbursements in 2017 but that she was never paid.

Cockrum said she provided receipts in accordance with her contract and attempted to collect the reimbursement several times in person, by email and by letter, according to the lawsuit.

Kat Cooper, the director of marketing and communications at Umpqua Health Alliance, said the company had not received the lawsuit which was filed in the Douglas County Circuit Court on May 21.

“We are not aware of any claim filed by Tasha Cockrum against Umpqua Health, nor are we aware of any basis for any claim by her,” Cooper said. “She’s a former employee who has not worked for us for over two years.”

Cockrum, whose phone number has a Kansas City, Missouri area code, could not be reached for comment. According to her LinkedIn page, Cockrum is a certified physicians assistant who received a master’s from the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky.

Umpqua Health Alliance is one of 15 Oregon coordinated care organizations serving the Oregon Health Plan, according to its website.


Crime
Roseburg man arrested after robbing Dutch Bros., assaulting customer

A Roseburg man was arrested after he allegedly robbed the Dutch Bros. coffee stand and assaulted a customer in northeast Roseburg, according to police.

Early Thursday morning police said Aaron Schwab, 32, entered the coffee stand at 1731 NE Stephens St., Roseburg, shoved and hit Codie Parret, an employee, and demanded Parret hand over his phone. In an attempt to stop the attack, Parret gave Schwab the phone, valued between $800 and $1,000.

Schwab left the kiosk and jumped onto the hood of a customer’s truck before attempting to pull the customer, identified as Matthew Johnson, out of the vehicle.

Johnson fought back but, during the altercation, Schwab punched him numerous times and left a gash above his eye that bled profusely, according to court documents.

Officers arrived at the scene and attempted to take Schwab into custody.

Schwab was not being cooperative and attempted to run, which caused officers to deploy a Taser, but Schwab pulled out the Taser probes and took off. Police K-9 Nike was sent after Schwab and was able to capture the running man.

“Schwab tried to fight with the police dog, but when K-9 Nike held on, Schwab changed his mind and complied with commands,” wrote Master Officer Blake Cordell in his probable cause affidavit.

Schwab was transported to CHI Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg for minor injuries and a “high level” of intoxication.

Later, when police were able to interview Schwab, he told officers he had taken drugs that someone had given him and didn’t remember much, other than getting hit by a car and being bitten by a police dog.

Schwab was taken to the Douglas County Jail and is being held in lieu of $130,000 bail. He was arrested on suspicion of third-degree robbery, second-degree burglary, second-degree theft, fourth-degree assault, second-degree disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, harassment and unlawful entry into a motor vehicle.

The victims of the assaults had superficial, minor injuries, according to police.


Ap
Police: 11 killed, 6 hurt in shooting in Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A longtime city employee opened fire at a municipal building in Virginia Beach on Friday, killing 12 people and sending terrified co-workers scrambling for cover before police shot and killed him, authorities said.

Four other people were wounded in the shooting, including a police officer whose bulletproof vest saved his life, said Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera. The city’s visibly shaken mayor, Bobby Dyer, called it “the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach.”

The shooting happened shortly after 4 p.m. when the veteran employee of the Public Utilities Department entered a building in the city’s Municipal Center, and “immediately began to indiscriminately fire upon all of the victims,” Cervera said. He did not release the suspect’s name.

Police entered the building and got out as many employees as they could, then exchanged fire with the suspect, who was killed, the chief said.

Police initially said the gunman shot and killed 11 people. Cervera later said one more died on the way to the hospital.

The shooting sent shock waves through Virginia Beach, the state’s largest city and a popular vacation spot in southeastern Virginia. The building where the attack took place is in a suburban complex miles away from the high-rise hotels along the beach and the downtown business area.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement he was devastated by the “unspeakable, senseless violence,” and is offering the state’s full support to survivors and relatives of the victims.

“That they should be taken in this manner is the worst kind of tragedy,” the governor said during a Friday night news conference.

The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed and was monitoring the situation.

Megan Banton, an administrative assistant who works in the building where the shooting happened, said she heard gunshots, called 911 and barricaded herself and about 20 colleagues inside an office, pushing a desk against a door.

“We tried to do everything we could to keep everybody safe,” she said. “We were all just terrified. It felt like it wasn’t real, like we were in a dream. You are just terrified because all you can hear is the gunshots.”

She texted her mom, telling her that there was an active shooter in the building and she and others were waiting for police.

“Thank God my baby is OK,” Banton’s mother, Dana Showers, said.

Five of the injured were being treated at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital and a sixth was being transferred to the Trauma Center at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Sentara Healthcare tweeted.

At a nearby middle school, friends and relatives were reuniting with loved ones who were in the building when the shooting happened. They included Paul Swain, 50, who said he saw his fiancee from across the parking lot, clearly in an agitated state.

“I think she knew some of the people,” he said.

Outside the school, Cheryl Benn, 65, waited while her husband, David, a traffic engineer with the city who was in the building where the shooting happened, gave a written statement to detectives.

She said her husband initially called her from a barricaded room and said it sounded as if someone had been working with a nail gun. Then he saw the bodies.

“This is unbelievable for Virginia Beach,” Cheryl Benn said. “By and large, it’s a pretty calm and peaceful place to live.”