DA says Pendleton police justified in shooting theft suspect

Matthew Hoisington

Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff determined Pendleton police Sgt. Tyler Reddington was justified in shooting Matthew Lucas Hoisington.

The shooting took place the night of Nov. 29 near the Pendleton Walmart, where Reddington and Pendleton police Cpl. Jon Lehman responded to a report of a theft. Shirtcliff in a written statement reported Hoisington, 38, of Mission, pointed a gun at Reddington during a foot chase. The officer fired his gun, shooting Hoisington twice.

Police found two BB guns at the scene, Shirtcliff stated, and both looked like real .45-caliber semi-automatic handguns.

Shirtcliff concluded the officers’ conduct that night, including “Reddington’s decision to fire his weapon at Hoisington followed standard police protocol regarding use of force and was completely justified.”

Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts said the finding is good news for the officers and department, but the actions of that night may weigh on Reddington and Cpl. Jon Lehman.

Pendleton police at 8:46 p.m. received a dispatch call regarding a theft in progress at Walmart, 2203 S.W. Court Ave., and Reddington and Lehman each drove to the store.

Reddington arrived first and saw a man matching the theft suspect’s description in the parking lot, according to the lengthy and detailed statement from Shirtcliff. That suspect was Hoisington.

Reddington twice asked to talk to him, according to Shirtcliff, but the suspect ignored the requests and walked through the parking lot. Reddington identified himself as police and ordered the suspect to stop. Lehman arrived and began moving toward the suspect on foot.

“The suspect then took off running and the officers followed in pursuit,” Shirtcliff stated. Hoisington reached into his waistband and Reddington yelled to Lehman the suspect was “reaching.”

The two officers drew their handguns and started to re-holster them when Hoisington stopped reaching for his waistband.

The foot pursuit continued, and Reddington saw the suspect reach for his waistband again and lift his coat, Shirtcliff reported. At this point, Reddington saw what looked like the butt end of a semi-automatic pistol in the suspect’s waistband.

Reddington yelled out the suspect had a gun.

Lehman and Reddington continued the pursuit. Shirtcliff stated the officers commanded Hoisington multiple times to stop and to drop the gun. They ran past Taco Bell, near the intersection of Southwest Court Avenue and 20th Street, then turned back toward Walmart. While running, Hoisington turned his upper body toward Reddington and raised the gun in his left hand, indicating he was going to point the gun at Reddington.

“Sgt. Reddington fired multiple shots,” Shirtcliff stated, “two of which struck the suspect.”

One round hit Hoisington in the lower left buttocks and the other hit below his left armpit and exited through the front chest area. Hoisington went to the ground.

Witnesses noted a handgun near Hoisington, and another was about 6 feet from him.

“Both guns were BB guns,” Shirtcliff reported. “And the investigation showed that these guns were among several items stolen from Walmart.”

The BB guns, however, look like real guns. Multiple witnesses told police they appeared real, “having the same color and configuration to a Colt 1911-style semi-automatic handgun.”

“All of the investigatory materials, witness statements and medical records are consistent with Hoisington continuing to ignore the officers’ commands to stop and drop his weapon,” according to Shirtcliff. “Hoisington was running from the officers when he turned his body back towards Sgt. Reddington while lifting what appeared to be a real semi-automatic pistol upward in the direction of the officer.”

Reddington was concerned Hoisington would fire the gun at him or Lehman and could endanger innocent citizens, Shirtcliff continued, and “at that point was clearly justified in using force against Hoisington.”

Roberts said he was incredulous Hoisington was willing to risk his life and endanger others for a BB gun. He also called the situation aggravating.

Manufacturers of toy guns have made them less realistic over the years, but Roberts said people use these type of “replicas” to commit crimes, yet they carry less of a risk factor in terms of offenses. Felons can pack this type of BB gun and not face a crime for possession of a weapon, and people can carry them concealed without a permit, unlike a real gun in Oregon.

The two BB guns are exactly alike and look real, he said, right down to the checkered butt — and that’s what the officers were trying to decipher during the high-stress moment at night on a dark street.

An ambulance took Hoisington to St. Anthony Hospital, Pendleton, and later an air ambulance flew him to Oregon Health and Science University, Portland. After his release, OHSU University Police arrested Hoisington on a felony warrant for second-degree robbery in Washington and booked him into the Multnomah County Inverness Jail, Portland.

Theft and other charges regarding Hoisington’s actions in Pendleton are under review.

Roberts said this was a tough situation and one nobody enjoys, regardless of the finding. Still, this is good news for the officers and the department, he said, which endured some staffing challenges while the pair were on leave during the investigation.

And while Reddington and Lehman both passed psychological exams, the chief said the shooting carries a risk of delayed reaction to trauma, which the officers and supervisors must be attentive to going forward.

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