Justice Is Everyone's Business

Seeking to Restore Integrity and Public Trust in Our Justice System

Justice will not be served until those who are
unaffected are as outraged as those who are.
—Benjamin Franklin

The Siege on Summer Street (Salem, Oregon 22 January 2019)

Cowboy Justice in Oregon

This is the first of a seven-part story.

We humans make mistakes.  Isn’t it better to take responsibility for the mistakes and move on—rather than pinning the blame on someone else?

Police departments, staffed by humans, make mistakes.  On January 22, 2019, the Salem Police Department (SWAT Team), used excessive force in a situation in the Grant neighborhood of Salem, at 1050 Summer Street, NE.  During the four hours of bombardment with smoke, tear gas, and flash-bang grenades, fires broke out.  The house was ruined.  Police alleged the fires were a result of arson and had the Fire Department conduct a "criminal" investigation—but removed the spent grenades from the scene before the Fire Department investigator arrived.  A policeman gave the fire investigator a guided tour of the ruins.  She adopted his statements and wrote her report.

It took eight months and a reported $200,000 to fix the house.  Much to its credit, the SWAT Team revised its tactics and moved on.  It has not been using military grenades when gentler methods are sufficient.  However, some other public officials have not moved on.  Instead of acknowledging SWAT’s use of incendiary grenades, the District Attorney is prosecuting a scapegoat with starting the fires with a BIC cigarette lighter, later found in the debris.  It's a script worthy of Saturday Night Live.  Unless the scapegoat "confesses" in a plea bargain, he may spend the rest of his life in prison.  (More about plea bargaining.)

District Attorneys are notoriously ambitious.  If DA Paige Clarkson can get an arson conviction, she will protect her government cronies from public embarrassment.  And protect the state and county from damages if the scapegoat sues for his injuries and wins.  She’ll get a reputation for being really tough on crime.  She may even become President!

The county judge has discarded the principle of "innocent until proven guilty."  In public pre-trial hearings, he has announced the scapegoat is guilty.  Like a lynching, but without the rope.

And this judge is trying to squelch reportage of publicly verifiable facts.  No, Your Honor, we will not tolerate Show Trials in Marion County.  Or a Marion County gulag, holding the accused in prison until he "confesses."  We would rather have due process of law.  You and the DA are elected public officials.  And yes, we the voters have a right to review your conduct, free of your veiled and chilling threats against free speech and press.


How Did the Story Start?

The District Attorney’s story:  In the morning of 22 January 2019, Kenneth Ketchem was on a crime spree.  He entered the garage of a home in NE Salem; when discovered, he ran off to another address in the 1010 block of Capitol St. NE.  Disturbed again, and still intent on burglary, Ketchem illegally entered nearby 1050 Summer Street, NE.  The police, already on the scene due to his earlier disturbances, ordered him to leave, but he didn’t.  Then the police were told he fired a gun, so the SWAT Team was called.  Fires broke out in the house.  A cigarette lighter—a BIC—was found under the deck. 

Source: Salem Police Department Property Report, Pg. 7 of 15, Bates 00415

Therefore, the District Attorney asserts, Ketchem started the fires.

Kenneth Ketchem’s story:  Ketchem says at no time did he enter anyone's garage.  On that morning of 22 January 2019, Ketchem was looking for a friend’s house but went to a wrong address on Capitol Street, NE.  He and the homeowner at that address had a confrontation.  The homeowner pulled a gun on Ketchem.  (Everyone’s Business will call that homeowner "The Lone Ranger.")  Ketchem fled, but The Lone Ranger, still brandishing the gun, chased him down public thoroughfares.  The District Attorney knows The Lone Ranger’s name and address.  The chase was observed by several witnesses whose names, addresses, and testimonies are known to the District Attorney.  More on that story here: The Lone Ranger Rides Again

Ketchem told Everyone’s Business that he ran to the alley entrance of 1050 Summer Street, NE, seeking shelter from his gun-toting pursuer.  When Mrs. Graves (the lady of the house) opened the door, Ketchem gave his name and explained the situation.  Mrs. Graves ran out the front door.

At that point, there were three occupants of the house at 1050 Summer Street: Ketchem and two pet cats.  Why didn’t the police just wait him out?  But no … Read on!

Mr. Graves (the man of the house) later described ensuing events as "a total clusterfuck."

Source: Incident Supplement, Det. Curtis Abel. Pg. 8 of 10, Bates 00320.

The SWAT Team Arrives

The Lone Ranger’s wife had called the police, so they were already in the neighborhood when Mrs. Graves ran out her front door.  The Lone Ranger, having chased Ketchem, was already on the scene.  The police, using a loudspeaker, ordered Ketchem to leave the Graves’ home.  He did not.

Then came a report that Ketchem fired a shot from a gun and broke a window in the home.  The SWAT Team was called in.

Coincidentally, the report about Ketchem’s gun came from The Lone Ranger who had chased Ketchem with a gun from Capitol St. into the vicinity of 1050 Summer St. NE.

Source: Incident Supplement of Sgt. Andrew Roberts, Pg. 4 of 15, Bates 00225.

But Ketchem’s alleged gun was never found.

Source: Incident Supplement, Det. Jeffrey Gordon, Pg. 5 of 7, Bates [illegible].

Fires Break Out

The SWAT Team’s MRAP vehicle arrived (see pictures below) with other military equipment familiar to audiences of Hollywood high crime dramas: Vests, loudspeakers, tear gas grenades, flash-bangs, grenade launchers, and other such paraphernalia. 

Fires broke out.  Smoke billowed from the house and the air was unbreathable.  Not hearing any coughing or choking, the police realized that Ketchem could not still be alive in the house. 

(For Information on flash-bangs, see March 24, 2019 letter to Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore.  We will be examining flash-bangs in more detail in Tear Gas, Smoke, and Flash-bang Grenades — and the Fires They Cause )

Capture

The police guessed that Ketchem must be hiding under the deck in the back of the house.  Ignoring the manufacturer's warning, they pelted the area under the deck with tear gas grenades.  A 40 MM round struck and penetrated Ketchem’s abdomen and his intestines extruded from the wound.  He crawled out from the deck area and was taken to hospital where he received an emergency operation to save his life.  He was charged with a number of offenses, including arson.  He has been in the Marion County jail ever since.

Now let us examine some elements of the story in greater detail:

 


Sources

  1. [Document without title] Bates 02308.
  2. Incident Notes, 01/22/19 07:42:57, Pg. 2 of 3, Bates 00974.
  3. Incident Summary and Resolution, Pg. 3, Bates 02301.
  4. The Incident Summary and Resolution, Bates 02303, 02304
  5. Incident Supplement, Cpl. Adam Waite, Pg. 3, 6 of 8; Bates 00142, 00145.
  6. Incident Supplement, Det. Andrew McFerron, Pg. 1 of 1, Bates 00017.
  7. Incident Supplement, Det. Anthony Vandekoppel, Pg. 3, 5 of 6; Bates 00160, 00162.
  8. Incident Supplement, Det. Charles Libby, Pg. 5 of 9, Bates 00170
  9. Incident Supplement, Det. Curtis Abel, Pg. 2, 4, 7, 8 of 10; Bates 00314, 00316, 00319, 00320.
  10. Incident Supplement, Det. Daniel Chase, Pg. 4 of 15, Bates 00225.
  11. Incident Supplement, Det. Daniel Tallan, Pg. 2 of 3, Bates 00189.
  12. Incident Supplement, Det. Jeffrey Gordon, Pg. 5 of 7, Bates [illegible].
  13. Incident Supplement, Ofc. Bobby Singleton, Pg 3 of 6, Bates 00173.
  14. Incident Supplement, Ofc. Cole Hughes, Pg. 1 of 3, Bates 00106.
  15. Incident Supplement, Ofc. Court Kirksey, Pg. 2 of 4, Bates 00186.
  16. Incident Supplement, Ofc. Lewis Menges, Pg, 2 of 3, Bates 00104.
  17. Incident Supplement, Ofc. Scott Kofoid, Pg. 2 of 3, Bates 00135.
  18. Incident Supplement of Sgt. Andrew Roberts, Pg. 4 of 15, Bates 00225.
  19. Incident Supplement, Sgt. Matthew Riddle, Pg 1 of 3, Bates 00094.
  20. Salem Fire Department Fire Investigation Report (DFM Parvin), Pg. 2 of 2, Bates 00337.
  21. Salem Fire Department Fire Investigation Report (DFM Poet), Pg. 4, 7, 8 of 12, Bates 00327, 00330, 00331.
  22. Salem Police Department Property Report, Pg. 5, 6, 7, 8 of 15; Bates 00413, 00414, 00415, 00416.
  23. Salem Police Department Response Report, Pg. 1, 5 of 30; Bates 00030, 00034.
  24. Search Warrant dated 22 January 2019 12:06 PM for 1050 Summer St., Bates 00284.
  25. Search Warrant dated 22 January 2019 12:06 PM for the person of Kenneth Ketchem, Bates 11285.

Additional Sources and Sequence of Events

  1. National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, July 10, 2018: "The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It"
  2. Kitsap Sun, 28 Jun 2002: "FIRE MARSHAL'S REPORT: Tear gas canister started deadly fire"
  3. South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 30 May 2001: "Tear Gas Started Pharmacy Fire, Report Says"
  4. Firehouse Forum: "Fires from CS Gas Canisters"
  5. Wikipedia: "Fire class"
  6. US National Library of Medicine: "Tear Gas: An epidemiological and mechanistic reassessment"
  7. Harrington Group: "Metal Fires — Why Water isn’t Always the Best Extinguishing Agent"
  8. 22 Jan 2019: Salem Police Flash Alert: "Update: Burglary suspect in custody" (cached)
  9. 22 Jan 2019: KPTV: "Police: Burglary suspect arrested after barricading himself inside Salem home, setting fire" (cached)
  10. 22 Jan 2019: KOIN6: "Salem burglary suspect arrested after standoff" (cached)
  11. 22 January 2019: KATU/KVAL/KMTR/NBC16: "Police: Burglary suspect sets stranger's home on fire during hours-long standoff in Salem" (cached)
  12. 22 Jan 2019: KYKN: "Salem Police SWAT Take Barricaded Burglary Suspect into Custody" (cached)
  13. 22 Jan 2019: Salem Reporter: "UPDATED: Police remove burglar from Summer Street home after six-hour standoff" (cached)
  14. 22 Jan 2019: USA Breaking News: "Summer Street closed while SWAT responds to burglary in Grant area" (cached)
  15. 12 Feb 2019: Salem Police Officer Kristy Fitzpatrick spoke to the Northgate Neighborhood Association meeting.
  16. 24 Mar 2019: Everyone's Business Open Letter: to Chief of Police of Salem, Jerry Moore.  (Liberty Smith, Ph.D., researcher, consulted on the text.) 
    (Since the letter was written, we have learned that as of 8 February 2019, the accused was represented attorney Jeffery Jones of Salem.)
  17. 3 Apr 2019: Salem Fire Department refused to release the fire marshal's report on the incident.
  18. 4 Apr 2019: Salem Police Lt. Shawn Adams is Emergency Operations Group Commander, in charge of the SWAT team, bomb team, negotiations, and crowd control.  Lt. Adams spoke to the Grant Neighborhood Association, addressing issues raised in the Open Letter of 24 March 2019.  According to Adams, the flash-bangs were detonated outside the house only, though we found no scorch marks on the lawn or pavement around the house.  Additionally, the drape blown through the broken window and hanging outside the house in the news video strongly suggests explosives were used inside.
  19. 9 Apr 2019: In the Marion County Courtroom, Kenneth Ketchem (represented by Jeffrey Jones) pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.
  20. 15 Apr 2019: Everyone's Business Open Letter: We applaud Lt. Shawn Adams for using intelligent, gentle, and appropriate force in handling the April 12 incident at the 200 block of 22nd Street SE in Salem.  No tear gas or flash-bangs.
  21. 16 Jul 2019: Open Letter to the District Attorney for Marion County, Paige Clarkson, voicing our concerns with the conduct of her office.  In this letter, we explain our objections to the charges against Ketchem, the excessive bail, and the County's strategy of charging Ketchem with arson.
  22. 3 Aug 2019 2019: The Graves, property owners, described the event on a local discussion forum:
    You just haven't had your life turned upside down.  I know what I'm talking about … the police used our house as a training field where they unleashed 15 cans of tear gas plus plus plus … they exacerbated a fire closed off the entire street called in two fire trucks, went full metal jacket with about 40 police broke every window in the house - and were afraid to go in the damn house and pull out the unarmed crazy man - the police there are pussies.  and HELL YES I'm mad.  Starting life from nothing at 60.  The police made sure the offender was taken care of at the hospital HOWEVER no one even checked me out.  I ran out of the house in my pj's barefooted in January an spent the day with my husband in the hospital for 4 hours while the police DID NOTHING but made a bad situation worse.  Thank God I didn't sell my house in Arizona!

    … We as victims have been unable to get a police report or fire report as they are "only released to a third party investigator." … Imagine that. … Tear gas grenades are considered chemical weapons and are prohibited in warfare sometimes used for riot control. … They are in themselves incendiary devices THEY START FIRES!!!. … 15 were launched at our home against an unarmed perpetrator. … The unnecessary loss of our home and family is unconscionable. (source)

  23. 6 Aug 2019: The Marion County Court, Judge Hart presiding, scheduled trial for 16 March 2020 to hear the matter.
  24. 20 Sep 2019: Spencer Todd was appointed Ketchem's Public Defender.
  25. 9 Oct 2019: The remediation was finally finished and the property listed for sale (cached).  The listing reveals the extent of the renovation, and hence of the damage:
    Almost new home!  Complete remodel w/all new kitchen & bathrooms, wood floors, doors/trim, windows, siding, paint, electrical, plumbing, furnace, water heater & much more.  Kitchen features shaker cabinets, soft close drawer/doors, quartz counters, new appliances & full tile back-splash.  Amazing wood floors on main level incl BRs.  Gas FP in living rm. 3rd BR upstairs w/2 closets w/barn doors.  Finished basement w/separate entrance, laundry & bath. (cached)
  26. 26 Nov 2019: Ketchem (through Public Defender, Spencer Todd) filed a motion to reduce the bail from $1,000,000 to $215,000.  The prosecution invited the Lone Ranger and the Graves to testify against the motion, and Judge Hart allowed them to testify without taking an oath. 
  27. 9 Jan 2020: Ketchem's Public Defender, Spencer Todd, filed a motion to withdraw from representation, arguing that he did not have Ketchem's confidence.  Judge Hart appointed the law firm of Martin C. Habekost PC of 344 Norway St NE, Salem, OR 97301 to represent Ketchem.
  28. 11 Feb 2020, Everyone's Business published this analysis of the case.