TO: Mayor Stromberg and the City Council
FROM: Police Chief Tighe O’Meara
SUBJECT: Arrest of Juan Sancho
DATE: July 29, 2020
CC: Adam Hanks, David Lohman
The Oregonian recently released a news story regarding a lawsuit brought by a former Ashland community member and OSF actor against the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. The plaintiff alleges mistreatment and unlawful abuse while he was being held at the Jackson County Jail. The news of this lawsuit has very understandably brought about strong reactions from Ashland residents and greater Rogue Valley community.
This is a summary of the facts from the perspective of Ashland Police officers, who were involved only up to the time Mr. Sancho was lodged at the Jackson County Jail:
- At around 1:00 AM on April 18, 2019, an anonymous caller notified dispatch of a person passed out downtown at Pioneer near E. Main Street.
- When officers arrived on scene, the person, later identified as Juan A. Sancho, was mobile but very intoxicated and moving from sidewalk to street and back.
- The officers got him seated and tried at length to get Mr. Sancho to say where he was staying and whether there was a responsible adult they could leave him with to sober up. Mr. Sancho either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide enough information to assist with this.
- Having no other options, the officers told Mr. Sancho they felt he was not able to safely care for himself and they would therefore have to take him to a detox facility until he could sober up. He initially agreed.
- The officers’ objective was to take Mr. Sancho into protective custody pursuant to ORS 430.399, which reads in part:
(1) Any person who is intoxicated or under the influence of controlled substances in a public place may be sent home or taken to a sobering facility or to a treatment facility by a police officer. If the person is incapacitated, the person shall be taken by the police officer to an appropriate treatment facility or sobering facility. If the health of the person appears to be in immediate danger, or the police officer has reasonable cause to believe the person is dangerous to self or to any other person, the person shall be taken by the police officer to an appropriate treatment facility or sobering facility. A person shall be deemed incapacitated when in the opinion of the police officer the person is unable to make a rational decision as to acceptance of assistance.
- An officer told Mr. Sancho taking him to the detox facility would require that he be handcuffed. This plainly upset Mr. Sancho; but initially he fairly calmly opposed handcuffing efforts. He was told he was not in trouble at that point but could get into trouble if he failed to cooperate.
- Finally, concluding protective detention was not feasible, the officers took Mr. Sancho into custody for resisting arrest and drove him to the Jackson County Jail, where he was lodged on that sole charge.
- Ashland Police officers had no further personal contact with Mr. Sancho.
A day or so later, I contacted the Jackson County District Attorney’s office and requested that the charge of resisting arrest not be filed by the DA’s office. I did this not because I felt the charge was unwarranted, but rather because I thought that an important ongoing dialogue and relationship building effort would be ill-served by pursuing this prosecution. The DA’s office agreed to this request, and the charge was not filed.
The City of Ashland and the Ashland Police Department are not parties in the federal lawsuit filed by Mr. Sancho: the lawsuit is about actions taken by Jackson County Jail corrections deputies after Mr. Sancho was processed into the jail.
Consistent with Oregon Public Records statutes, APD’s audio and video recordings of its officers’ interactions with Mr. Sancho are available upon request through the City Recorder’s office. APD has no recordings of occurrences at the jail.