One Tuesday morning last June, 15-year old Jared Michael Padgett walked into Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon carrying a guitar case and a military duffel bag. Inside the cases were an AR-15 assault rifle, a handgun, and nine clips of ammunition. Donning the military vest he reportedly "was always wearing," he fatally shot a classmate and wounded a teacher with the rifle before turning the gun on himself. A 911 caller told dispatchers that "blood [was] everywhere" in the locker room.
Now, Padgett's brother is asking for his rifle back. Yesterday, a judge said the city of Troutdale has to prove it needs the weapon and the ammunition as evidence or it will have to return it all to brother Lucas Padgett, who claims he is the "lawful owner of the property," reported KOIN News of Portland.
Just after the shooting, Lucas told police that his brother had stolen the equipment from him and used it in the shooting. The two shared a bedroom.
“These items belong to me, I have never been charged with any offense connected herewith,” Lucas Padgett wrote in court documents filed last month. “I am entitled to their return and there is no legal impediment to my possession of said property.” The property is no longer needed for "evidentiary purposes," he wrote.
In court on Wednesday, Troutdale city attorney Ed Trompke suggested that the gun and other equipment might have blood or other DNA evidence on it, reported the Oregonian. Lucas acknowledged that this might be the case, but still said he wanted it back. He has been in the U.S. Army Reserve since 2010, he said, and the duffle bag that was found on the scene belongs to the military. If he doesn't recover the bag, he might be fined, he suggested.
The city has 40 days to prove that it needs to keep the equipment for evidence, a burden it is unlikely to meet since there are no active criminal cases involving the firearms, said the judge. After the shooting, police announced that no charges would be filed against Lucas or his father, who owned the handgun, since they had taken steps to secure and lock their firearms.
"The thought of the weapons that … were used to commit that horrific crime going back into the community is objectionable, in sort of a general moral outrage sense. For sure, I get that," the judge said.
The guns that were used in the Columbine shooting in Littleton, Co., were "burned or shredded" over the course of several years, a Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spokesperson told Fusion.
"But unless there is a law prohibiting it," the judge continued, "then the law as I read it requires that the property be returned."
Photo: The family of Emilio Hoffman, the victim of the school shooting, weeps at a candlelight vigil on June 10, 2014 in Troutdale, Oregon. (Natalie Behring/Getty Images)
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.