Oregon corrections officer slain helping motorist



An off-duty prison guard driving to work in Eastern Oregon was killed after stopping to help a stranded motorist.

Authorities said Tuesday they arrested a suspect when he rolled the victim’s pickup truck in a farm field south of Hermiston, Ore., following an 18-minute pursuit by police.

Joshua Charles Weeks, 22, of Portland, was held in the Umatilla County Jail on one count of murder, and would be arraigned Wednesday, Umatilla County District Attorney Dan Primus said.

Buddy Ray Herron, 42, a guard at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton, was driving to work late Monday night when he pulled over to help a stranded motorist, and was attacked, Oregon Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jennifer Black said.

Police told the East Oregonian newspaper that Herron phoned 911 to report he had been stabbed and his pickup truck stolen. He died after being taken to a Pendleton hospital.

After the report went out, Stanfield Police Officer Nat Hughes spotted the truck headed west on Interstate 84 about 30 miles west of Pendleton, said Stanfield Police Chief Bryon Zumwalt.

Hughes could not get the pickup truck to stop, Zumwalt said. Weeks left the freeway, and headed south, rolling the truck in a farm field. By then several law enforcement agencies were on hand, and state police took Weeks to jail. Throughout the chase, speeds never went over 65 mph.

Primus said no firearms were involved, but he declined to discuss other details of the case, saying it remained under investigation.

Herron, of the Umatilla County community of Helix, was married with four children, and had worked at the medium-security Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution for four years, Black said.

“He will be missed at the OCI,” she said. “It’s a small community. I know they are all upset and thinking of his wife and kids.”

Herron’s next-door neighbor, 71-year-old Carolyn Mildenberger, told The Oregonian, “If you needed help, Buddy was the first one to help.”

She said Herron would wait until she left her home, then quickly mow her lawn.

“I’d say, ‘Buddy, you did it again!” she told the Portland paper. “And he’d say, ‘The Yard Gnome did it.’ “

Weeks’ Facebook page shows him holding a rifle with other armed men. He describes himself as someone who has battled methamphetamine addiction, spent time in jail, and fathered a 2-year-old girl, declaring he loved her even though he could not be with her. He wrote that he worked as a stacker at a Portland lumber mill.

Weeks had been convicted of forgery in Umatilla County, Primus said.

He never served time in a state prison, Black said.

The Oregonian reported that a Subaru stolen in Portland was left at the scene of the attack.

Rickey Neth, who is married to the mother of Joshua Weeks, told the Portland paper that he was awakened late Monday at his Pendleton-area home by his dogs barking. He said he saw a dark-colored Subaru in his driveway. His shop light was on and the door was open so he said he called 911, grabbed a gun and ran outside to see a large man running toward the car.

An officer quickly arrived at Neth’s home while other officers took off in pursuit of the man who broke into his shop.

Neth told The Oregonian he believes his 911 call helped lead to the arrest.

Primus said authorities are still working out the details of events leading up to and following Herron’s death.