BANDON — Coos County District Attorney Paul Frasier will not be filing criminal charges against the officers involved in the fatal shooting of Robert Foster, 65, earlier this month in Bandon.
After investigating the Nov. 3 incident, Frasier found all six officers justified in their use of deadly force and discovered evidence that showed Foster’s intention to commit ‘suicide by cop.'
According to a press release by Frasier, it was determined that Foster had planned out his confrontation with officers by placing several explosive materials in his truck, arming himself with multiple guns and refusing to speak with negotiators after numerous attempts.
“The evidence suggests that Foster was trying to cause the police to believe he was going to set off the explosive device in the pickup in hopes the police would shoot him before he could do so,” Frasier said in the press release. “The police did not do so. When that did not work, Foster then pointed the shotgun at officers and fired one round.”
Officers returned fire and stuck Foster six times. Paramedics and law enforcement officials attempted to aid him, but Foster was pronounced dead shortly after.
Coos County Sheriff's Department Deputy Matt Whitmer, left, and Bandon Rural Fire Department Chief Lanny Boston work Saturday at the scene of …
During the four-hour standoff, law enforcement flew two drones over Foster’s truck, which was parked in a field behind the Faith Baptist Church, showing several milk jugs filled with gasoline, an oxygen tank and a propane tank inside. It also revealed Foster holding a .38 caliber pistol and a shotgun.
“The items in the back of the truck were examined and it was determined that there was not any type of a detonator in the back of the truck that could have exploded the gasoline, the propane tank or the oxygen tank,” Frasier said. “Foster did go through efforts to make it appear that he had rigged some sort of a detonator to explode these items.”
Following the shooting, all six officers were interviewed as well as witnesses and other law enforcement officials on scene that day. The investigation concluded that the officers believed they were in danger of their lives and acted accordingly under Oregon laws in using deadly force.
Foster had a history of mental health issues and a criminal background which included convictions in California for false imprisonment, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon as well as grand theft.
He had been a client of Coos County Health and Wellness’ mental division, where patient records revealed Foster had threatened suicide, was offered services and taken to the hospital on several occasions between July 2017 and November 2018.
On October 11, Bandon Police Department’s Chief Bob Webb and a Coos County Sheriff’s Office deputy responded to an attempted suicide by Foster on the Coquille River Bridge. Foster had tied a rope around his neck and to the bridge.
He was tackled by the officers and taken to Bay Area Hospital on a mental hold. Foster was later released after he told an evaluator he was no longer suicidal.
On October 30, Foster returned to Bay Area Hospital after he threatened to commit suicide by shooting himself with a gun. Later that same day, Coos Bay Police officers transported Foster back to the hospital after he threatened to kill himself a second time by jumping off a pier into the bay.
On both occasions, Foster underwent an evaluation and was released after he denied being suicidal.
“What happens in some cases is that an individual who is threatening suicide is brought to the hospital by the police or a mental health worker on an involuntary basis,” Frasier said in the press release. “When the evaluator meets with that individual, the evaluator will ask questions to determine if the person at the time of evaluation is suicidal.”
Under the law, if a person tells an evaluator at the time of their interview they are not suicidal the hospital can no longer hold the person against their will, said Frasier.
The involved officers included North Bend Police Detective Ryan Doyle, Coquille Police Officer Justin Gray, Coos County Sheriff’s Office deputies Theron Coleman and Aaron Whittenberg as well as Oregon State Police troopers Ben Cordes and Shaelon Ross.
“The evidence is unequivocal that Foster pointed a loaded shotgun and fired one round at the officers trying to help him,” Frasier said. “The officers’ actions in returning fire were justified under the law.”