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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Clackamas County, Oregon, 12/05/2005

A determined ex-con gave officers all they could handle in a fight, forcing a sergeant to make a fateful decision.

April 12, 2011  |  by - Also by this author

Upon their release back into society, some ex-cons find retaining their freedom is largely a matter of marshaling inner resolve and reforming. Others less enamored with notions of conformity emerge from incarceration with their sociopathology intact, but no less committed to the prospect of retaining their liberty. That their natures and goals might be antagonistic to one another is moot: They are what they are. They will do what they have to do.

Case in point, Donald Graham. On paper Graham hardly rendered the most intimidating of sketches: 44 hard-earned years behind him, not much promise ahead of him, and at 5 feet 8 inches and 165 pounds, no heavyweight contender.

But some things can't be broken down by words or numbers, and Graham's formidable toughness was one of them. Seemingly as insensate to his own pain as that he inflicted on others, Graham also possessed a reputation as a man who backed his words. And no promise meant more to him than the one he'd made his wife that he'd never go back to prison. He'd do what he had to do.

So when a Clackamas County deputy sheriff attempted to stop the Grahams' car on the afternoon of Dec. 15, 2005, it came as no surprise to Mrs. Graham that her husband immediately jumped out of the vehicle and fled on foot, leaving her to face the authorities for a vehicular hit and run.

K-9 Available

Sgt. Pete Tutmark of the Clackamas County (Ore.) Sheriff's Office was on his way to work when he copied radio traffic advising of Graham's flight and that a containment had been effected in a rural area near Sunnyside Road. Responding to the command post, Tutmark began assisting in a search with his K-9, a Belgian Malinois named "Rex."

Rex picked up a scent and started tracking. But as the minutes ticked by and the weather worsened, the scent quickly dissipated and the mission evolved from a tracking search to an area search. When two hours had passed and the only thing the searchers had to show for it was chattering teeth, the decision was made to break down the containment.

Returning to the station to warm up, Tutmark learned that detectives' conversations with Graham's wife and daughter had proved profitable.

Tutmark now knew that somewhere in the darkness was an ex-con who had only months before been released from prison. The conviction that had put him there in the first place stemmed from Graham's violent assault of two coastal officers two decades before. One of the Oregon officers had been kicked in the head so viciously that he'd nearly died, and to this day suffered recurrent headaches from the attack.

Bad Flu

Shortly after 8:30 p.m., a call came into the station from an elderly woman. The informant told dispatch that she lived near the area that had been searched earlier and that a man in his 40s wearing a dark jacket had just knocked on her door. The stranger had mentioned something about "cops looking for somebody" and that she should call the police station. The man had then slipped off into the darkness.

Donald Graham had reemerged on the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office radar.

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