Investigation of Waitsburg Road Shooting Concludes, No Charges Filed

Emily Lin-Jones

An investigation into last week’s shooting incident on Lower Waitsburg Road has turned up evidence that the shots fired were not intended to hit or warn the students who heard them while running.

“We found no legal violations from these guys that were out there [shooting],” said Barry Blackman, chief operations deputy of the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Department. “We’ve determined that there was shooting going on, but it was in a direction away from the students.”

Sophomores Joe Heegaard and Ryan Jacobsen were running near the intersection of Lower Waitsburg Road and Robison Ranch Road on Saturday, Feb. 3, when they heard what sounded like rifle shots landing on the road nearby. The students reported the incident to Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland the following day and filed a report with the Walla Walla sheriff’s office.

Investigators from the sheriff’s department, including a firearms expert, traced the origin of the shots to a shooting range on nearby property and concluded that the shooters were not firing in the direction of the students. The investigators speculated that the day’s foggy conditions might have confused the witnesses about the direction and location of the gunfire.

Heegaard said that he’s satisfied with the final results of the investigation. Neither he nor Jacobsen intend to press charges.

“Ryan and I are totally fine with that conclusion. We’re just kind of hoping the whole thing can be put behind us,” he said.

Cleveland, who sent out an email to student and faculty mailing lists last week advising against running or biking in the area where the shots were heard, retracted that warning in light of the new information.

“The sheriff’s department did a thorough investigation,” he said. “I think it’s safe; the sheriff’s department thinks it’s safe.”

Despite the results of this particular investigation, representative of the sheriff’s department emphasized that all reports filed are taken seriously.

“We want the Whitman campus to know that public safety is our utmost concern,” he said. “We would rather look into something and find out it’s okay than let something unsafe go unreported.”