By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Bend Police officers were justified when they fired 14 rounds at a severely intoxicated woman following a wild car chase last month that started at the St. Charles hospital parking lot in Bend and ended near Brothers, District Attorney John Hummel announced Friday.
Danielle Bower, 29, was struck four or five times, Hummel said, when two officers believed she was trying to back up and strike one of them after her van drove into a snowy ditch.
Bower survived the shooting.
“Danielle Bower’s decisions to drive while impaired by alcohol, and to flee from law enforcement officers in her minivan, constituted crimes. However, the mere fact of committing a crime should never, standing alone, result in a person being shot by law enforcement officers,” Hummel said in a statement. “Ms. Bower was shot by two Bend Police Officers because when her car was stopped off the roadway after a pursuit, three officers approached Ms. Bower on foot with guns drawn and yelled at her to stop, yet she put her minivan in reverse and floored the accelerator, propelling her minivan toward one of the officers and his K-9 partner. Fortunately for all involved, the three officers were not injured, and Danielle Bower, while shot, survived and is recovering.”
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Bend Police Chief Jim Porter released a statement following the DA’s report.
“In the early morning hours of March 9th, Sgt. Russell, Officer Williams and Officer Umnitz served with honor and distinction as they protected the citizens of Bend. Russell, Williams, and Umnitz were faced with an exceptional set of dangerous circumstances, which District Attorney John Hummel has accurately pointed out in his findings. Russell and Williams only responded with force after Ms. Bower’s actions placed Officer Umnitz at risk of serious physical injury.
“There is little doubt the swift actions of the three officers on scene were crucial to Ms. Bower’s survival. They immediately administered advanced first aid while calling for an air ambulance. When it was determined the air ambulance was unable to respond, they quickly moved Ms. Bower to their police vehicle and transported her back to the Bend area while continuing to provide her with medical care.” Porter said
Bower’s attorney, TJ Spear of Bend, could not be reached for comment.
The findings are part of a nine-page DA report recounting a bizarre series of events from the early morning hours of March 9th.
Hummel’s report details a wild night that started with Bower, her fiancee Stephen Horne and a friend, Joshua Mondragon, getting together for drinks at Bower’s home.
Police got involved around 2:45 a.m. when a security guard at St. Charles alerted police to Bower, who had arrived there bloodied. When police tried to talk to the woman and ask her if she was OK, Hummel said she fled from police, starting a lengthy chase in which she was swerving from curb to curb and across lanes of traffic, stretching from Downtown Bend to Pinebrook Boulevard, 15th street and eventually to Highway 20 East toward Brothers.
It ended around 4 a.m. on the side of a snowy road about 40 miles from Bend when Bower was shot and injured.
Hummel’s report said once Bower’s van eventually came to rest in the ditch, Officer Victor Umnitz and his K-9 partner approached it from behind near the driver’s door expecting her to jump out and run away.
As he approached, Umnitz yelled for Bower to get her hands up before seeing the backup lights of the van come on and hearing the engine rev like it was being floored, Hummel said. Umnitz then saw the van jerk backward towards him.
“Seconds before Officer Umnitz saw the minivan accelerate toward him, Officers (Tim) Williams and Sgt. (Tommy) Russell saw Ms. Bower put her hand on the column shifter and move it to the left, into the “reverse” position. When she did this, Sgt. Russell drew his pistol and yelled “stop!” at her. Officer Williams already had his rifle deployed as he approached the minivan. Sgt. Russell and Officer Williams then saw the minivan quickly accelerate backwards in the direction of Officer Umnitz and his K-9,” the report said.
Read the full report below:District Attorney Decision March 9 2020 Bend PD OIS 2
When the van accelerated backward, Russell and Williams shot their guns toward Bower. Russell shot eight rounds and Williams shot six, Hummel said. Bower was struck by four or five bullets (at least one from each officer) as well by shrapnel from bullets and broken glass.
“When interviewed, Sgt. Russell and Officer Williams said they discharged their weapons to prevent Ms. Bower from striking Officer Umnitz with her minivan,” Hummel said. “Both Sgt. Russell and Officer Williams state that they discharged their weapons to stop Ms. Bower from striking Officer Umnitz. Their statements were credible, consistent, and I find them to be true.”
New information released Friday detail what led to the chase, including why Bower was initially outside the entrance to St. Charles at 3 a.m. covered in blood.
“Here’s what we know: Back at Ms. Bower’s house, what police found was unusual. When officers arrived at her house at 3:30 a.m., they found two adult males, Ms. Bower’s fiancé, Stephen Horne and another adult male, Joshua Mondragon, as well as two small children ages 6 and 2,” Hummel said.
The officers saw blood on the ground in the living room and blood droplets and smeared blood throughout the house, he said.
“Mr. Horne had been drinking, was highly intoxicated and had dried blood on his lips and hands,” Hummel said. “Mr. Mondragon had blood on his face, hands and body and was highly intoxicated, to the point of near-incoherence.”
Officers asked if they knew where Bower and the two men said she wasn’t home and asked what was going on.
Mr. Horne told officers they had been drinking earlier that night and at some point “Mondragon had become wasted and started going crazy,” Hummel’s report said.
“He said Mr. Mondragon had tried to fight him. Mr. Horne said that at some point during the struggle, Mr. Mondragon went crazy and attacked both he and Ms. Bower. Mr. Horne said that he had to choke Mr. Mondragon out. Mr. Horne said that Ms. Bower left while he was fighting Mr. Mondragon, but he was not sure how long that had been.”
“When receiving care at the hospital, Ms. Bower told her caregivers that she, Mr. Horne, and Mr. Mondragon had all been drinking at her house, that Mr. Mondragon had become violent, that she got between Mr. Mondragon and Mr. Horne, and Mr. Mondragon struck her.
“Ms. Bower’s blood-alcohol level at the hospital was .277 (more than three times higher than Oregon’s per se DUII legal limit) at 5:39 AM, which was approximately three hours after she left her home,” Hummel said. “There is no evidence Ms. Bower drank alcohol after she left her home, so her blood alcohol level was likely even higher when she was at home.”
Hummel also said Bower’s nose was broken and there was no evidence the injury happened during the encounter with police.
“Detectives and I investigated this incident at the Bower home with an eye toward determining if one or more of the three involved people committed a crime,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we don’t know what happened. The three witnesses were extremely intoxicated, to the state of near incoherence, so their statements are unreliable. Toxicology results from all three show no drugs other than alcohol in their systems. And the physical and forensic evidence, in the absence of one or more reliable witnesses, does not tell us the complete story.
“It’s reasonable to assume that a drunken scuffle occurred for an unknown reason and this is what caused Ms. Bower’s broken nose, but this is a mere assumption. Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where the fog of intoxication results in the involved parties and the public not knowing for sure what happened,” Hummel said.
Hummel said they still aren’t sure exactly why Bower fled from police that morning, but she told officers from her hospital bed that she knew she was drunk and did not want to be arrested for that.
“Another possibility is that she sustained a head injury during the incident at her house and this, coupled with her excessive alcohol consumption, resulted in her acting irrationally,” Hummel said. “This theory is supported by medical records that indicate Ms. Bower sustained a subarachnoid hemorrhage that evening that may have been the result of an assault at her house.”
Bower will be charged next month with DUII, fleeing/attempting to elude, reckless driving and six counts of recklessly endangering another person, Hummel said.
“She is not charged now due to my desire to limit court hearings due to the risk of COVID-19,” Hummel said.