WOODBURN, Ore. - No charges will be filed against two men involved in a shooting following a fender bender.
The incident happened in early February on the Interstate 5 overpass in Woodburn.
LeJeune Bryant, 37, was headed eastbound on the overpass and rear-ended a vehicle driven by 31-year-old Ethan Carey. Bryant said he looked away for a moment and didn't see that traffic in front of him had stopped.
The two men got out and exchanged information but what happened next was the result of a misunderstanding, investigators say. Here's the account from the Marion County District Attorney's Office:
Yesterday a Marion County Grand Jury heard evidence of a non-fatal shooting that occurred on February 9, 2013. On that day Ethan Carey, 31, of Tigard, Oregon, shot LeJeune Bryant, 37, of Woodburn, Oregon, after a minor traffic accident on the Interstate 5 overpass in Woodburn, Oregon.
After hearing all of the evidence, including the testimony of both Mr. Carey and Mr. Bryant the grand jury found that the use of force was justified under the circumstances and declined to file any charges against either party.
The facts of the incident are essentially undisputed and are as follows:
On February 9, 2013, Mr. Bryant was traveling eastbound on Newberg Highway over Interstate 5 at approximately 7:00 p.m. It was dark and wet, and the traffic flow was heavy.
Mr. Bryant looked away from the road momentarily, failed to see that traffic had stopped and accidentally rear-ended the car ahead of him. Mr. Carey was in the front passenger seat of that car, his wife was driving and their two small children were in the backseat. No one was injured in this initial accident and Mr. Bryant and Mr. Carey both got out to inspect their vehicles.
Mr. Bryant and Mr. Carey did not know each other prior to this incident and they agree that neither of them were upset and that they did not argue. Both parties had valid driver's licenses and insurance so they agreed to pull out of traffic and exchange information at a gas station just east of the overpass.
Prior to leaving the scene, Mr. Carey got back out of his car and walked between the two vehicles to take a photograph of Mr. Bryant's front license plate, (this was done to identify the car, in case Mr. Bryant did not go to the gas station as agreed). Mr. Bryant's front license plate appeared bent backwards, and to get an appropriate angle for the photograph Mr. Carey had to kneel down between the two vehicles.
Just as Mr. Bryant was placing his car in drive to leave the scene, he noticed Mr. Carey was again out of his car. Mr. Bryant got out of his car to ask if everything was okay, not realizing his vehicle was still in drive. His car rolled forward and pinned Mr. Carey between the two vehicles.
Mr. Bryant then jumped into his car to back it away from Mr. Carey. His foot, however, slipped from the brake to the gas pedal and he instead drove forward, now crushing Mr. Carey and breaking his collarbone in multiple places.
Mr. Carey heard the engine rev, felt his bones break and believed at that time that Mr. Bryant was trying to kill him.
When Mr. Bryant took his foot off the gas the pressure between the two vehicles lessened and Mr. Carey was able to stand up. As he stood, Mr. Carey reached for his concealed firearm with his right hand. Mr. Bryant, meanwhile, placed his car into reverse.
Upon hearing Mr. Bryant's engine rev, (this time as it went into reverse) Mr. Carey believed he was about to be crushed again and he fired three shots at Mr. Bryant, through the windshield. Mr. Bryant was hit in the chest, the right elbow and the right side of his jaw.
Mr. Carey then told his wife to call 9-1-1, laid his weapon down on the pavement, aimed away from any parties, and waited for the police and ambulance to arrive.
Mr. Carey and Mr. Bryant were both cooperative with the investigation and gave voluntary statements to law enforcement. Both denied alcohol and drug use prior to the incident, and further investigation confirmed that to be the case.
At the time of the incident Mr. Carey had a valid concealed weapons permit. He has never used his weapon in a use of force situation previously, and although he target shoots regularly he has no formal law enforcement or military experience.
Neither Mr. Carey nor Mr. Bryant has any criminal history.
The incident was investigated by the Woodburn Police Department. The Marion County District Attorney's Office presented the evidence to the grand jury and provided them with the applicable law for them to make their decision.
Under Oregon law: "a person is justified in using physical force upon another person for self-defense . . . from what the person reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force, and the person my use a degree of force which the person reasonably believes to be necessary . . . ." (emphasis added). Therefore, the question before the grand jury was whether Mr. Carey's use of force was reasonable under the circumstances as he reasonably perceived them to be.
In addition to the testimony of Mr. Carey and Mr. Bryant, the grand jury had access to photographs, diagrams, medical records and toxicology reports. They also heard evidence from one other witness as well as the lead detective. At the conclusion of the evidence, they determined that Mr. Bryant's actions were accidental and not criminal and that Mr. Carey's use of force was reasonable under the circumstances as he believed them to be at the time.