As an ex-boyfriend attempted to break into her home, allegedly intent on assaulting her both physically and sexually, an unidentified Oregon woman did what everybody’s instructed to do: She called 911.
A dispatcher answered. The woman described the situation, saying, “If he gets in the house, I’m done.”
That’s when the dispatcher advised her to… figure it all out herself.
“Uh, I don’t have anybody to send out there. You know, obviously, if he comes inside the residence and assaults you, can you ask him to go away? Do you know if he’s intoxicated or anything?”
What had actually happened, in the magic phone-land between the 911 call and someone picking up on the other end, was that the woman’s call had been rerouted from the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office to the Oregon State Police. That’s because there wasn’t anyone available at the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office to answer, after there had been layoffs that limited local police service only from Monday through Friday, during business hours. This assault occurred over the weekend, in the wee, pre-dawn Sunday morning hours in August 2012.
As the unidentified woman waited for the eventual intrusion, which ultimately culminated in Michael Bellah allegedly throttling the victim by the throat and sexually assaulting her, the dispatcher offered compassionate reassurance:
“It’s unfortunate you guys don’t have any law enforcement out there.”
Bellah was arrested by State police — after the incident, of course — on charges of kidnapping, sex abuse and assault. He pleaded guilty. His victim told the dispatcher, mid-assault, that Bellah had allegedly put her in the hospital once before, in a similar attack.
The Josephine County Sheriff’s Office let go of 23 deputies, along with its entire Major Crimes Unit, after it lost a major Federal timber subsidy, according to Oregon Public Radio. The U.S. government owns about 70 percent of the land in the county, and property owners have voted down ad valorem tax increases to fund public services. The sheriff’s department now operates with six deputies, who don’t patrol on weekends. It’s not known whether the victim had access to a firearm.
Sheriff Gil Gilbertson has advised residents who fear domestic assaults, which don’t routinely conform to business hours, to consider moving to an area where law enforcement can protect them around the clock.
The sheriff didn’t say anything about citizens arming themselves. Since protecting and serving in rural Oregon counties has become a carrot-and-stick game with Federal subsidies as the victory prize, it’s evidently more important than ever that citizens at least know they’re on their own when it comes to keeping themselves, and their loved ones, safe.
Oregon’s gun laws, for now, are closer to the spirit of the 2nd Amendment than those in many other States, although recent proposed legislation would place new restrictions on residents’ powers to own so-called assault weapons and limit magazine size to 10 rounds.