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Hopefully the decision of Columbia County District Attorney Stephen Atchison not to pursue charges against a Scappoose homeowner who shot and killed an intruder during the wee hours of Oct. 5 will lay to rest once and for all the second-guessing and finger-pointing surrounding this unfortunate incident.

After three months of research and analysis, Atchison has laid out in painstaking detail what was obvious from the very beginning - that Gary Stewart, an off-duty Portland police officer, acted in self-defense when he fatally wounded Jeffrey Dean Turpin after Turpin showed up wielding a handgun and pounding on the door of Stewart's home.

Atchison was under extra pressure to get it right because Stewart is a police officer and, as such, must be held to the highest standards of professional conduct - both when he is on duty and also when he is off duty and at home, as he was in this case.

Critics of the police have held that, as trained professionals, Stewart and a handful of other police officers arrived at the scene before the shooting went down should have been able to subdue Turpin without exerting deadly force. Such criticism is unfounded, unfair and calls for speculation.

Numerous witnesses provided essentially the same account of the events that transpired that night. Those accounts boiled down to this: A man showed up in the middle of the night shirtless, barefoot, screaming, delusional and waving a gun. Who wouldn't fear for their life if someone exhibiting those behaviors showed up on their front porch and started beating on the door?

Unfortunately, police officers are subject to a lot of criticism, and most of it unfair. Certainly there are some bad actors that reflect poorly on the rest, but nothing about the facts of this case or in Stewart's background indicate he was anything but an exemplary peace officer.

The real villain in this case, and the one that is properly the target of public scorn, outrage and wrath, is a drug called methamphetamine, which turns healthy human beings into dangerous animals. Toxicology reports released by the State Medical Examiner's Office showed that methamphetamine was coursing through Turpin's blood. That explains a lot about his behavior and, ultimately his downfall - he was amped up on meth.

The hard, cold fact is that meth users usually end up dead. If the meth itself doesn't kill them, then some kind of violent act will - a bullet, a car wreck, a bad fall, suicide or some kind of accident. Those who don't die are almost sure to end up in prison. Less than 5 percent of those who get hooked on meth will recover and go on to live clean and sober lives … it's that addictive.

Taking meth is like playing Russian roulette with five live rounds in the chamber - it is a death wish.

That's the bottom line in Jeff Turpin's tragic death - he had a death wish stoked by a drug called methamphetamine. The real killers are the soulless monsters who manufacture this horrible drug, as are their minions, the people who distribute it for money - blood money. They are the real culprits in this case and the ones who got their meat hooks into Jeff Turpin. If you are inclined to criticize the police, then criticize them for not getting to the drug manufacturers and dealers soon enough. R.S.

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