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Mystery shrouds Jared Padgett's turn to violence

Family described as 'good neighbors, nice people'


How could it happen? That’s what friends, neighbors and family members of Jared Padgett are asking. Where were the clues that this seemingly ordinary 15-year-old would turn into a killer?

How could this boy — armed to the teeth, dressed in a flak jacket and helmet and carrying hundreds of rounds of ammunition — kill a fellow student, wound a teacher and then turn his own gun on himself when cornered by police?

These are questions being asked as police continue their investigation into the June 10 shooting at Reynolds High School. Part of that investigation will undoubtedly examine Jared Padgett’s life at home.

The Padgett family, headed by father Michael Padgett, lives in a tidy house in the Rockwood neighborhood on Couch Street, a quiet block surrounded by single-story, single-family homes. The only thing slightly out of the ordinary is a sign on the left side of the house that reads, “Dog Warning. Potentially Dangerous Dog on Premises.”

by: MULTNOMAH COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE PHOTO - Michael Padgett, father of Reynolds High School shooter Jared Padgett, is shown here in a sheriff's office mug shot after his 2012 arrest for driving under the influence of intoxicants. He has two DUIIs and 10 other infractions on his driving record.Michael Padgett also has a history of encounters with police for traffic violations, which include arrests for driving under the influence of intoxicants.

Most people in the neighborhood didn’t answer the knock on their doors by an Outlook reporter, and one house across the street from the Padgett home had a bright yellow sign on the door that read, “No Media Please!...Pray for all the families.”

On Monday, June 16, not quite a week after the shooting, a neighbor one door to the west of the Padgett home, who gave his name as Floyd, was working in his front yard. He said he was very sad about the tragic events and felt for the Padgett family.

“They are good neighbors and nice people. It’s a tragedy and I’m sorry for them, for both families,” he said, referring to the shooting victim, 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman.

A funeral for Jared Padgett was held Monday, and Floyd, who said he would prefer not to give his last name, said he planned to attend.

“It’s very sad. When it’s so close to home, it hurts,” he said.

The Padgett family has stayed away from their home since the shooting, said family spokesman Deon Strommer, but Michael Padgett drove back to his house Monday morning and came to his door briefly to speak with The Outlook.

“I am just numb,” he said. “We are devastated and I really can’t talk right now. I am completely devastated for both families.”

Strommer described Michael Padgett as a “hard-working, easy to talk to kind of fellow,” who was an active bicyclist and very involved with the activities of his five children.

“They all played music,” he said, and were regular churchgoers. They belong to the Hartley Park Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Gresham.

Strommer said he had known Jared for the past five years, usually seeing him twice a week at youth night at the church, Boy Scouts or youth basketball.

“He was a regular churchgoer and that’s what’s really difficult — we teach them better,” he said. “The whole family went to church and it’s really hard for people to understand.”

Strommer said he had never known Jared to use drugs and he wasn’t like “a trench coat kid who lived in the basement,” just a normal kid.

“Jared was not that guy,” he said. “If you were new, he would make you feel welcome, always. It was totally out of character.”

Unlike some of his classmates who said Jared was obsessed with guns, Strommer said he wasn’t aware of that.

“They were sports gun people and (his brother) Luke had just returned from Afghanistan a few months ago, and his dad had been in the military,” Strommer said. “Jared knew guns from Boy Scout camp and things like clay pigeon shooting, and he had a healthy respect for guns. But I never knew him to sit around and talk about them.”

Jared never expressed any radical ideas at church, Strommer said, and he was outgoing and active in track, hiking and bicycling.

“Either he was a master at covering things up or, apparently, he never had someone to share with,” he said. “It (the shooting) obviously took some planning, but whether it was weeks or not, we don’t know.”

The Padgett family had troubles like any family, but nothing that would point to extreme violence. Strommer said Michael and Kristina Padgett were divorced four or five years ago. Kristina lives in Vancouver, Wash., and the children live with their father in Gresham.

Public records show Michael Padgett has been arrested twice for driving under the influence of intoxicants, the first in December 2001, when he went through diversion, and the most recent in June 2012.

Public records also show a total of 10 traffic infractions unrelated to his DUIIs over the past 21 years. They ranged from speeding violations to failure to wear his seat belt.

But exactly how did Jared get the guns? That information hasn’t been released. At least 60 investigators from state, federal and local agencies are working to piece together the events that led up to the shooting, said Lt. Joel Wendland of the Troutdale Police Department.

Investigators have not released information as to how Jared Padgett got access to the assault rifle and handgun he carried into the school.

He said another briefing is due Thursday, but he doesn’t know if any information will be made public at that time.

“It could take a couple more weeks,” he said, before any more details are released.

Unlike the mother of the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., the Padgett family does not seem to be the focus of community backlash, and state Sen. Ginny Burdick has even received a death threat for saying Michael Padgett should be held criminally responsible for not properly securing firearms in his home.

But Jared Padgett’s actions were out of character, Strommer said, and his motive remains a mystery.

“He had a huge personality and last week (he) gave me this big hug and talked about plans for Father’s Day,” Strommer said. “No one saw any signs and no episodes of depression. I would list him as a good kid with a good support system. But none of it will be a good reason and none of it will bring Emilio back.”

Shelly Brady, local spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the church released the following statement:

“With the entire community, we are shaken and profoundly troubled by this tragedy that has impacted the lives of so many families and individuals. We are praying for all those involved, and hope they will be given the peace they need during this difficult time.”

Michael and Kristina Padgett also released a letter of apology which can be viewed in its entirety on The Outlook website at http://bit.ly/SJnbid. It states, in part:

“We are at a loss as to how and why this tragedy unfolded. Our family does not condone and has never promoted violence or hatred toward anyone. The values that we have taught our children are love in Jesus Christ, compassion, forgiveness and patience...we are horrified and distraught by the actions perpetuated by our son.”




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