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New details emerge in the Gary Buford case

by:  Gary Buford

New details have emerged in the case of Gary Buford, who faces criminal charges in connection with a check of tree-cutting activity on his property last spring.

Buford, 73, was indicted last year on charges of assault of a public safety officer, interference with a peace officer, obstruction of governmental administration and harassment, as well as resisting arrest.

The case stems from an incident on April 14, 2011, when police accompanied city staff members to Buford's home on Camelot Court in response to a complaint about tree cutting, a possible civil violation.

After viewing stacked logs on Buford's 3.8-acre property from a nearby yard, a city code enforcement officer and arborist served a search warrant to Buford to measure stumps in his yard. They brought along a police officer.

Until now, few details have been available to the public about the physical altercation that occurred during the visit, although police did acknowledge that back-up was called and an officer was later treated at a nearby hospital for a human bite.

But court records filed by Clackamas County Deputy District Attorney Lewis Burkhart give the following account of what happened the afternoon of April 14, 2011, at the Buford residence:

n City officials served Buford with a warrant. Buford then requested to see the affidavit and any attached photos. Lake Oswego Police Lt. Doug Treat reportedly tried to calm him down, but he kept requesting the photos.

n Treat directed Bill Youngblood, the city's code enforcement specialist, to continue his investigation. As Buford reached out toward Youngblood, Treat grabbed Buford's hand and told him he couldn't touch Youngblood.

n Using both hands, Buford allegedly pushed Treat on his chest. Treat stepped backward, and Buford advanced in his direction, reportedly pushing him 15 to 20 times.

n Treat called for backup after Buford allegedly ignored his requests to stop pushing him and settle down. Treat warned Buford he would be arrested if he didn't comply with the orders.

n Officer Bryan Sheldon responded at about 3:08 p.m. - roughly a half hour after the others had arrived - and moved toward Buford to arrest him. But he stopped after Treat told him they didn't need to make an arrest. Buford then walked back into his house, and he and his wife reportedly began making phone calls to people.

n Lake Oswego resident Lauren Hughes was stopped at the driveway by police as she arrived at the house. Buford then left the house, allegedly ignoring Treat's command to stay put, and ran down the driveway toward Hughes' vehicle. Treat followed and asked Buford to come back to the house, but Buford reportedly refused to comply.

n Treat told him he was under arrest and grabbed his right arm. Buford allegedly began 'violently' attempting to break free of his grasp. Sheldon then grabbed one of Buford's arms, and another officer who had arrived assisted. Buford allegedly kept trying to pull away as the three officers tried to gain control of him.

n Police took him to the ground. At that point, Buford allegedly bit Sheldon's left pinkie finger, an injury that required several stitches.

n Treat put handcuffs on Buford, who reportedly kept 'jerking about' on the ground.

Betty and Gary Buford have declined to comment on the case, and so details of their side of the story remain untold.

But supporters of Gary Buford have defended his innocence in online comments on Lake Owego Review articles. Some have questioned the use of the word 'bite' in connection with the police officer's injury, suggesting any contact between someone's teeth and his skin - if that occurred - could have been accidental rather than intentional.

Buford has been a vocal critic of the city's sensitive lands protections, a program that, like the city's tree ordinance, places regulations on treed areas in Lake Oswego, including public or private properties.

Last summer, he rejected a plea offer that would have required him to perform community service; as a result, he could serve jail time if convicted.

Buford's case is scheduled for trial Tuesday.