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Deputies cleared in Aloha woman's death

Phyllis Jepsen shot to death coming at officers while brandishing a hunting knife


Washington County Sheriff's OfficeThe Washington County District Attorney’s Office has cleared two Sheriff’s deputies who shot and killed an Aloha woman as she came at them with a hunting knife last fall.

After less-lethal rounds failed to stop Phyllis Ilene Jepsen as she advanced on deputies early in the evening Oct. 2, two of them shot her with nine rounds. She was taken to Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital, where she later died.

Jepsen, 55, had a long history of suicidal thoughts and attempts dating at least to the 1990s and had told different deputies on a call just two days before her shooting that having police kill her “would be better,” according to a letter to Sheriff Pat Garrett from Bracken McKey, a senior deputy district attorney.

McKey’s letter detailed the findings of Tualatin Detective Kevin Winfield, a member of Washington County’s Major Crimes Team. It was dated Jan. 22 and released through the Sheriff’s Office a week later.

Details in this article are based on Winfield’s findings as outlined by McKey.

Toxicology test results found that at the time of her death Jepsen’s blood alcohol content was 0.23 percent, nearly three times the legal limit for driving, and that she also had marijuana and an anti-psychotic medicine in her bloodstream.

Deputies were called to the scene shortly before 5 p.m. on Oct. 2 after Jepsen’s daughter-in-law reported that the woman had threatened her with the hunting knife.

Deputies arriving shortly after 5 p.m. found Jepsen inside a pickup truck outside her residence at the Patrician Apartments on Southwest Shaw Street. She already was bleeding from having cut herself in the neck, chest and abdomen multiple times, including an apparent attempt to remove a surgically implanted medical device.

Before two minutes had passed, as deputies secured the scene and formed a plan, Jepsen got out of the pickup and started coming toward them.

Deputy Dennis Strange first struck Jepsen with four rounds using a 40-milimeter foam baton launcher designed to incapacitate someone without killing them. But the rounds had little effect on Jepsen as she kept advancing while brandishing the knife.

Cpl. John McCullough and Deputy Matt Humphrey then fired multiple shots at Jepsen, who fell to the ground 10 to 15 feet from the deputies.

All three deputies were veterans with 10 to 12 years of police experience at the time of the shooting.

McKey said the circumstances of the situation proved McCullough and Humphrey were justified in acting with lethal force. (Strange didn't use lethal force.)

McKey noted in the letter that the case would not be presented to a grand jury because there was no suggestion that the deputies' actions were criminal in any way.