One dead after shots fired inside Jehovah’s Kingdom Hall
LOWELL, Ore. – One person is dead after a fatal shooting in Lowell, Ore., Wednesday night.
Shots were fired at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses on Pioneer Street.
On Thursday morning the victim was identified as 47-year-old Kenneth Mort of Lowell.
Robert Gonzales, 34, of Eugene was arrested on murder charges. Mort and Gonzales knew each other.
Gonzales fled the scene, sparking a manhunt. Oregon State Police troopers found his abandoned vehicle three miles from the hall.
The search involved Lane County sheriff’s deputies, Oregon State Police troopers, Eugene police officers, police dogs and the Lane County sheriff’s helicopter.
Gonzales was taken to a local hospital for medical treatment of a dog bite injury which occurred during the arrest. Then Gonzales (below) was taken to the Lane County Jail on suspicion of murder.
Shooting victim a Witness elder, suspect a former member
EUGENE, Ore. — Richard Gonzales arrived at the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall on Wednesday night as five elders were leaving a meeting, the sheriff’s office said.
Gonzales forced the five back inside and got into an argument with one of the men, Kenneth Mort, the sheriff’s office said. Investigators said Gonzales shot Mort, then ran from the building.
Gonzales had been a Jehovah’s Witness but no longer is a member of the religion, the sheriff’s office said.
Gonzales knew Mort. In 2002, Mort sought a restraining order against Gonzales. The order was terminated in 2003, according to court records.
Gonzales is currently married to Mort’s ex-wife, the sheriff’s office confirmed. However, investigators do not believe that is a factor in the shooting.
Gonzales has been charged with murder and faced arraignment Thursday afternoon.
He was captured just after midnight Thursday following a manhunt involving a helicopter, multiple law enforcement agencies and police dogs. Police found his car abandoned and later spotted him from the air in a clearing in the woods. Gonzales was taken into custody with the help of a police dog.
Sheriff’s deputies got the original call of a hostage situation at the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall at 8:24 p.m. Wednesday. Deputies investigating an armed robbery in nearby Pleasant Hill, Ore., were the first on scene. They found Mort dead.
Co-workers keep business open
The people Mort worked with at Hitch Pro & Tow in Eugene opened the shop for business as usual Thursday morning.
Mort co-owned the business with Craig Metzger.
“It’s been a real hard day, to lose a great friend and a good man,” Metzger said.
“When we got the tragic news last evening, we discussed what to do,” said Norma Metzger, Mort’s co-worker and longtime friend. “I asked Craig, ‘What do you think Ken would want us to do?’ And he said, ‘I honestly feel, the way Ken felt about his customers, that he would want us to carry on.’ So that’s why we’re here today. This is for Ken.”
Craig Metzger said he and Mort had known each other for 20 years through work.
“We got to become friends and appreciated each other’s work ethics,” Metzger said.
The two decided to go into business together 9 years ago.
“He ran the shop, he was really our main custom fabricator, the creative guy on some of that stuff,” Metzger said. “He was the main guy and trained those guys to be able to do it.”