Army veteran shot by police at VA clinic faces charges
By ANDREW SELSKY | Associated Press | Published: January 30, 2018
SALEM, Ore. — An Army veteran who was shot during a confrontation inside a Veterans Affairs clinic in Oregon where he went to seek help for mental problems was in jail Tuesday, charged with attempted assault, unlawful use of a weapon, menacing and other crimes.
Gilbert "Matt" Negrete allegedly displayed a knife Thursday after arriving at the clinic in White City, where he had an appointment. The Jackson County Sheriff's Office said VA police tried "less-lethal force options" to disarm Negrete before one of the officers fired, hitting him in the chest. Negrete, 34, was flown to a hospital in nearby Medford. No one else was injured.
Negrete was released from the hospital Saturday and is in the county jail with bail set at $250,000, Deputy District Attorney Laura Cromwell told The Associated Press. Negrete was arraigned Monday via a video hookup from jail, Cromwell said. He is being provided with a public defender.
Authorities will convene a grand jury later this week which will determine whether to indict Negrete, Cromwell said in a telephone interview. She anticipates that his attorney will urge the grand jury to take Negrete's military history into account. At least five of seven jurors must concur for the case to move forward.
The grand jury will also review the police officer's actions. A grand jury is convened every time there is an officer-involved shooting in the county, Cromwell said.
Negrete's service record, obtained by The AP from the U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky, shows that Negrete served in Iraq for one year starting in October 2008 and then in Afghanistan from October 2010 to August 2011. He was awarded the Army Achievement Medal, which the government says is issued for a soldier who "distinguished himself or herself by meritorious service or achievement ... while serving in a non-combat area," as well as more routine medals and ribbons.
He was in the Army from February 2008 to December 2011 and the Army Reserve from September 2012 until February 2016, and reached the rank of private first class, the service record said.
Negrete's wife, Alyss Maio, from whom he is estranged, told the Mail Tribune newspaper of Medford that he was a helicopter electrician, diagnostician and technician with the 10th Mountain Division and received an honorable discharge. She said she first noticed Negrete's mental health problems after he returned from Iraq.
"He wasn't like this before he deployed," she said. "Within 30 days of his coming home, it was very clear he had changed."
Negrete's father, Gilbert, said he drove his son to the VA clinic to get treatment for paranoid delusions that led him to believe he was being monitored and watched, the Mail Tribune reported.
"We've been trying to get him in there forever," the father said. "I didn't take him there to get shot."
He described his son's knife as a paring knife.
"It's a tiny little knife, but I'm sure to them it looked huge," he said.
The sheriff's office said Negrete had a run-in with the law days before he was shot.
Police arrested Negrete on Jan. 23 on charges of driving under the influence of a controlled substance and attempting to elude police. He was released from jail the following day due to overcrowding. The sheriff's office said a man believed to be Negrete then tried to get his car from an impound lot and allegedly threatened an employee with a knife.
The next day he came for his appointment at the VA clinic.
AP investigative researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this story.