Mental illness caused a homeless man to open fire on three teens walking along the Bear Creek Greenway in February, a Jackson County Circuit Court judge ruled.
Joseph Edward Matejko, 54, is bound for the Oregon State Hospital after being convicted Thursday of two counts of attempting to commit a class B felony. The teens were not seriously injured when Matejko fired a black-powder pistol at them Feb. 19 about a mile from Medford's U.S. Cellular Community Park.
Circuit Judge Lorenzo Mejia found Matejko guilty except for insanity following a 45-minute trial based on attorneys' stipulation to the case's facts. Mejia acquitted Matejko of attempted murder charges.
"(The judge) didn't believe ... he was forming the intent to intentionally kill anybody," said Jeremy Markiewicz, chief deputy district attorney for Jackson County. "I think everybody thought there was a significant mental-health issue in this case."
Matejko told Mejia he was trying to scare an 18-year-old man, a 17-year-old girl and another female companion who he thought were threatening him, said defense attorney Michael Bertholf. The three told police they heard noises while walking toward Medford along the bike path. When they went to investigate the sound, a man came out of the bushes, confronted them and followed them for about a mile before brandishing two antique replica revolvers and firing several shots.
Struck by marble-sized balls of ammunition, the man and 17-year-old girl suffered bruising. The other girl was not injured.
Matejko evaded police for a couple of hours after the teens called 911 from Black Bear Diner. He was arrested standing near Bear Creek after shaving off his beard and cutting his hair. He has remained in the Jackson County Jail and undergone psychiatric evaluation.
"That's one of the things that we run into more and more," said Bertholf of the mentally ill landing in jail and prison. He declined to discuss details of Matejko's diagnosis, except to say his client was aware of it.
Mejia sentenced Matejko to 10 years under the supervision of the state's Psychiatric Security Review Board. He is not allowed to possess firearms.
Patients in such cases usually spend at least a year in the State Hospital, said Bertholf. But Matejko could be released to the community following treatment.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.