By Sanne Specht
A male transient pleaded not guilty in Jackson County Circuit Court Wednesday afternoon to multiple Measure 11 charges for allegedly firing a black-powder pistol at three teens walking on the Bear Creek Greenway Tuesday.
Two of the teens allegedly were struck and sustained minor injuries.
Joseph Edward Matejko, 53, was arraigned before Judge Tim Gerking on three counts of attempted murder, three counts of first-degree attempted assault and three counts of second-degree assault.
Matejko offered a firm denial of guilt for allegedly firing several shots at the teenagers. Then he launched into a bizarre series of statements.
“I have my passport to leave the U.S., and money waiting,” Matejko said, after stating he had pain and nausea from multiple sclerosis and wanted a doctor.
A public defender explained to Matejko that he would be represented. But Matejko insisted he was “only going to have an attorney help me with the rules of the court.”
“I wish to represent myself and remain silent,” he said, folding his arms across his chest and whispering.
It is unclear what caused Matejko to fire at the teens, but they are lucky their injuries weren’t more serious, Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said.
“I’ve been to a suicide with that kind of a gun. They have the potential to kill,” Budreau said, adding wet conditions at Matejko’s campsite likely dampened the gunpowder and weakened the weapons’ firing ability.
“It’s hard to say what the bullet speed was,” Budreau said. “The damp, wet conditions may have contributed to a lack of velocity.”
The 18-year-old man, 17-year-old girl and another female were walking northbound on the bike path near U.S. Cellular Community Park just after 10 a.m. Tuesday when they heard noises. When they went to investigate, Matejko came out of the bushes and confronted them.
Police believe Matejko, who has no known criminal history in Oregon, followed the teens for almost a mile while challenging them to a fight. When they reached an area near Exit 27 off Interstate 5, Matejko pulled out two antique replica pistols and fired four or five shots, the victims said.
A bullet struck the 17-year-old girl in the shoulder, while another hit the 18-year-old man in the hip. The other female was not hit.
Budreau said the teens were cooperative with police and did not appear to have been harassing the transient, who is 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs approximately 150 pounds.
“(The attack) appears to be completely random,” Budreau said.
Police tracked Matejko from the spot of the alleged attack to a brushy area near Bear Creek.
“Basically we tracked him to where we’d suspect somebody running from the scene of a crime would be likely to go,” he said.
Matejko had two pistols. Police say he fired only one weapon in the attack. But Matejko had reloaded both guns with marble-sized balls by the time police arrived.
“He had the time to do that, and he did,” Budreau said. Matejko also shaved off his hair and beard while police searched for him.
“He had nicks and cuts, and he said he had just shaved himself,” Budreau said.
Officers found him standing near Bear Creek with one of the loaded guns in his hand.
“There was a moment when he had the gun in hand,” Budreau said. “It wouldn’t have taken much for him to raise it. I want to commend the police officers for showing restraint.”
Matejko dropped the revolver when ordered and was arrested without incident, Budreau said. He appeared to understand his rights, but declined to discuss the incident.
Matejko behaved like a person in the midst of a mental health crisis, Budreau said.
“He was acting somewhat bizarre,” Budreau said.
Matejko has no Oregon driver’s license but he did have an identification card on him from 2009. The card had a North Bend address. Matejko recently arrived in the area and has been living on the streets. Police do not know where he obtained the guns, Budreau said.
“We’re not sure why he’s here. We have a lot of questions,” Budreau said. “This is a bizarre case with a bizarre finish and an abrupt end.”
Matejko remains lodged in the Jackson County Jail on $1 million bail.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.