A hero in West Albany is #WASTRONG

In Uncategorized on May 29, 2013 at 6:39 am

How do you know a hero?

While Twitter’s not the be-all and end-all, it can sometimes help you in the right direction.

Search #WASTRONG and the messages come fast.

“Thank you Truman! You’re our hero.”

“As a school, we NEED to do something for Truman. He is such an amazing person and will forever be a hero in my eye.”

“You’ve saved our town from unthinkable sadness!”

“Truman, I believe we are all eternally grateful for you. Thank you does not work good enough, but it will do for now.”

“Truman is such a hero, he saved so many lives.”

“The students at WAHS can’t thank you enough, Truman. You are an angel sent from God himself in heaven. 💙💛 #WAstrong #WAfamily #HonorTruman

They are all talking about Truman Templeton, the 17-year-old student at West Albany High School who is being credited with stopping a fellow student from staging an attack on the school that police believe certainly would have killed people.

It was late last week and, as he told my colleague, Dan Cassuto in an exclusive interview, he had been clearly anxious. When he told his mother he didn’t want to go to a school assembly, she pushed him a little as to why.

“She asked me what’s been going on at school,” he said. “I thought, you know what, I might as well come forward with this…. I was very nervous.”

And that’s when he told her about Grant Acord, his classmate who had been bringing bomb-making guides to school, had been talking about explosives, had been making Truman more and more nervous.

“You never know if they’re being funny or trying to sound macho, or being serious,” the teen told Cassuto. “If they are being serious and you do speak up, you’ve prevented a national disaster.”

Templeton’s mother told a friend in law enforcement who told someone in the Albany Police Department, which led to Acord’s arrest.

“It’s always worth it,” Templeton said. “I’d much rather report something like this than leave it alone.”

And if Templeton had left it alone? Not said anything?

Court documents spell out what could have been.

Police found two pipe bombs, two Molotov cocktails and two explosives made from drain cleaner.

And in a notebook, Acord had laid out his plan.

“Leave home with stuff in truck at 7:30. Go to first period. After period wait in parking lot until 10:00 a.m. Drive to smoke pot to gear up. Be back in far parking lot by 11:00. If no school resource officer is there, move to parking lot next to 3rd exit parked backwards at 11:10. Get gear out of trunk. Carry duffle in one hand, napalm firebomb in the other, walk towards school with ‘airport stak’ blasting out of car. Drop duffle. Light and throw napalm, unzip bag and begin firing. Cooly state: ‘The Russian grim reaper is here’ (bad boys 2). If 3rd exit is blocked by napalm fire, or is locked, run to 1st entrance. In either entrance, throw a smoke bomb prior to walking in. Proceed to enter the school, then shoot and throw bombs throughout the school. Kill myself before SWAT engages me.”

“I’m glad I came forward,” Templeton said. “If I didn’t, we might be hearing a much different and sadder on the news.  My hope is people will follow my lead, be more open about this stuff, report it sooner.”

That’s really the lesson, isn’t it?

It’s almost a cliché – if you see something, say something.

But just when you think the phrase might cross over into the land of language that has lost its meaning, along comes someone like Truman Templeton who breathes new life into it, reminding people of the importance of something so seemingly simple.

Meanwhile, Templeton is still letting it all sink in.

“It’s kind of hard to believe it’s me. Is this really me they’re talking about? Hard to believe.”

Arrested for Domestic Violence, Health Dept. Head Makes No Excuses

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2013 at 6:07 am

Lillian Shirley

Everyone makes mistakes and, thankfully, most of us don’t have to worry about seeing them reported in the news.

Lillian Shirley, the head of the Multnomah County Health Department since 1999, is not so lucky.

“This is an incredibly sad time for me and my family,” she said Thursday.

Just hours earlier, it had been reported that police had responded to her home Monday night.

“I was involved in an incident at my home,” she said Thursday, referring to what happened when her husband of 40 years, Tom Davidson, returned home Monday. Earlier in the day, he had emailed her, informing her that he had a girlfriend and wanted a divorce.

Portland Police Officer Sean McFarland responded.

“Shirley told me that her husband has a new girlfriend and she wants him out of the house as soon as possible,” he wrote in his report.

“She had three glasses of wine before confronting her husband in the office area of the house. Shirley advised that she then started a physical altercation out of frustration about Davidson’s recent behavior. Shirley said that she then punched, kicked and yelled at Davidson in the office area of the home. Shirley told me that Davidson pushed her away, and at one point put his hands on her throat in an effort to get away.”

They fought some more. Shirley demanded that he leave the house, which he refused to.

So, she called 911.

Officer McFarland and Officer Clint Snodgrass responded and noticed that Shirley had a “red mark to the left side of her neck and a scrape to the small of her back.”

Davidson told officers that Shirley had bitten him.

According to Officer Clint Snodgrass: “I asked Davidson to show me where he was bit and he lifted up his right pant leg and showed me a significant bite to his right calf. The bite broke through the skin and both the upper and bottom teeth marks were still bleeding. I asked Davidson if she bit him any other places and he said ‘yes, all over.

Shirley ended up arrested on charges of domestic violence because she told police that she had made the initial contact

“Any matter involving domestic violence is serious, and I make no excuse for this one,” Shirley said on Thursday. “I make no excuse for my judgment and the fact that the incident was compounded by poor choices about alcohol that I unfortunately made during extremely difficult life circumstances.”

As the head of the health department, Shirley leads the largest department in the county of terms of employees. Only the sheriff’s office has a larger budget. Since arriving from Boston where she headed the Public Health Commission, she has built her department into one with a national reputation – something she recognizes may be tarnished by her actions.

“Our department has won deserved accolades for our efforts, and we have worked hard to build a national reputation for innovation and success,” she said. “I sincerely apologize for any impact my personal life has had on the department and on the county. I am confident that the department’s long-term reputation will continue and that we will maintain its high standard.”

Shirley said that she is taking this chance to examine what led her to this point.

“As any human being would do after an incident like this, I am closely examining my own behavior,” she said Thursday. “While every one of us is fallible and has a stress point, I take full responsibility for my actions.”

Everyone makes mistakes. Shirley is clearly not proud of hers. She is also smart enough to see that it’s not the end of the world.



Denied and still fighting

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2013 at 5:31 am


Cheryl Goeken is used to fighting for her son, Adam.

It doesn’t mean she likes it and it doesn’t mean it gets any easier.

“I am so tired,” she said the other night, taking yet another phone call from yet another reporter asking about how Adam had to let go of his dream of attending his high school prom.

He had had a date – two, in fact – was suited up and even made it to the door of the venue. But no further.

Adam, who lives with a form of cerebral palsey, is in a wheelchair and the site of the prom was not wheelchair accessible.

The event was being held on the second floor of the building and the senior from Lake Oswego High School – who earlier this year had been King of the Winter Formal – was blocked by a narrow staircase. The building, which was built in 1907 and is exempt from many accessibility rules and laws such as the American with Disabilities Act, has no elevator.

So, while his dates went upstairs, Adam went with his parents for frozen yogurt, coming back later to pick up the ladies and bring them home.

“It was really awful,” said Cheryl. “It wasn’t anyone’s fault. There was no one out there looking to deny Adam the chance to go to his prom.

“This was just a mistake. The thing is, though, the law was still broken. It wasn’t really any one person’s fault but people need to be aware of these issues.”

Cheryl has been aware of the challenges most of Adam’s life – a brain hemorrhage when he was just a couple of months old left him really only able to use one of his four limbs – and she has met those challenges.

“People need to know there’s a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things,” she said. “We can’t exclude people just because they have more issues to overcome.”

 “This isn’t a question of providing special treatment to people who are different. It is a question of making sure that everyone is treated fairly. This is a civil rights issue.”

She has worked to make sure Adam has had an inclusive life – from school to afterschool activities like horseback riding.

“He has the right to expect the same things as anyone else,” she said. “And on Saturday that did not happen.”

While she does not want to single anyone out for blame – she has nothing but praise for Principal Bruce Plato who “has always done everything he can for Adam; he is terrific” – she wants people to know that things need to improve.

While Adam is getting set to graduate, Cheryl and her husband – a member of The National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency that advises on disability issues – recognizes there will be new challenges and they plan to keep fighting.

“It has become too easy to exclude people in society,” she said. “There are laws that say we can’t do that and yet it happens. Every day. And that needs to change.”