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Jeb Bladine: Reader nudges N-R for shooting update

Monday, reacting to a Saturday shooting in McMinnville, a frustrated reader nudged us with this website post: “How about an update, News-Register.”

Tuesday the reader added, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but a shooting in McMinnville is a big deal to me. This is the third day, and still no information.”

Our reporter responded: “We’ve reported all the information the McMinnville Police Department is releasing at this time.” An editor added this note of exasperation: “We do what we can to pry information loose.”

Wednesday, MPD finally provided details of the crime and arrest, but excluded identification of the victim.

Law enforcement can withhold criminal investigatory information, “unless the public interest requires disclosure in the particular instance.” However, the record of an arrest, including the identity of the victim, must be disclosed “unless and only for so long as there is a clear need to delay disclosure … including the need to protect the complaining party or the victim.”

Whatchamacolumn

Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

Perhaps MPD officials carefully decided those statutes justified withholding information. They didn’t communicate any such concerns, but simply declined to release details — perhaps with good reason, although we don’t believe that’s true every time we hit an information roadblock.

The victim knew alleged shooter Christopher Gene Ridenour, 35, so perhaps he needed protection. Ridenour’s local criminal record, as reported in our newspaper archives, goes back to a 2002 conviction for possession of methamphetamine and forgery of a vehicle registration. The next five years included a string of arrests for possession, probation violations, harassment, assault and failure to appear, and he finally drew a 13-month prison sentence from Judge Carroll Tichenor.
Tichenor issued Ridenour a six-month sentence in 2009 after his conviction for reckless driving and attempting to elude. Our report of the crime featured a new MPD canine team that nabbed the suspect.

Perhaps Ridenour became more law-abiding, or just moved to a neighboring county. In any event, in 2014, Judge Cynthia Easterday sentenced him to 25 months in prison after his convictions for delivery of meth, criminal mischief, hit-and-run, reckless driving and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

Ridenour now faces a much longer prison sentence based on myriad charges, beginning with attempted murder.

As for information disclosure, maybe it’s a sign of the times. MPD seems to eschew the level of public transparency that has existed for decades, but the newspaper will keep trying to bridge that occasional information gap.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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