Tip leads to arrest in fire break-in

Aug. 24 — An anonymous tip led to the arrest of a man suspected of stealing batteries and solar panels needed to power a watch tower’s fire detection camera, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said.

Two thieves broke into the watchtower in the Prospect area on August 14, but a surveillance camera captured close-up video of one of the men wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses and a mask over his mouth. A second man was visible in the distance.

The sheriff’s office released photos and surveillance video on Aug. 15 and received an anonymous tip on Aug. 17 that the suspect was possibly Chad Allen McPherson. The tipster provided two photos from McPherson’s Facebook page, according to a probable cause affidavit.

“You can clearly tell Chad is the suspect by the shape of his nose and the sunglasses he is wearing in one of the photos,” an investigator wrote in the affidavit.

The investigator contacted McPherson’s parole and probation officer, who compared security video from the parole office and surveillance images from the watch tower. McPherson was wearing the same Mossy Oak brand baseball cap during his suspended and suspended check-in that he wore the day before during the watchtower break-in, the affidavit said.

Sheriff’s detectives arrested McPherson during a traffic stop Friday. Detectives discovered burglary tools during a search of his vehicle, the sheriff’s office said.

A grand jury indicted McPherson, 30, of Prospect, on charges of second-degree burglary, first-degree theft, first-degree criminal mischief, possession of a burglary tool and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon, the sheriff’s office said . .

Detectives served a search warrant at his property in the 2000 block of Shelly Lane outside Prospect, where they found a gun he was prohibited from possessing as a convicted felon, the sheriff’s office said.

According to the sheriff’s office, investigators also discovered black market marijuana being grown on the property. Marijuana Illegal Enforcement Squad detectives executed a search warrant and destroyed 256 cannabis plants and 300 pounds of processed black market marijuana at the property. There was no permit for any type of cannabis cultivation, handling or processing at the site.

Later Friday, dispatchers received a call about a locker bag at the intersection of First Street and Highway 62 in Prospect with a note that read: “Call the cops.” Deputies with the sheriff’s office recovered the bag, which contained some of the items matching the descriptions of the equipment stolen from the watch tower. The solar panels and batteries are still missing, the sheriff’s office said.

The theft disabled the Oregon Department of Forestry’s early fire detection capability for northeastern Jackson County near Prospect. ODF is working to reactivate the camera system in the watchtower.

The camera is part of an ODF network of mountaintop cameras used for smoke and fire detection in Jackson and Josephine counties. Southern Oregon is in the midst of extreme fire conditions.

McPherson remains locked up in the Jackson County Jail without bond for allegedly violating his parole by possessing the gun.

His prior convictions include forgery, first-degree theft, second-degree theft, unauthorized use of a vehicle, possession of a weapon, driving with a suspended or revoked license, second-degree criminal mischief and repeated fish and wildlife violations.

An Oregon law that took effect this year prohibits the sheriff’s office from releasing a jail mug shot of McPherson before he is sentenced.

The second suspect shown on the watchtower surveillance video has not been identified, but detectives have located a person of interest and are working to identify the person using fingerprints and DNA, the sheriff’s office said.

Anyone with information about the second suspect or the location of the missing equipment can call the sheriff’s office tip line at 541-774-8333. See case 22-4725.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

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