Sunday, September 23, 2007

Oregon State AGR Uses Homeless Man for Target Practice

Shooting victim sues OSU fraternity
By Gwyneth Gibby
Gazette-Times reporter

A homeless Corvallis man who was shot by an Oregon State University student filed a civil suit Tuesday against the shooter and his fraternity.

Dennis Sanderson was hit in the leg with a bullet from a .22-caliber rifle on Oct. 14, 2006, while in the alley behind the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity house, 331 N.W. 26th St. After an investigation, police arrested AGR member Joshua Grimes, 20, of Glide, and charged him with the shooting.

Grimes initially denied involvement, but eventually pleaded guilty to two felonies: unlawful use of a weapon against another and third-degree assault. He was sentenced to 150 days in jail, which he completed in August. He also must complete 400 hours of community service at a homeless shelter, three years of supervised probation and pay $3,000 in fines.

The lawsuit names as defendants Grimes, the national AGR fraternity, the AGR foundation and the OSU chapter of the fraternity.

Sanderson is suing the four parties for negligence and battery. The suit claims medical expenses of $5,500 and seeks punitive damages that will be specified later but will be at least $50,000.

“This lawsuit is intended not only to compensate Mr. Sanderson for his injuries,” the suit reads, “but to hold a fraternal organization accountable for promoting a culture of violence, irresponsibility with guns and animosity toward the homeless.”

Grimes and the other defendants were not available for comment after the suit was filed late Tuesday afternoon. Once they have been served with the lawsuit, the defendants have 30 days to respond to the court.

When police searched the fraternity house following the shooting, they found more than two dozen weapons including multiple .22-caliber rifles, assault rifles, semi-automatic rifles, and 12- and 20-gauge shotguns.

Although the fraternity had a gun safe, many of the guns were not stored in it, according to a police report. Guns and ammunition were found in closets, bedrooms and cars.

After the shooting, all of the fraternities and sororities at OSU banned weapons, except AGR, according to Robert Kerr, OSU’s coordinator of Greek life.

The lawsuit claims that the fraternity should have taken steps to control the storage and use of weapons in the house.

The police investigation also revealed that Grimes was accompanied by another fraternity member when he shot at Sanderson. Police said there had been reports of other homeless people being shot at near the fraternity house and that during interviews that were part of the investigation some members of the fraternity referred to homeless people as “bums.”

“Some of the people who are accountable were not held accountable,” said Adam Brittle, Sanderson’s attorney. “The sentencing (of Grimes) did not satisfy many people.”

Brittle said Sanderson was in the alley, minding his own business, when he was shot.“You shouldn’t be made target practice for minding your own business,” he said.