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Possible School Shooting Narrowly Avoided In Medford

South Medford High School
Medford School District
South Medford High School

A planned mass shooting at South Medford High School has been prevented, according to the Medford Police Department.

Kristopher Clay, a former custodian at South Medford High School, was arrested on Wednesday. The Jackson County district attorney’s office has filed five charges against him, including attempted murder, unlawful use of a weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau says Clay had weapons and a manifesto that showed he was planning to carry out a mass casualty event at the school, in addition to other locations.

“He was obtaining firearms, firearm parts, ammunition, tactical gear. Everything was culminating to the point where the only next step would be the actual shooting event,” says Budreau.

Clay was targeting his place of work, not specific individuals, according to Budreau.

Clay did not have any known prior criminal convictions, but he was prohibited from owning firearms since 2019. A spokesperson for the Medford School District said their background checks were clean when Clay was hired in February, but said mental health issues would not have appeared.

“This is certainly something that we intend to look at,” says Natalie Hurd with the Medford School District. “We’re always looking to improve our safety and security and hiring systems. And so, I think this does reveal an element that we need to look at, possibly statewide.”

Clay turned himself in to the police on July 20th saying he was having homicidal thoughts. From there he was taken to the Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center’s behavioral health unit. On August 4th, before being discharged from the hospital, he was taken into police custody and charged.

Budreau says it’s more common for people to disclose to police that they want to harm themselves, which results in them being taken into protective custody for mental health assistance, but a planned out mass casualty event like this is unique.

“This is a very unusual situation,” he says.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.