“Irresponsible kids, ”
stolen guns, cost teen her face
Detectives say the shotgun that wounded Christine Steltz was one of 15 firearms young people took to get money for marijuana
Extracted from the Oregonian: June 4, 1999
The shotgun that blew away the face of a 16 year old Portland girl at a party in March was one of 15 weapons the girl, her boyfriend, and two friends had stolen to sell for marijuana, an investigation shows.
Police on Thursday arrested three Portland area men, ages 18, 19, and 23, in connection with the March 9 burglary of a store along the Oregon coast that doubles as a grocery and gun shop.
Christine Steltz, who was left blind and permanently disfigured in the shooting March 21, was one of two getaway drivers who waited as her boyfriend, William O’Brien 18, and another teenager broke into Fox Grocery and Firearms, carrying out 15 guns and thousands of dollars worth of rifle scopes and binoculars, police said..
Authorities say the case provides a window into the lives of a group of Southeast Portland teenagers whose desire to buy, sell, and smoke marijuana led to petty thefts and later more serious crimes. It shows how easily guns can get on the streets and into the hands of juveniles, with some parents oblivious and others aware but nonchalant.
Steltz was not charged; her shooting was punishment enough, police and prosecutors agree. (“We are not judge, jury, or executioner. We enforce the law and deliver perpetrators to the judge.”) Thomas Laski, 17 (18?), was allegedly handling a stolen shotgun in O’Brien’s Southeast Portland apartment 12 days after the burglary when he accidentally fired, striking Steltz. He is accused of second degree assault.
Based on interviews with the accused, the following is the police account of the events leading up to and following the shooting:
About 7 p.m. on March 9, O’Brien, Steltz, his marijuana selling partner, Eleazar Sanchez, 19, and Dave Buzzelli, 23, left for the beach in Buzzelli’s Honda Prelude and father’s pickup. They used walkie talkies to communicate.
During the night, they smoked marijuana, and some downed shots of hard liquor. They wanted to spend the night partying at a beach cabin one of Steltz’s relatives owned south of Tillamook. They also planned to steal money so they could buy more marijuana.
They all agreed that they would focus on burglarizing a residence somewhere on the coast, believing there were fewer security systems and a lesser probability of getting caught, a police report says. When they arrived there, however, the light was on. They drove back to U.S. 101.
Instead they robbed a store in the town of Beaver.
O’Brien and Sanchez used a crowbar to pry open the front door of Fox Grocery and Firearms as Buzzelli acted as a lookout and Steltz sat in a car nearby.
O’Brien and Sanchez snatched 15 guns — nine hunting rifles, three 12 gauge shot guns, two .44 caliber Magnum revolvers and an SKS 7.62 mm assault rifle — that were unsecured (unbelievable!) on top of a display shelf. They smashed open a display case, and stole rifle scopes, binoculars and other firearms optical equipment. One of the store owners had not set the alarm, according to an incident report.
Laski apparently tried to cock the pump action Mossberg shotgun with one hand. It fired, sending a single blast into Steltz’s head at point blank range. She fell, and most of the teens fled.
“Get the guns out of here,” Sanchez yelled, witnesses told police. He took a hunting rifle, shotgun and the fired Mossberg shotgun out of the home and dropped them on the front lawn.
Tim Marino, 18, later drove off with the guns in the bed of his pickup, police reports said.
He stopped at a friend’s house. Marino told his friend’s father about the shooting and asked whether he could hide the guns in his garage. Reluctant at first, the father agreed, and Marino put the three guns into a wooden storage cabinet. In the next days, Marino removed two guns and sold them, he told police.
The friend’s father, who was not indicted (why not?), advised Marino to hang onto the Mossberg shotgun because “it was valuable to the police and he could use this as leverage,” Marino told police.
It took Detective Sgts. Steve Swan and Gary Boek 13 days to find the Mossberg shotgun… O’Brien told police he had bought the gun at a pawnshop. Then he said he bought it on the street. Only after police recovered the shotgun and traced its serial number to the burglary did O’Brien confess, taking a break April 16 from his daily vigil at Steltz’s bedside.
Sheri O’Brien said her son legally separated from his parents at 16 and that she was unaware of his actions. But she said she thought he was sorry in the wake of his arrest and his girlfriend’s shooting.
Detective Sgt. Dave Anderson said it was sad that as many as 50 kids knew what was going on. “This would have all been taken care of with one phone call.”
INDICTMENTS IN SHOOTING, GUN THEFT
second degree assault charge. he is accused of accidentally firing a stolen shotgun that blew away the midsection of Chrissy Steltz’s face.
William J. O’Brien, 18
Eleazar Sanchez, 19
David Buzzelli, 23
indicted on charges of first degree burglary and first degree aggravated theft
Timothy Marino, 18
two counts of first degree theft and hindering prosecution…
accused of selling two of the stolen firearms and hiding the shotgun
Conrad A. Keevey, 42
felon in possession of a firearm and
possession of a controlled substance
Joshua Sundean, 18
first degree theft,
possession of a controlled substance and
distribution of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school
accused of buying a stolen shotgun from O’Brien…
first degree theft. accused of facilitating the purchase of a stolen rifle…
a 17 year old boy
charged with first degree theft. accused of knowingly buying a stolen .44 caliber magnum revolver from O’Brien.