(WHEELER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE PRESS RELEASE VIA OREGON STATE POLICE)
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on the life and times of Howard Means, described as a passionate hunter and fisherman since childhood, please see his obituary in The Oregonian.)
Wheeler County District Attorney Daniel Ousley announced today that a Wheeler County Grand Jury convened on Thursday, November 5th, to review investigative facts into the death of 61-year old Howard Franklin Means from Portland. The Grand Jury carefully reviewed witness accounts in addition to Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office video taped interviews, photographs, and collected physical evidence items. The Grand Jury then handed down no indictments, concluding the actions of those involved in the death of Mr. Means were justified as self defense and in defense of another person.
The investigation was led by the Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office with the subsequent assistance of various Oregon State Police enforcement divisions, Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office, and Oregon State Police Forensic Services Division. Evidence collected and information developed during the investigation that was presented to the Grand Jury came from three involved adults; two independent witnesses camped at the scene of the altercation; the Oregon State Police Crime Laboratory; the Oregon State Medical Examiner; and, the Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office whose two deputies involved in the investigation are certified and licensed as Deputy Medical Examiners by the State of Oregon.
The investigation developed evidence and testimony that determined the following factual sequence of events during the late afternoon of October 7, 2009 in the “Priest Hole” camping area along the John Day River in Wheeler County:
Howard Franklin Means was camping in the area and had killed a mule deer buck prior to the incident, which was field dressed, covered by fabric and hanging in a tree approximately 220 feet from his tent in a neighboring camping area.
A separate hunting party comprised of three adults and an 11-year old juvenile male from the Scappoose and Hillsboro areas were on a family hunting trip and camping in the same general area. These individuals were identified as Gary Havlik, age 63; Russell Havlik, age 33; Daron Havlik, age 30, and a related 11-year old juvenile male. On the evening of October 7th, the Havlik family was looking for a wounded deer shot by another party and was observed to be wounded in the area of the Priest Hole camp area. They entered an area where a third party of hunters began to set up camp in the vicinity of Mr. Means’ camp. These two hunters were not involved in the impending altercation and served as independent witnesses during the investigation and subsequent Grand Jury presentation.
Witness testimony developed during the investigation and presented before the Grand Jury indicates Gary Havlik approached the independent witnesses, engaging them in a conversation and inquired if they had observed the wounded deer his family was seeking. At this moment Mr. Means appeared and accused Gary Havlik of attempting to steal his hanging buck deer, subsequently producing a 9mm semi-automatic handgun he pulled from the back of his belt. Mr. Means, at very close range, pointed the handgun directly at Gary Havlik who denied attempting to take Mr. Means’ deer and never made claim for the animal. Gary Havlik subsequently laid his hunting rifle on the ground and pleaded to Mr. Means not to point his handgun into his stomach and chest area.
Gary Havlik’s sons, Daron and Russell, approached their father and Mr. Means from a brushy area after hearing their father’s pleas. They also requested Mr. Means to remove the handgun from their father’s stomach and to put his handgun down. There was never a claim by any member of the Havlik hunting party to Mr. Means’ harvested deer, although he continued to assert that their intention was the theft of his deer.
Witness accounts described Mr. Means as upset, angry and apparently very intoxicated as he continued to refuse their pleas and pointed his handgun into Gary Havlik’s stomach and chest area.
Fearing for his father’s life, Daron Havlik attempted to shoot the handgun out of Mr. Means’ hand with one round from a .357 handgun. This shot caused injury to Mr. Means’ hand and firearm. Despite the injury, Mr. Means’ retained hold of his handgun and subsequently fired one round at Daron Havlik that passed through his shirt sleeve without seriously injuring him.
Daron Havlik subsequently again returned fire from his handgun striking Mr. Means. Russell Havlik, who was next to his juvenile son, also fired at least one round from a .30-06 bolt action hunting rifle at Mr. Means in defense of his family.
As determined by the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office, Mr. Means died at the scene from the gunshot wounds. Additional evidence indicated Mr. Means’ blood alcohol content (BAC) level at the time of his death was reported to be .24 percent.