That's not Grant County

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board June 10, 2013 09:47 am

The portrait of Grant County sketched in a story in The Oregonian last week was far from a flattering portrayal of our neighbor to the southwest.

We’re skeptical, though, that that portrait, as outlined in the story about the possible release from prison of convicted murderer Sidney Dean Porter, is anything close to accurate, for Grant County or the many other places in Eastern Oregon with similar demographics.

On April 7, 1992, Porter used a piece of firewood to beat to death John Day Police officer Frank Ward.

Ward, 39, had responded to a call about a disturbance at Porter’s home. Porter was assaulting his wife, according to court records.

Ward pepper-sprayed Porter, who attacked and killed the officer. Porter was sentenced to life in prison.

This February the state Parole Board decided to grant Porter, now 53, his release on June 7. After public objections, and a request from Gov. John Kitzhaber, the Board reversed its decision and for now, Porter will remain in the state penitentiary in Salem.

The story in The Oregonian quotes and paraphrases several Grant County residents who not only think Porter should be released, but who insist that he’s not really a bad guy.

Nina Hill, a Grant County native who lives in Forest Grove and is the widow of former Grant County Sheriff Fred Reusser, told the newspaper, referring to Porter: “I think this whole cop-killer gang-up on him is unfair.”

“Gang-up?” Porter crushed Ward’s skull with a stovelength. Calling Porter a cop killer is more aptly described as “truth” than as a gang up.

Hill also pointed out that Ward was new to Grant County and she contends that he “should have known what was there, a bunch of ranchers and loggers. They work hard and play hard.”

Indeed they do.

What they don’t do, with exceedingly rare exceptions such as Porter, is kill police officers who are trying to protect a woman from a beating.

Grant County has a lot in common with Baker County and, indeed, with rural Oregon, including residents who are friendly, industrious and, generally speaking, law-abiding.

It would be a pity if people who have never been there come away with the mistaken impression that Grant County is a haven for people who minimize murder and imply that a police officer killed in the line of duty somehow deserved his fate.