Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

Baker City Police had hoped to make a routine arrest before dawn Wednesday when they approached an apartment house where a man they held an arrest warrant for had reportedly been staying.

Instead, Baker City Police Sgt. Wayne Chastain said he received a call from the night-shift officers at about 3 a.m. telling him they had confirmed that the subject of the warrant, Brent Alexander Breshears, 28, was in an apartment at 1701 Fourth St., but they were not allowed inside to arrest him.

The actual tenant at the apartment,Tamara Fine, 46, refused to let the officers enter without a search warrant.

“So they backed out of the establishment, set up a perimeter and started making phone calls,” Chastain said.

During the night, Fine left the apartment through a window and police let her go.

“She wasn’t the primary focus,” Chastain said.

In the meantime, Breshears had barricaded himself inside Fine’s basement apartment in the fourplex building and refused to communicate with police.

Chastain said the SWAT team responded after police conducted a risk assessment based on Breshears’ record.

“We look at their criminal history, their past convictions and what they are currently wanted for and different scenarios,” Chastain said.

Those factors and others are given a numerical value and tallied to determine if the suspect rates a light, moderate or high risk for potential of harm to officers, Chastain said.

Breshears was rated a moderate to high risk.

Based on that evaluation, members of the Northeast Oregon Regional SWAT team traveled to Baker City to help arrest Breshears.

The team and officers from Baker and Union counties congregated on Fourth Street between Auburn and Valley avenues about 11:15 a.m. Wednesday. The neighborhood was blocked off and traffic was rerouted as officers worked to make the arrest.

Residents of the apartment building, actually a three-story home built in 1900 which sits at the northwest corner of Fourth Street and Auburn Avenue, were evacuated and other residents in nearby homes were notified and advised that they could seek shelter at Baker Middle School if necessary until the arrest was completed. The middle school shelter was not used and was closed at 1:30 p.m.

Police tried to establish communication with Breshears by phone throughout the day, without success, Chastain said. They provided him with a phone but he did not respond to calls made to it.

Police also called to Breshears over a loudspeaker and also used loud noise devices as part of the strategy to force him to leave the building.

Breshears surrendered at 2:48 p.m. after a dry form of tear gas was propelled into the apartment, Chastain said.

Chastain said law enforcement considered the outcome of the 3 -hour siege a success.

“It was a smooth and professional operation,” he said. “Everything went without a hitch.

“I’m glad it was done safely and nobody got hurt,” Chastain said. “I commend the members of the SWAT team for their professionalism.”

In addition to Baker City Police and the SWAT team, assistance was provided by the Baker County Sheriff’s O ffice, Union County Sheriff’s Office, La Grande Police and Fire, Baker City Fire and Rescue and Baker County Emergency Management.

Breshears is being held at the Baker County Jail on charges of second-degree robbery, harassment and third-degree theft. The warrant was the result of a secret indictment issued Monday by a Baker County grand jury, Chastain said.

Breshears was arraigned Thursday in Baker County Circuit Court. He is being held at the jail in lieu of $200,000 full bail. That means Breshears could not be released unless he posted the full amount; in some cases suspects are released after posting 10% of bail.

Breshears is accused of acting with Heather Winston, 27, to rob Edward Braswell, 44, of Baker City on May 14. Chastain said Winston attempted to use a stun gun on Braswell and assaulted him while Breshears forcibly took a backpack containing miscellaneous items off Braswell’s back.

Winston has been held at the Baker County Jail since May 19 on charges of second-degree robbery, two counts of third-degree theft, resisting arrest and harassment.

Upon conviction, second-degree robbery carries a mandatory minimum prison term of five years and 10 months.

Breshears also is being held on a state Parole Board warrant for absconding from post-prison supervision, said Lt. Ryan Downing of the Parole and Probation Department.

Downing said Breshears was on post-prison supervision for second-degree sexual abuse, second-degree burglary, first-degree theft and a felon in possession of a firearm conviction.

Downing said he could not release other details of Bresh-
criminal history.

The sex abuse conviction is related to a 2013 Union County case, according to Oregon criminal court records. The other crimes are related to a 2017 Baker County case in which Breshears was convicted of entering the Trader Ray’s store on Broadway and taking two firearms from the business, the records state. He also was convicted of possession of methamphetamine in that case.

Court records also show that Breshears was convicted in Baker County on two counts of first-degree theft dating back to 2010. He was convicted of one count of third-degree escape in 2013 in Baker County and additional Baker County charges in 2017 of second-degree theft, interfering with a peace officer/parole officer and another count of third-degree escape. He also was convicted of Baker County charges of second- and third-degree theft in 2017.

Neighbor recorded dramatic scenes

By Jayson Jacoby

It was a routine Wednesday morning for Laura Helser right up until the SWAT team arrived.

Helser, who is renting a room in a home across the street from the apartment building where robbery suspect Brent Alexander Breshears was staying, said a camouflage-clad member of the police team knocked on her door around 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Helser said the officer told her to stay inside and away from windows.

When she peered outside and saw multiple rifle-toting police stationed around the intersection of Fourth Street and Auburn Avenue, Helser realized this was not a typical arrest scenario.

“I thought holy cow, this is no joke,” she said during a Thursday interview.

Helser, who has lived in Baker City for about a month, said her roommate had told her about seeing police in the area around 5 a.m.

But that was about six hours before the SWAT team arrived after police decided that Breshears, whose criminal record includes escape, illegal possession of a firearm and interfering with police, that they needed to call in the specialized team.

Helser said windows on the first and second floor of the home she lives in face the apartment at 1701 Fourth St. where Breshears was staying.

For more than two hours she watched and listened as SWAT team members used a loudspeaker to try to cajole Breshears into surrendering.

She also heard the concussive thuds when police deployed devices intended to encourage Breshears to leave the basement apartment.

“Earth-shattering,” she said of the explosions.

Helser also recorded more than 90 minutes of footage with her cellphone.

Helser said that after more than three hours of standoff, the episode concluded rapidly.

She watched as SWAT team members gathered behind a vehicle to don gas masks.

“It was just like the movies, really,” she said.

A group of officers congregated around the basement window, and although Helser didn’t see them toss in devices containing a dry form of tear gas, she said Breshears emerged, with handcuffs, within about a minute.

“It was very quick,” she said.