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Sherman DA rules trooper injured in I-84 shooting acted in self-defense

The Sherman County District Attorney has ruled that Oregon State Police Trooper Matt Zistel acted in self-defense when he shot and killed motorist John Van Allen II of East Portland on Aug. 29 on Interstate 84 near Rufus, according to information released Sept. 17.

The incident occurred at around 12:50 p.m., when Zistel initiated a traffic stop of a Cadillac Catera for traveling at 76 mph in a construction zone. The vehicle pulled to the side of the road and Zistel pulled his patrol car behind the suspect’s vehicle.

“Before Trooper Zistel could bring his patrol vehicle to a complete stop, the driver of the suspect vehicle, John Van Allen II, exited his vehicle,” the report said. Van Allen, 34 and wearing military fatigues, reportedly took an aggressive stance and hid his right hand behind his back. Zistel explained the reason for the stop and repeatedly asked Van Allen to get back into his vehicle. Van Allen refused and began aggressively approaching the officer, quickly closing the distance between the two men.

“While continuing to advance on Trooper Zistel, John Van Allen II pulled a gun from his rear waistband, took a combat shooting stance and began firing at Trooper Zistel,” the report said. Zistel was struck by the bullet in his left side.

Zistel was wearing a bulletproof vest, but “the bullet was under the vest,” District Attorney Wade McLeod said, causing injury to Zistel’s left side.

Trooper Zistel fired at Van Allen, striking him in the right side of the chest, the report said. Van Allen continued to stalk Zistel before retreating to his vehicle and leaving the scene.

Van Allen and his children were located in his vehicle on the freeway shoulder about a half-mile from the location of the shooting. Van Allen was deceased. The three minor children were not harmed.

McLeod found that Zistel’s use of deadly physical force was justified and consistent with Oregon Law.

“At the time Trooper Zistel decided to employ deadly physical force, it was reasonable for him to believe that his life was endangered,” the report said. “Trooper Zistel acted in self-defense. Given the overwhelming evidence supporting Trooper Zistel’s decision to employ deadly physical force, the District Attorney will not present this case to the Grand Jury.”

Investigation of the incident was conducted by law enforcement agencies from the Sherman County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police, City of The Dalles Police Department, Wasco County Sheriff’s Office, the Oregon Department of Justice and the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s office.

McLeod thanked the law enforcement and emergency service organizations that responded to the incident and participated in its investigation. He declined to speculate about the motive behind Van Allen’s use of the firearm.

“I would be speculating and that is beyond the boundaries of our review,” he said. “I was charged with looking at what Trooper Zistel had to face in making his decision.”

KATU reported after the event that a friend said Van Allen was an ordained minister when he was 22 and had served as a pastor in Pittsburgh. He also served in the military, but hadn’t seen active duty for at least two years.

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