Marion DA urges gun violence steps as teen sentenced for shooting 2

Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson is adding her voice to the call for community action to check gun violence in Salem.

Clarkson did so after the recent sentencing of an 18-year-old self-confessed gang member.

“This case is yet another disturbing example of gang-affiliated juveniles with guns,” Clarkson said in a statement Thursday, March 21. “I wholeheartedly support community intervention to address this increasing problem.”

The veteran prosecutor said that “we all have a collective obligation to address the increasing problem of young men with firearms.”

Her remarks came the same day Saul Sosa-Medina was sentenced to the Oregon Youth Authority for 70 months  as a juvenile for a shooting he committed on Aug. 8, 2022.

He was 17 at the time of the encounter just after midnight in the parking lot of the Evergreen Park Apartments at 3301 D St. N.E.

According to prosecutors and his attorney, Sosa-Medina fired one round from what witnesses described as a revolver. The bullet struck a 17-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman, who were subsequently treated and released from Salem Hospital.

Police located Sosa-Medina near a city park but never recovered the weapon. Prosecutors later said the teen wasn’t acquainted with the victims.

He never explained the reason for the shooting, according to his attorney, Jeff Jorgensen.

In a complex legal arrangement, Sosa-Medina was sentenced as an adult for second-degree assault with a firearm and as a juvenile with two counts of attempted first-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon.

He will be in the custody of the Oregon Youth Authority with a possibility of release halfway through his sentence under the state’s juvenile sentencing law.

Sosa-Medina was already on parole for earlier crimes of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, reckless burning and second-degree criminal mischief.

Jorgensen said Sosa-Medina, who grew up in Salem, earned his GED while in custody after the shooting.

“He himself had a significant trauma history, including homelessness, poverty and witnessing domestic violence. This really had an impact on his upbringing as a child,” Jorgensen said.

“This is part of the larger problem with gun violence in our community,” he said.

Clarkson said a reform in juvenile laws in 2018 made it more challenging to prosecute violent young offenders as adults.

But one of Clarkson’s top prosecutors, Deputy District Attorney Brendan Murphy, said the community’s gun violence needs more than holding offenders accountable.

“It is unlikely that stiffer or more prosecution is the answer here,” Murphy wrote in an email in response to questions from Salem Reporter. “No one in our office became prosecutors to prosecute youth. The answer is better, earlier intervention to try and change trajectories of youth before they pick up a gun.”

A recent report commissioned by the Salem Police Department documented an increase in the number of juveniles involved in shootings, either as the attackers or the victims.

“We are extremely concerned regarding our perceived increase in youth gang violence, particularly with firearms,” Murphy said.

He said Clarkson urged citizens to join “the community conversation” about gun violence being led by Salem police officials.

Police Chief Trevor Womack has started the Community Violence Reduction Initiative to devise ways to reduce the gun violence. He conducted an initial community meeting March 6 and plans three more through the rest of the year.

Womack, Clarkson, Salem Mayor Chris Hoy and Polk County District Attorney Aaron Felton are scheduled to discuss the initiative with business leaders. The Salem Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting the meeting at 7 a.m. Thursday, April 7.

CONTACT Editor Les Zaitz: [email protected].

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Les Zaitz is editor and CEO of Salem Reporter. He co-founded the news organization in 2018. He has been a journalist in Oregon for nearly 50 years in both daily and community newspapers and digital news services. He is nationally recognized for his commitment to local journalism. He also is editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise in Vale, Oregon.