Seth Thayres, in red, pictured while volunteering with cadets in Gulfport, Fla. The former Salem Police Department officer is facing criminal charges and recently fled the state. (Courtesy of Seth Thayres)
Troubled ex-Salem police officer Seth Thayres is now a fugitive, fleeing Oregon to avoid a possible prison sentence after he learned he would face more criminal charges. He said he would return if the charges were dismissed.
The 31-year-old, who was a four-year veteran of Salem Police Department, missed both an arraignment and a probation check-in on April 1, prompting Multnomah and Clackamas counties to issue warrants for his arrest.
Thayres said in an interview with Salem Reporter he was driving halfway across the country in a rental car at that time. He bussed the second half to the east coast, he said, but he wouldn't say exactly where he went.
He said he decided to flee after learning March 29 that Multnomah County prosecutors indicted him on additional charges of first-degree theft and charges of computer crime.
"I legitimately don't understand what they're talking about with these 14 other charges," Thayres said. "That pushed me over the edge."
Thayres was placed on administrative leave by Salem police last October over workplace issues that city officials have declined to disclose. He was still on paid leave when he was arrested Feb. 7 in a Portland hotel in connection to a rash of burglaries. Thayres was charged with two counts of first-degree theft and methamphetamine possession.
Thayres resigned from Salem police Feb. 11, four days after his arrest.
He was subsequently indicted on 18 additional charges in Multnomah and Clackamas counties.
Thayres pleaded guilty to two first-degree theft charges in Clackamas County, stemming from selling stolen property. He said in the interview that he didn't know the good swere stolen but that he "should have known better." He declined to elaborate.
"It happened and I'm convicted," he said.
Whether he comes back to Oregon will depend on if James Cardenas, the man with whom he was arrested, demonstrates in a trial that Thayres is innocent of other charges, he said.
"I would expect him to say 'Hey, he had nothing to do with these things,'" Thayres said. "I'll be keeping an eye on it."
Pressed about his intent to face justice in Oregon, Thayres said he wants to do the right thing.
"I plead guilty in Clackamas knowing that I faced up to something like five years (in jail)," he said in a text message. "I own that I should've known and take what is coming. Plus I don't want this thing to follow me around for the rest of my life."
Weeks after his arrest, Thayres insisted on social media and in interviews that he's grappled with post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder, triggered by a confrontation with an armed robber in 2017. He said he has since been diagnosed.
Thayres said he had started working as a parking enforcement officer in Portland, but was arrested at work on new charges.
According to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, Thayres spent the next 16 days in Clackamas County Jail. On March 26, he entered his guilty plea. Thayres said he went without medication for the first few days.
He was transferred to Multnomah County Jail on March 29, where he said he learned of the 14 new charges and he was released three hours later. After discovering he lost his apartment in Clackamas County, he said he spent the next two days at a friend's house.
Thayres missed his arraignment April 1 in Multnomah County and didn't appear as scheduled with Clackamas County probation officers.
Court records show probation officers on April 2 called a "reliable source" close to Thayres, who said he "fled to the state of Florida and has no intention of coming back to Oregon."
Thayres is originally from Florida and spent the first nine years of his career in and around law enforcement there. He was a police dispatcher in the city of Gulfport before becoming an officer at the University of South Florida.
He moved to Portland and started to work at the Salem Police Department in 2014. By the end of his career he was making more than $70,000 a year, according to city records.
To date, the city of Salem has not disclosed any records of Thayres' time with Salem police, saying disclosing such records under Oregon Public Records Law would invade Thayres' privacy and intrude on attorney communications.
Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, [email protected] or @TroyWB.