Emergency Warrantless Ping Justified in Preventing Planned Smith Rock Shooting, DA Defends Law Enforcement Action

BEND, Ore. – The attorney for a Portland man accused of planning a mass shooting at a Smith Rock climbing event has filed a motion to suppress evidence, claiming authorities violated his constitutional rights by using a “warrantless ping” of his cellphone to locate him at a campsite.

Samson Garner, who was arrested in October and pleaded not guilty to 26 charges, including attempted murder and unlawful use of a weapon, is at the center of the legal battle. Defense attorney Joel Wirtz argues that the warrantless search for Garner’s cellphone violated his Fourth and 14th Amendment rights, as well as an article of the state Constitution, and is seeking to suppress all evidence gained as a result.

Deschutes County District Attorney Steve Gunnels defends the action, stating that the warrantless cellphone ping was justified as an emergency measure to prevent a serious crime that was about to occur. He announced that his office will file a response to the motion in the next couple of weeks, with a hearing to be set soon.

According to Garner’s defense, he was going through a divorce and experiencing acute depression, which led him to send an email to an ex-girlfriend expressing disturbing thoughts, including plans to carry out a shooting at the Smith Rock event. However, the defense claims that Garner renounced acting on his thoughts and expressed a desire to harm himself instead.

Authorities argue that Garner had written plans for the mass shooting and was found with multiple guns and ammunition in his car. They maintain that the warrantless ping was necessary to prevent a potentially devastating event and that there was no direct threat made by Garner.

The legal battle continues as both sides present their arguments, with a hearing scheduled to set a one-day omnibus hearing on motions and to reset trial dates. The case raises important questions about the balance between public safety and individual rights in cases involving potential threats, and the outcome will have significant implications for future law enforcement actions in similar situations.