February 23, 2002
MANHUNT:Mt. Vernon, Oregon
Almeron William (Willy) Hinton is suspected in the homicide deaths of his parents in rural Long Creek, Oregon. On Sunday afternoon Feb. 17, 2002, his parents were brutally murdered. In the early evening, he was spotted by Grant County Sheriff's Deputies in Mt. Vernon, Oregon, about 35 miles from the crime scene. As the deputies attempted to stop the suspect, he opened fire on them, shooting up several Sheriff's vehicles within the Mt. Vernon city limits. One deputy was able to return fire, hitting the suspect's vehicle five times, and eventually flattening two of his tires. He then fled the scene with the deputies in pursuit. They were MANHUNT: Mt. Vernon, OR
joined by Oregon State Police detective Mike Durr. With Mike Durr in the lead, they followed the suspect up Ingle Creek road out of Mt. Vernon. About 1 1/2 miles out of town, Mike saw the vehicle lights darked out, and he came around a curve, and the suspect had stopped, and immediately opened fire on him. Mike attempted to roll out of the vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee, and a bullet penetrated the windshield, the top of the dash, and hit Mike in the upper arm, between elbow and shoulder, severly breaking the bone.
The suspect was known to be armed with an M1 Garand, an 8mm Remington Magnum rifle, and several handguns, including a 44 Magnum revolver. He reportedly shot at the deputies, hitting their vehicles multiple times, with the M1 Garand, 30-06. The Deputies stopped to protect and assist Detective Durr, and the suspect fled up a mountain road, which was known to be blocked with snow, although there were other roads joining into it. Other police units were enroute on the adjoining roads. The Oregon State Police Swat team flew in 25 members, and brought in several armored vehicles during the night and the area was secured with observation points on all roads into the area.
Intensive searches were launched in the area on Monday, Feb. 18, and the suspect vehicle was found on the 8000 acre Ingle Butte ranch where the suspect worked part time. It had two flattened tires, and two bullets had hit the back of the seat, but not penetrated the steel back, and one had gone through the soft top back window of the Suzuki Samurai, and past the suspects head and out the front windshield.
The suspect had left the vehicle, and more intensive searches were carried out throughout all of last week. The searches took place in very rough country, and at one point footprints were found in the snow by the helicopter.
Fixed wing aircraft and a National Guard helicopter equipped with infrared and thermal imaging equipment were used, and the SWAT team made extensive grid searches in the Cinnabar Mountain and Riley Creek drainage area. Tracking dogs were brought in, and the US Federal Marshall's office brought in a bloodhound to participate in the search.
Last night, Saturday, Feb. 23rd, the manhunt came to a dramatic conclusion. At about 2153 hours, there was a report that the suspect was at the drive in window of the local Dairy Queen in John Day, Oregon. The next report was that the suspect had left the DQ without paying for his drink, headed southbound. A few minutes later, a Corrections Officer at the Grant County jail in Canyon City shouted 12-99 on the radio, which is our code for Officer Needs Assistance. The next thing was that someone had crashed through the Sally port door, and a moment later, that a vehicle had crashed through the front glass double doors into the front hallway of the Criminal Justice Center which houses the Sheriff's Office and jail. It is a modern jail facility that was opened in 1997. Units responded from all around the area, and I responded from my home to the jail which is about 5 minutes away. I arrived on the scene to see two State Police Troopers with a suspect on the ground. As they finished cuffing him and searching him, the Undersheriff arrived right behind me. They stood him up and loaded him a patrol car, and as I looked at him, I thought, he looks a lot like the suspect we are hunting for. This individual was clean shaven though, and wearing clean clothes, and he didn't look at all like someone who had been running and hiding in the mountains for a week. The troopers confirmed that it was indeed Willy Hinton. In interviews with the state police, Hinton stated that he had spent the week in and around the Mt. Vernon area, in outbuildings in the area. The pickup he used to crash into the jail building was later reported stolen by the ranch where he had worked. He guns were readily visible in the vehicle, and Oregon State Police were going for a search warrant to search the vehicle. Hinton had been previously convicted of Domestic Assault, and it was illegal for him to be in possession of firearms.
The State Police officers who caught him said that he had been standing in the street with his hands up when they came around the corner. He told them that he was tired of hurting people. They asked about why he crashed into the jail building, and he stated that he wanted to get our attention. He certainly did that, although it would have been better if he had just rung the doorbell. The glass doors were destroyed, and his vehicle had penetrated about 30 feet into the hallway, hitting the coke machine, and sending it skidding about another 20 feet to the end of the hallway. The inmate areas of the jail were not penetrated, or endangered. The front sally port door was destroyed, however it's track didn't appear to be damaged. There was a tire scrub on the wall behind where the coke machine was in the hallway. There is speculation that his ex-wife may have been in contact with him for the whole time we were looking for him, and that some locals may have been harboring him. The Oregon State Police took him away to interview him, and I saw Detective Mike Durr at the basketball game on Friday night, Feb. 22nd. He is doing OK, and healing up at home after several surgeries.