An investigation into the police shooting that killed an Astoria woman near Sunset Beach in December found it was justifiable homicide.
Alaina Burns, 31, was shot and killed by an Oregon State Police trooper after entering a home on Dec. 28 and later climbing onto the roof with a gun.
Clatsop County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dawn Buzzard released the findings of the investigation on Monday. The findings identified the state trooper involved as James Eslinger.
Based on interviews with Eslinger and other witnesses, viewing body and dashboard cameras, home surveillance systems and other evidence, the report concluded it was clear the trooper was justified in using deadly force. The report added that the trooper had reasonable belief Burns was going to use deadly force against him and other officers.
A burglary report
At about 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 28, police and sheriff’s deputies responded to a burglary at a home on Oregon Lane. The homeowner told police he saw Burns, who he did not know, entering his vehicle in front of his home and taking his laptop.
The homeowner followed her down the road, and during that time she was seen returning and entering his home.
Burns reportedly barricaded herself in an upstairs bedroom. At around 1:40 p.m., Burns made threats to kill police if they got closer to her, and about 15 minutes later, while still barricaded in the room, she fired off a round from a gun.
According to the report, the bullet traveled through the room, a closet door and an exterior wall east toward a neighboring home.
“Police continued negotiations and at times she appeared to be making a connection and at other times she cursed the police,” the report said.
About an hour after police were called to the scene, Burns reportedly burst from the bedroom to an outside balcony and then over a railing onto the second-story roof.
Eslinger, another trooper and a Seaside police officer were tactically placed outside and could see her holding a 9mm semi-automatic carbine she had taken from the home.
Other police and sheriff’s deputies were gathered nearby and were in Burns’ firing range.
Burns was given commands to drop the gun, according to the report, but instead she reportedly raised the gun toward police. She was shot in the chest by Eslinger at 2:35 p.m. Police checked for a pulse and called emergency crews, but she quickly died.
The state medical examiner’s office concluded after an autopsy that Burns died from a single gunshot wound. There were preliminary findings of THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, along with amphetamines, benzodiazepine and buprenorphine in her system, but confirmation is pending.
The Astorian has requested to review the material gathered in the investigation.
People close to Burns told the newspaper she had mental health and drug abuse issues and had been experiencing what appeared to be psychosis for about a month leading up to her death.
Pattie Osborne, the mother of Burns’ boyfriend, said she believes the system failed her.
Burns had been arrested a few days earlier for burglary in the second degree, theft in the second degree and criminal mischief in the first degree. She was booked at the county jail and released the same day because of coronavirus precautions.
Osborne said Burns had been arrested other times around that time frame, but was released every time. She said she wishes Burns had been held in custody to protect herself and others.
Osborne said Burns had been violent toward her son and on a couple of occasions tried to attack him with a knife and hammer.
Earlier in the day before Burns was killed, Osborne said Burns was with her son in his car near Sunset Beach. She said her son called the police reporting that Burns had tried to stab him.
She said after police arrived, Burns walked away from the scene. Neighbors told The Astorian that Burns had tried to enter other homes before entering the home where she was killed.
“My son said he’s got two regrets,” Osborne said. “One, that he called the police. Two, that he didn’t let her stab him so that they could have helped her.”
Osborne said she wants to know why police did not arrest and book her earlier that day. She wants to know why her son, Burns’ mother or the mobile crisis team from Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare were not called to try to help calm Burns down and negotiate with her before the shooting.
She said situations like Burns’ death are not black and white, but that progress needs to be made to prevent these types of deaths from happening.
“I don’t think they tried very hard to save this young woman’s life,” Osborne said. “Thirty-one years old, and she was a beautiful girl. I mean, her heart was beautiful. She just had this problem.
“I believe, at the very least, they failed her. And it’s not like I want a particular cop to be in trouble. I want awareness. I want people to be educated about what to do in a situation like this. This happens all the time with mentally ill people.”
Osborne, a retired registered nurse, said Burns exhibited signs of schizophrenia, but she was never diagnosed. She said the family tried to get her to seek help.
“The sadness is that I was just waiting for Alaina to finally give in and go to the hospital and get some help,” Osborne said. “But I think the system failed her.”