LOWELL, Ore. -- A late-night shooting at a Kingdom Hall near Lowell leaves one man dead.
The Eugene man accused of murdering his wife's ex-husband Wednesday night made his first court appearance Thursday. Robert Riley Gonzales allegedly opened fire at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witness.
The first calls to police came in just after 9 p.m. Lane County Sheriff's Deputies at that point, were in Pleasant Hill responding to an armed robbery.
Lane County Undersheriff Tom Turner says their proximity to the shooting might have kept things from getting worse and certainly helped them in tracking down the suspect.
"Then they get this call of a hostage situation of five people being held at gunpoint," said Turner. "The suspect comes to the church, he used to go to the church, he's familiar with the church."
Turner says five kingdom hall elders were leaving a planning session when Gonzales approached. Turner says Gonzales ordered the five people back inside. A conflict with the victim, Kenneth Mort, immediately ensued. "Then shoots them, then immediately leaves," said Turner.
Turner says he took off in a vehicle, but only made it about three miles away, eventually getting stuck on a logging road. He says Gonzales took off on foot.
Three hours later, shortly after midnight, they tracked the suspect down with the help of a police dog.
Police say the dog's attack left Gonzales injured, so he was taken to McKenzie-Willamette Hospital before being taken to jail.
He was arraigned in court Thursday afternoon and will be formally charged next Thursday before a grand jury.
The undersheriff says there are still many questions surrounding Gonzales' motive because his criminal record is relatively clear.
Turner says the only part that sticks out is a restraining order against Gonzales dating back eight years ago.
Robert Gonzales actually goes by his middle name, Riley. Aside a citation for not wearing a seat belt 10 years ago, Gonzales' record was clear until Wednesday night.
Gonzales is currently married to the victim's ex-wife. The Gonzales family says Riley was a Jehovah's Witness but left the faith.
He's a husband, a step-father to two children and works as a heavy equipment operator in Eugene.
Gonzales' younger brother spoke with the defendant just a couple of weeks ago and says everything seemed normal.
Nathan Gonzales says Riley has never been a violent person. The entire family is shocked by the charges now being leveled against Gonzales.
"I just hope he's ok. That he knows we are here for him. What can you do at this point? You just got to hurry up and wait. That's all you can do right now," said Nathan Gonzales.
Nathan says despite this looming murder charge, family members are standing by their loved one.
The Gonzales family was visibly distraught at the arraignment. Though they don't know the victim or his family personally, they did offer their condolences and say they are still trying to comprehend what happened Wednesday night.
This is obviously a difficult time for the family of the victim, Kenneth Mort. His friends are also trying to comprehend what happened. Friends say the 48-year-old was a nice guy and an active member of their congregation at the Kingdom Hall.
One neighbor shared a fence with Mort during his first marriage. Gonzales and Mort knew each other because Gonzales married Mort's ex-wife.
Friends say they're still trying to cope with the reality that Mort is gone. They said he was a good guy, husband and friend.
Kenneth Mort was also a prominent local businessman. He co-owned Eugene-based Hitch Pro and Tow on West 11th.
There's shock and confusion among residents also, including the town's own mayor. A day later the small town with just over a thousand people is reacting to this fatal shooting.
Many say when they saw dozens of police taping off the area it caught them by surprise.
"I felt bad and scared for the people that had to see that because that shouldn't even happen," said Tracy Daughty, a Lowell Resident.
Even the Mayor says he was caught off guard. "People don't have to worry about things like this and I don't think they do, this is an anomaly; it just doesn't happen in Lowell," said Lowell Mayor Warren Weathers.
The mayor says residents can be proud of how their law enforcement handled the situation. Now it's time to move forward.
The Lowell Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses issued a statement Thursday regarding the incident that reads in part, "Now more than ever that comfort is needed for those touched by this senseless tragedy. We lost a fine husband, father and friend. It is our hope that as a congregation we can provide the support and comfort to the immediate and extended family. Our Kingdom Hall has always been a place where people receive spiritual refreshment and it will continue to be so.
We would like to thank the various emergency personnel including the Lane County Sheriff's department, the Oregon State Police and the Lowell fire department. During this incredibly difficult and tragic event, they treated us in a very kind and compassionate manner."