Felon accused of shooting up house full of kids with AK-47 in Oregon county whose sheriff vows to ignore gun laws
An Oregon man shot up a house full of children with an AK-47 about six months after he was convicted for opening fire on a street in a county whose sheriff has vowed not to enforce gun laws.
Stephen Ray Sorensen was arrested Tuesday after police said he fired the automatic rifle in a Klamath County house where five other people — two adults and three children under age 6 — were present, although no injuries have been reported.
He then took one of the adults’ phone to prevent them from calling police and fled the scene in a pickup, but Sorensen was found hiding in some bushes a short time later following a brief pursuit and crash.
The 27-year-old Sorensen was charged with 20 separate counts — including first-degree robbery, unlawful use of a weapon, reckless endangerment, coercion, possession of a firearm by a felon, attempt to elude and interfering with a police report.
He appeared Wednesday in court, where he was hit with an additional contempt of court charge after a profane rant as prosecutors discussed the charges against him, and Judge Dan Bunch ordered him to “cool his jets” with a 30-day jail term.
Sorensen was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years on probation in May after pleading guilty to attempted assault and menacing.
He had been charged with attempted homicide in connection with the June 2014 incident in Chiloquin, where he lives.
Court records from Klamath County show Sorensen was also convicted in 2008 of weapons charges and previously on various misdemeanors.
If convicted in the latest case, Sorensen faces between seven-and-a-half-years up to a maximum of 124 years in prison.
The Klamath County sheriff has vowed not to enforce the Oregon Firearms Safety Act, which requires background checks for almost all private firearm sales.
It’s not clear how or when Sorensen obtained the AK-47 he is accused of firing during the most recent incident — but as a convicted felon, he is legally prohibited from owning a firearm.
Sheriff Frank Skrah spoke out against the expanded background checks before they were signed into law in August.
“I will not be taking away guns from anybody,” Skrah told Klamath County commissioners earlier this year. “I will not be going out and confiscating guns. People have the right to bear arms, and I will not abridge that right to bear arms. Ever. I’ll say it again: ever.”
Skrah argued that background checks conducted for concealed carry permits should be sufficient to keep guns away from felons and others who are barred from owning them.
“Upping the ante and requiring more Government Intrusion is not needed and not wanted by the vast majority of good hard working folks,” the sheriff argued in a statement he posted online. “If I sell or give a gun to my neighbor should I or my neighbor be subject to a background check? My answer to that rhetorical question is a very firm NO!”
“Typical of government is to stack another law upon us!” he added.
It doesn’t appear that Skrah is a member of the Oath Keepers, although Klamath County — like much of Oregon — is home to the pro-gun group of retired and active-duty military and law enforcement members.
Even if he agreed with the law, Skrah may be too busy fighting sexual harassment and excessive force charges filed against him.
The sheriff was indicted in September on nine counts — including three counts of harassment, three counts of official misconduct in the first degree, one count of attempted assault in the fourth degree, one count of assault in the fourth degree and one count of strangulation.
Seven of the sheriff’s 30 deputies asked to be placed on leave after they were questioned about Skrah in the excessive force investigation.
Two women who serve as prosecutors have also accused Skrah of sexual harassment.
One of the women claims her boss — Rob Patridge, Klamath County’s district attorney and chairman of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission — had retaliated against her in the workplace after she filed complaints against Skrah.
The sheriff’s supporters auctioned off guns and other items earlier this month to help the embattled Skrah pay legal fees.
“Society condemns people before they’ve been tried,” said supporter Kelly Baker, of Keno. “That’s what the posse is for, to support your sheriff.”