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Officer Who Lost Leg Takes the Stand In Bombing Trial

Officer Who Lost Leg Takes the Stand In Bombing Trial

Woodburn Police Chief Scott Russell testifies Thursday morning about his life-threatening injuries and leg amputation resulting from the Woodburn bank bomb explosion, as trials of Bruce and Joshua Turnidge continued in Marion County Circuit Court.

Statesman Journal via YellowBrix

October 22, 2010

WOODBURN, OR – Woodburn Police chief Scott Russell testified Thursday that he has no memories directly connected to the 2008 bomb blast at a bank that killed two officers and nearly claimed Russell’s life.

Russell’s mangled right leg was amputated at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland in the wake of the Dec. 12, 2008, blast at West Coast Bank in Woodburn. Doctors saved his left leg, which sustained severe damage.

In describing his memory gap, Russell said he remembered waking up at the hospital and being greeted by his wife. He also recounted his recovery from life-threatening injuries and his return to full-time police work.

Russell now walks with a limp, using a prosthetic device.

“It’s challenging; it’s like learning to walk again,” he said.

Russell took the stand in the aggravated murder trial of Bruce Turnidge and his son, Joshua, who are accused of making a bomb that was found outside the bank in a green metal box. Oregon State Police bomb technician William Hakim and Woodburn police Capt. Tom Tennant took the box into the building and tried to dismantle it. It exploded, killing them and severely injuring Russell.

Prosecutors have described the bombing as an attempted robbery gone awry. Separate teams of attorneys for the father and the son maintain their clients’ innocence. Attorneys for Bruce Turnidge implicate his son; attorneys for Joshua Turnidge point fingers at the father.

Both defendants face a potential death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder.

In other testimony Thursday, Dr. Lyle Ham, a surgeon at OHSU, testified about the care Russell received when he arrived at the hospital in critical condition.

Russell was in shock and had lost “a good share of his blood volume,” Ham said.

The treatment team launched what Ham described as “a massive resuscitation effort.”

Ham said the decision to amputate Russell’s right leg was based on the severity of the damage.

“You can’t live with a leg like that,” he said. “This leg is essentially destroyed.”

Whether Russell’s other leg could be saved was initially in doubt, Ham said. “We were quite skeptical we would be able to salvage the left leg,” he said.

During Ham’s testimony, jurors viewed harrowing photos that showed the tissue and bone damage done to both of Russell’s legs, including a photo of his right leg after it was amputated.

Other testimony given Thursday focused on cell phone communication between the co-defendants on the day of the bombing.

Starting early in the morning on Dec. 12, 2008, and continuing until early that evening, the Turnidges exchanged a series of cell phone calls, according to investigator Mike Bethers. He was a Salem Police detective at the time of the bombing and now works for the Oregon Department of Justice.

Recounting his review of cell phone records, Bethers said the father and son began calling each other at 1:40 a.m. on the day of the bombing. The series of calls between the two men continued through the day until they returned to their respective residences in the evening.

At the time, Bruce Turnidge resided in Jefferson, south of Salem. Joshua Turnidge resided in Salem.

Bethers tracked the Turnidges’ whereabouts at the time of their various phone calls, based on the location of cell phone towers that serviced each call.

The trail indicates that the father and son made their way to the Woodburn area on the morning of the blast.

Bethers surmised that a nearly three-hour gap in their cell phone communication provided a window of opportunity for the bomb to be planted.

On the morning of the bombing, police responded to a threatening phone call of unknown origin placed to Wells Fargo Bank in Woodburn. The caller told the bank employee who answered to go outside to the garbage area where she would find a cell phone and receive further directions. When police arrived, they confiscated the cell phone, a prepaid TracFone.

Previous trial testimony established that Joshua Turnidge purchased two TracFones at a Bend store on Nov. 26, 2008, and he purchased airtime cards for the phones at a Salem store on Dec. 11, 2008.

On the day of the bombing, Bethers said, the two TracFones were activated through an Internet connection made in the lobby at a Best Western hotel on Portland Road NE in north Salem. One phone was activated at 4:22 a.m., the second was activated minutes later.

Based on Bethers’ account of cell phone calls between the Turnidges, the accused bank bombers were in the Salem area when the TracFones were activated.

Trial Update >>

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