The family of Aron Christensen, a Portland man who died from a gunshot wound along with his dog near Walupt Lake in August 2022, has issued a statement following Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer’s decision not to file charges.
Meyer told the family of his decision on Monday, citing problems with the investigation by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.
For background on the investigation, including how the first responding deputy declared Christensen did not die from a gunshot wound and declined to call for detectives, read here: https://bit.ly/3Ku7IPf
For the latest story detailing Meyer’s decision, read here: https://bit.ly/3MDI3pX
Below is the full statement from Christensen’s family in unedited form:
The first word that came to mind when we were asked to describe our collective feelings was: heartbroken.
The justice system in Lewis County has failed Aron, his family, and the public.
The public itself has been nothing but supportive, and we are grateful for all the folks that have extended their kindness, compassion, and unending support in the effort to achieve justice for Aron.
We wholeheartedly disagree with the Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office’s assessment that the reckless behavior that caused Aron’s death cannot be proven in court. The shooter killed another person on a frequented public trail, during peak recreation season. Any hiker in the same position as the shooter, with a headlamp on no less, should have been aware of the possibility that it was Buzz, a four-month-old blue heeler puppy, and Aron that they saw just off the trail and not a mountain lion or other wild animal as the alleged shooter claimed to believe.
Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. The Lewis County Sheriff’s, Coroner’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office have shown our family the lowest level of integrity we have experienced in our lives.
Some might be inclined to give the authorities in Lewis County the benefit of the doubt, claim that they didn’t know what the right thing was or posit that being an elected official is a tough job. In circumstances like this, we all know right from wrong. It is embedded in us in our society and at our core as human beings.
A man and his dog were found dead. From the start, any reasonable person would have assessed that something was not right. In the aftermath, any person with integrity would have done everything they could to do the right thing in the pursuit of justice and safety.
In the seven months since Aron’s death, we have learned that Lewis County chose to employ incompetent deputies, botch an investigation, and then look the other way. We’ve been advised by many in the community to get after Lewis County for their lack of integrity. The truth is that we do not have the teeth to accomplish this – the avenues to do so are incredibly limited.
In November, Prosecutor Meyer told us that if we want recourse for the job that the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and the Coroner’s Office had done in this case, then it would have to happen at the polls. Imagine telling a grieving family that doesn’t live in your county, let alone your state, that there is no consequence for the local authorities’ poor performance unless “you vote.”
It is safe to say that everyone who has been following this case knows how big of a mess the investigation into Aron’s death was. Initially, our family unknowingly cooperated in keeping Lewis County’s failure under wraps by placing our trust in them to help us navigate a situation unlike any we'd experienced before. We were asked not to go to the media by the Sheriff’s Office, and we acquiesced. When the Lewis County Coroner’s Office met our very first calls with comments of “these are good kids, don’t be quick to judge,” we bristled, but still believed that the truth would become clear if we were patient.
It wasn’t until after the first stories broke of Aron and Buzz’s deaths, almost two months after they died, that we began to see any movement in the investigation. Even then, our hope that a just outcome was on the horizon began to diminish as we learned the details of how the crime scene was mishandled. Still, we felt sure that there would be enough for the Prosecutor’s Office to fight for justice on our behalf.
This week, the Prosecutor’s Office sealed the fate of Aron’s case by declining to press charges.
We have been muted and failed at every turn. The shooter and various Lewis County offices have carried on without any consequence.
To add to the disappointment, Sheriff Snaza did not call or interact with our family once to offer condolences about Aron’s death or the catastrophe of an investigation that his employees carried out. He seemingly could not care less about our loss. If he did, he would have met us, grieved with us, or acknowledged us in any capacity. Often, all one needs to say is, “I’m terribly sorry this happened.”
Aron was a son, brother, friend, and uncle. He was stolen from us overnight.
Aron’s parents are broken. Their first child was taken from them due to the recklessness of a stranger. Aron’s brother and sister-in-law, Corey and Shana, are heartbroken and have lost all opportunity to spend time with Aron. This is true for the countless friends that Aron shared time and space with. Ezra, Kate, Alex, and so many others were part of Aron’s family. They are left as devastated as anyone.
Throughout these past seven months, Aron's sister Natalie has said, “the outcome of the investigation and the outcome of the prosecution’s review doesn’t bring Aron back. What I want is for the accused to seek help and counseling. If this hasn’t messed with their lives, then they are for sure guilty of murder. The rest of their lives will be impacted by the poor decisions they made that night.”
Heartbroken, she is left asking “what am I supposed to learn from this?” No answers to this question are sufficient.
To the Citizens of Lewis County, your Sheriff, Coroner, and Prosecutor failed Aron and Buzz. Sadly, they will continue to fail your community because there has been no consequence for their poor performances. An election was held in November, and the electorate again accepted the powers that be.
We encourage every citizen of Lewis County to make a public records request on this case and study this case. Yes, all of you can see the same documents that the sheriff, prosecutor, and our family have seen. All you have to do is make a public records request - it can all be done online. Go get it. Study it. You will be shocked. It will change how you see Lewis County and your faith in them should you ever lose a loved one.
We wish we could say you won’t hear from us again. But we can’t. We will continue to seek justice and truth. We will not go quietly.
— The Christensen Family
The case number for Lewis County Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into Christensen’s death is 22C10739. The public records request form for the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, which includes instructions on how to submit it, is available online at https://bit.ly/3UvuFpK