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Assault doesn't deter her from job.

Byline: The Register-Guard

EDITOR'S NOTE: In Case You Missed It is a digest of recent Register-Guard articles of interest to Springfield readers.

Kathleen Commander wasn't going to let a little thing like being assaulted and having her car stolen stop her from finishing her newspaper route early Saturday morning.

"I just felt like I had to finish," Commander, 53, said on Sunday. "I felt like I had to get back on the horse and ride it. That was my job. People were counting on me."

Commander was delivering The Register-Guard in Springfield about 4 a.m. Saturday when she was approached near the intersection of K and Mill streets by a woman police say was Jennifer Benet Jones, 28. Jones is most likely homeless and has a long rap sheet of crimes that include breaking into cars, trespassing and possession of methamphetamine, Springfield police Sgt. Pete Kirkpatrick said.

"Do you have a cigarette?" Commander said the woman asked her.

"No," said a startled Commander, who was listening to music on her transistor radio through ear buds. "I don't smoke."

"Can you give me a ride to a bar?" Commander said the woman asked in the predawn darkness illuminated only by a lone street light.

"No, I'm delivering newspapers," Commander said.

But the woman, who would not take no for an answer, opened the passenger- side door of Commander's jade green 1995 Buick Riviera, shoved some newspapers out of the seat and then jumped in before again asking for a ride to a bar, Commander said.

Stunned, Commander began to walk across the street and dial 911 on her cell phone. But before she could punch in the first '1,' the woman had jumped on her back, Commander said during a retelling of the story at the Chase Village Apartments near Autzen Stadium in Eugene, where she lives.

Then the woman's fist came flying from behind and struck Commander in the right eye and forehead, she said.

Then the woman was in front of her, still swinging away, Commander said.

"I had my hands (up), blocking her," she said.

The woman then snagged Commander's car keys out of her hand, jumped into the driver's seat and drove west on K Street, said Commander, who then dialed 911 successfully. Police arrived in about five minutes. They took photos of her face and got a description of the woman, Commander said.

She then called her boyfriend, Lew Hall, to tell him what happened. Then she called a Register- Guard circulation manager she had done some substitute route delivery for in January (she's only had her present route since April 15) and was eventually connected with someone who took her more newspapers so that she and Hall, who came to join her, could finish the route before the R-G's 6:30 a.m. deadline.

About 10 newspapers were left on the ground after the woman shoved them out, Commander said. But she needed an additional 35 or so papers to finish.

Commander said she ran into one subscriber who was coming out of her home, and Commander half-jokingly apologized for being later than usual "but I was just assaulted and car jacked."

"Oh. My. God," was the customer's response, Commander said. Then she gave Commander a hug.

The papers were delivered by about 5:50 a.m., Commander said.

Meanwhile, a few hours later, Oregon State Police received a report of a woman who stole gas from a station in Chemult, along Highway 97 in Southern Oregon, Kirkpatrick said. Troopers found the vehicle a couple of miles south, and a high-speed chased ensued.

Police eventually laid down spike strips that blew out the tires on what police say is Commander's vehicle, Kirkpatrick said.

"But she did drive on the rims for four miles," Commander said police told her. "And they think the engine and transmission are shot," she said of the car she bought last summer for $2,100 that now has 116,000 miles on it and ruined tires that were brand-new in April.

Commander and Hall are planning to drive to the state police office in Klamath Falls today to retrieve the belongings that were in her car, including her wallet with all of her ID and some prescription medication.

That will be after Commander finishes her route, of course.

Hall again helped her deliver on Sunday, but Commander said she would be back out there by herself Monday morning - armed with a can of mace and a small air horn.

"I'm very nervous," said Commander, who works full time in accounting at the Holiday Inn in Springfield. She took the paper route this spring for some extra income to help support her and her four children between the ages of 17 and 32, and her grandkids.

Now, though, without a vehicle and the prospects of having it covered by her insurance policy uncertain because she thinks it's totaled and not worth all that much, she's not sure what she's going to do.

"I took the R-G route so I'd have more (financial) freedom," Commander said, wiping away tears. "Now this. It just seems really unfair that there are people out there who ruin things for you.

"But I feel sorry for the next person who walks up to me, 'cause I'm only going to warn them once."

Thurston graduate has clear view of future

If you smell smoke this summer, Thurston High School senior Nick Mortenson is probably right in the thick of it.

"I'm with Mohawk Valley Rural District as a structure firefighter," Mortenson says. "We provide firefighting for houses and work car crashes and medical calls. Just recently I was hired with the Oregon Department of Forestry for wildland firefighting for the summer season."

Mortenson has been working toward a career in fire since he was 14, when he started at the Lane County Sheriff's Office's Search and Rescue program. He attended fire academy at the Mohawk Valley Fire District at age 17, one of two people in the class.

"It was the smallest academy Mohawk had," Mortenson says. "It was me at 17 and a 16-year-old at the time. It's a cadet program where minors can be junior firefighters. She and I just recently turned 18 this last year so we're both full-on firefighters working on our Firefighter 1 Certification."

Earning that certification involves obtaining signatures in a task book and can take anywhere from six months to a few years to finish, depending on how fast one works through the book.

"I'm almost completed with mine, and I've been working on it for about six months," Mortenson says. "December of 2011, I went through the academy and I spent all summer at the station every day from about 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. just working, getting sign-offs, helping with yard work and just helping out."

Although Mortenson's parents are in the nursery business at Rogers Gardens in Springfield, firefighting is in his blood.

"My uncle was Lane Rural's fire chief for 15 years, and my aunt, his wife, was a captain at Lane Rural," Mortenson says. "I grew up hanging out with them and knew that's what I wanted to do."

Although Mohawk is a volunteer station, it's Mortenson's dream to work at a career fire station somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

"I would love some day to end up in Seattle," he says. "I like being on the water, so I'd end up wanting to be on a fire boat, near water, doing water rescue-type stuff. I like the technical rescue and the heavy rescue type stuff. That's what I'm into and miss about search and rescue."

Before that can happen, Mortenson has some schooling to do. As of now, he plans on attending Lane Community College after the summer fire season is over, to begin work on prerequisites for paramedic and fire degrees.

When he's not at the station, Mortenson works in the feed department at Coastal Farm and Ranch in Eugene, stocking and throwing around 50-pound bags of feed.

At Thurston High, he maintains a 3.2 grade-point average and is on a team that builds and races electric cars.

But his passion is for fire.

"What I do as a hobby, in my free time, is fire-fight," Mortenson says. "Basically, if I've got two or three hours in a day that I don't have anything planned, I'll just go to the station and hang out. There's always something that needs to be done."

Red Box kiosk emptied of 212 DVDs

Taking the idea of self-service to a criminal level, someone reportedly stole 212 DVDs from a Redbox kiosk outside a McDonald's in east Springfield last week, police said.

The discs are valued at $3,816.

Springfield police Sgt. Rich Charboneau said a Redbox employee reported that a thief had emptied the kiosk of its DVDs sometime between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning of last week.

The targeted kiosk sits outside a McDonald's at 5701 Main St. in the Thurston area.

It was not clear how the bandit had gotten into the kiosk, which did not appear to have been damaged.
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Title Annotation:In Case You Missed It
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 6, 2013
Words:1519
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