May 17, 2002 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

An Elgin youth arraigned a week ago on adult felony charges involving the shooting of two friends is free this weekend and will be facing charges as a juvenile.

Gaylord Larison, 17, is reported to have fired a Jennings 9mm handgun the morning of May 10 at a mushroom-hunting camp he was sharing with Tony Whiteman, 17, and Clayton Holmes, 21, also both of Elgin.

The bullet hit Whiteman in one side, exited from his back and passed through Holmes' stomach area.

Larison called for help at a nearby home, then directed Oregon State Police and an ambulance to the campsite about a mile and a half from Sammyville, northwest of Elgin.

Whiteman and Holmes were transported to Grande Ronde Hospital, from which Whiteman was life-flighted to St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Boise.

Holmes was treated and released the day of the shooting; Whiteman underwent surgery in Boise.

Following an in-depth Oregon State Police investigation, the Union County District Attorney's Office sought to bring two Measure 11 felony charges against Larison, based on assault with a weapon fired with reckless indifference to human life.

Larison was arraigned on the charges last week and held in the Union County jail.

The case was presented this week to a Union County grand jury, which, according to District Attorney Russ West, returned a not-true bill on the felony charges.

"The grand jury reviewed the Measure 11 charges and found there was not sufficient evidence for a true bill," West said.

With the not-true bill from the grand jury, Larison was released from jail and won't be facing the Measure 11 assault charges.

Instead, West said, the district attorney's office is preparing a petition for juvenile authorities. Those charges, he explained, would probably "include reckless endangering and other charges."

If found guilty as a juvenile of the charges, Larison could face formal supervision for a year or two, West said. Juvenile probation can be extended up to age 25, he said, but would be unlikely to last that long in this case.

"This was a bizarre accident," West said, noting that Larison had fired only the one bullet, but that it struck and injured two people.

Neither of the victims blamed Larison for the shot hitting them.

West said Friday that both Whiteman and Holmes were now home and out of the hospital and "doing OK."

The district attorney credited the careful investigation and rapid handling of the situation to OSP Det. Pat Montgomery, the ambulance crews and Elgin Police Chief Dayton Sibley.

"This was a unique situation," West added.

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