Elgin family seeks justice

By Kelly Ducote February 03, 2014 11:55 am

Jeff Black talks about his burns and the compression sleeves he says he has to wear up to three years. He sustained second-degree burns to approximately 40 percent of his body as a result of an August 2013 incident in Elgin. (Phil Bullock/The Observer)
Jeff Black talks about his burns and the compression sleeves he says he has to wear up to three years. He sustained second-degree burns to approximately 40 percent of his body as a result of an August 2013 incident in Elgin. (Phil Bullock/The Observer)
Black family wants charges brought against man who they say threw flammable liquid and a Zippo lighter at 45-year-old Jeff Black, leaving him badly burned in August 2013 incident 

An August 2013 incident that sent an Elgin man to a Portland burn center has left his family wondering when someone will be charged with a crime.

Jeff Black, 45, was air lifted to Emanuel Burn Center following an August 8 encounter with Kirk Pickens, 45, Union County Sheriff’s Office officials said at the time.

At the time, sheriff’s officials named Pickens as a suspect, but he has not yet been charged with a crime related to the incident.

“I’ve lost a lot from this,” Black says now.

After an ambulance arrived near the scene, at 260 N. 12th St., Black doesn’t know what happened.

“The next thing I know it’s a month later,” he said.Black was transported by Life Flight to Walla Walla, Wash., and then to Portland, where he spent time in a coma before waking up.

“I have to wear these compression sleeves up to three years,” Black says. “The pain every day… is more than I can deal with sometimes.”

Since the incident, Black has not been able to work or even prepare his own meals because of his injuries.

Sheriff’s officials said after the incident that Black and Pickens had some sort of argument and that Black allegedly produced an electrical-current “stun gun.” As the situation escalated, sheriff’s officials said, a volatile liquid was splashed on Black. Officials said the liquid ignited, possibly by the arcing of the stun gun, causing significant burns to Black’s upper body, arms and face.

Black says, however, that’s not how it happened. Rather, he says, he and Pickens did not have an argument, and Black’s stun gun was left in his truck, he said.

Black said he didn’t have a conversation with Pickens before Pickens tossed a Big Gulp cup at him, spilling a liquid over him.

“What it smelled like to me was paint thinner,” Black said.

Because he could smell flammable liquid, Black said he tried to lunge toward Pickens but that the man then threw a Zippo lighter at him and Black caught fire.

Brent Dickinson, who was with Black that night, says they went over to the house to see Dickinson’s son and that Pickens knew they were coming. Dickinson said there couldn’t have been more than a sentence said before Black was on fire.

Black fears prosecution is delayed because of his criminal history.

“I have a rough past, but that’s my past,” he said. “They keep saying, ‘Forensics,’ ‘forensics.’”

“They have yet to move forward on any of it,” says Cheyenne Hennings, Black’s brother.

Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen says that his office has completed its investigation and that the information has been forwarded to the Union County District Atttorney’s Office. District Attorney Tim Thompson said forensics has backed up the information-gathering stage of the case. Thompson said they have been waiting for lab results, specifically to see what kind of flammable liquid was used. He said the office is dealing with a backlog at the crime lab that has resulted in the case’s delay.

In the meantime, Black is living with his parents in Bend while he undergoes long-term treatment for his injuries. He sustained second-degree burns to approximately 40 percent of his body. In addition to being unable to work, he has moved away from his daughters and family.

“This is home to me,” Black said last week in Elgin.

Contact Kelly Ducote at 541-786-4230 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Kelly on Twitter@lgoDucote.