Neighbors reflect on Saturday standoff

By Dick Mason February 24, 2014 11:28 am

A 5-1/2 hour hostage standoff at a home on Leffell Road in north La Grande ended without incident Saturday. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
A 5-1/2 hour hostage standoff at a home on Leffell Road in north La Grande ended without incident Saturday. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
Leffell Road residents did not feel threatened  

James Kemp was jolted Saturday afternoon when he looked out his living room window on Leffell Road in north La Grande.

Kemp was shocked to see his street packed with enough law enforcement vehicles to fill a small parking lot.

Law enforcement officers from Union and Baker counties converged on Leffell Road during a standoff involving police and Kemp’s next door neighbor, Gregory Scott Carter, who was allegedly holding four of his children against their will. Kemp was caught off guard by the sight of the police vehicles since he was unaware that they were coming in.

“It wasn’t gradual for us. We looked out the window and it was all there,” he said.

Kemp and his wife, Paula, did not know what was going on until they were informed later by law enforcement officers. James Kemp was disturbed by the news but not alarmed. 

“I was on edge but I didn’t feel that I was in danger because of the amount of force (the large number of law enforcement officers),’’ Kemp said.

Paula Kemp also said she did not feel in peril but was very concerned about the welfare of those involved in the standoff.

“I was worried that something terrible might happen,’’ she said.

The Kemps do not know Carter because he has kept to himself during the four-to-five months he has lived at his home on Leffell Road.

“He was very quiet,’’ Paula Kemp said.

Pete Caldwell is among the neighbors Carter had talked to. He never spoke with Carter in person but said that once Carter called him on the telephone and asked if someone had died in his home.

“He thought he had seen a ghost,’’ Caldwell said.

Tanisha Lovins, who lives across the street from Carter, said that she was not told about what was happening by the police but found out via the Internet. Lovins was not overly alarmed by what she learned.

“I don’t get nervous about things like this,’’ she said.  “I was happy that everything was resolved. 

Brad Rynearson, who lives directly across from Carter, helped law enforcement officers by providing them with a power source for their command post trailers and allowing them to operate on his property.

“Kids were involved (in the standoff). I wanted to help,’’ Rynearson said.

Rynearson was not concerned for his safety during the standoff.  Still the nature of the situation disturbed him. Following its resolution, Rynearson went to a high school playoff basketball game Saturday night in La Grande.

“I had enough for one day. I had to get to get out of here,’’’ Rynearson said on Sunday afternoon while working outside at his residence.

 Carter was taken into custody at about 5:30 p.m. after he walked on to his front porch. The moment did not appear dramatic, according to James Kemp, who saw it from a window in his house.

“It was more anticlimactic,’’ he said.

Still, the standoff will not soon be forgotten by those who experienced it.

 “This is not something which happens everyday in our neighborhood,’’ Caldwell said