Church-kidnapping charges dismissed

| June 7, 2010

EUGENE, Ore. – Azoulas Yurashunas is a free man, but also an angry man.

"The police, I think, behaved inappropriately," he said.

Yurashunas was accused in April of trying to kidnap a 2-year-old boy from a Boy Scout event at Bethesda Lutheran Church in Eugene. At that event a Eugene Police crime prevention specialist and a nearby woman "observed a commotion involving a woman calling out for her missing child" and saw a man "luring her 2-year-old child away," according to a press release distributed by the Eugene Police Department after Yurashunas' arrest.

The woman grabbed the child, Yurashunas got into his car and the Eugene officer radioed in his description and direction of travel. Yurashunas was stopped and arrested a short time later.

This past week, the Lane County District Attorney dismissed all kidnapping charges related to this incident.

Now Yurashunas tells us that, as an Eagle Scout interested in volunteering, he was invited to the event and even met with scout leaders. Then, as he was leaving, he saw a child hit his head on a sign.

He made a decision to help – a decision he said changed his life.

"I was not luring him, I was not taking him away, I wasn't taking him anywhere," Yurashunas said. "There was no crime, there was no luring. It was a lost child and I went and stood next to him."

Even though the Lane County District Attorney has dismissed kidnapping charges police filed against him, Yurashunas fears his reputation will never be cleared.

"At this point I feel like I will always be viewed suspiciously," he said.

His name still pops up on a half dozen websites for kidnappers and sex offenders.

"I was absolutely profiled by the way I was dressed, long coat … I looked the part," he said. "People thought, 'Oh, he looks shady. He looks suspicious.'"

The 23 year old, who runs a farm with his family in rural Lane County, said that after three days in jail and thousands of dollars spent defending himself, he is considering suing police.

Meanwhile, Captain Chuck Tilby with the Eugene Police Department tells us he thinks police acted appropriately in arresting Yurashunas.

"We reviewed this case," Tilby said. "We reviewed this case in progress and there is absolutely no doubt we made the right call."

Tilby thinks the justice system did its job.

"Part of the reason our system is so good is that it has those checks and balances, and we all operate within our own purview," he said. "When we make an arrest, we're doing that with all good faith with credible evidence. But that doesn't mean it can go through a court process."

Police said it's not uncommon for them to make an arrest and for the DA not to prosecute because police have a lower standard of proof – or "probable cause" – than a criminal standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" for a prosecutor to get a conviction.

"If standing next to a kids is probable cause for getting arrested and indicted for kidnapping," Yurashunas said, "then I feel sorry for this community."

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Category: Church Security