Ashland man indicted on felony weapons charge

MEDFORD — A 63-year-old man who said he accidentally brought a handgun into the Jackson County Circuit Court building earlier this month was indicted Thursday on a felony weapons charge.

Charles Thomas Wheeler, of Ashland, was scheduled to appear in court on a civil matter on Feb. 8 when he passed a bag containing personal items through the scanner at the entrance of the Jackson County Justice Building on Oakdale Avenue.

A Jackson County sheriff's deputy working the scanner noticed a handgun inside the case and held Wheeler until Medford police officers arrived and cited him for carrying the gun into the building.

Wheeler told officers he had forgotten to remove the gun from the bag before entering the court building, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said.

"He said he did not mean to bring the weapon into the court house," Winters said. "We do not believe he intended to harm anyone inside the building."

A Jackson County grand jury indicted Wheeler Thursday on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm in a court facility, a felony, and unlawful possession of a weapon, according to Jackson County Chief Deputy District Attorney Beth Heckert.

Wheeler faces a possible five-year prison sentence if convicted on the felony charge, though it is unlikely he would be given the maximum sentence, Heckert said.

Only law enforcement officers are allowed to carry firearms in a court building, Winters said.

"It doesn't matter if you have a conceal carry permit, you cannot bring a weapon to court," Winters said.

The sheriff said weapons are banned from courtrooms because of the high emotions that can run through trials.

"We have seen people try to attack others in court," Winters said. "You don't need to bring weapons into those scenarios."

The ban extends to knives and other sharp weapons, Winters said.

"If you have anything that can be used as a weapon, it's best if you just leave it in your car," Winters said.

Winters said he has seen people turned away for attempting to bring nail files into court.

"Not everyone gets cited for accidentally bringing in pocket knives and such," Winters said. "But a gun is a different matter."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or

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