FBI agents dodged several ambush attempts at an Oregon property, but a booby-trapped wheelchair snagged one investigator and the man who allegedly rigged the various snares is facing assault charges, authorities say.
Law enforcement officers had been responding to a request to investigate the property on Sept. 7 from real estate agents attempting to sell the land, according to Oregon Live, a Portland, Oregon-based news organization. The team immediately noticed a handful of traps laid out to catch trespassers, including spike strips, a minivan equipped with metal-toothed animal traps, rat traps hooked up to a shotgun, and a hot tub laid on its side that would roll toward anyone who triggered a tripwire, according to the outlet.
The agents were able to slip past the first round of traps, but an empty wheelchair hooked up to fishing line and armed with shotgun ammunition was set off with a slight push.
"I'm hit!" the federal agent screamed, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Medford. The agent's leg was bleeding profusely.
The agent was rushed to a hospital. An X-ray showed a .410-gauge shotgun pellet lodged in the agent's left leg below the knee.
The agents had been tasked with dismantling the Rube Goldberg-ian defensive machinery on the property after owner Gregory Lee Rodvelt, 66, posted warnings that his territory was "protected with improvised devices," according to court records.
Rodvelt had been forced to forfeit the property as a result of an elder abuse case brought against him by his 90-year-old mother, who had won a $2.1 million civil lawsuit against her son, Oregon Live reported, citing court records.
Rodvelt had previously engaged in an armed standoff with police in Arizona, forcing a major road to close, according to AZ Central, a Phoenix, Arizona-based news organization. The stunt landed him in police custody, but he was allowed a two-week release to tie up loose ends pertaining to the property. That's when Joseph Charter, the estate's acting receiver, notified law enforcement of the ominous warnings.
The complaint against Rodvelt notes the hot tub trap as a frighteningly dangerous encounter.
"Upon closer examination, the technicians discovered that the spa was rigged in such a manner that when the gate was opened it would activate a mechanical trigger that would cause the spa to roll towards the person at the gate," the complaint reads, according to Oregon Live. "[It was] much like a scene from the movie 'Indiana Jones - Raiders of the Lost Ark' in which actor Harrison Ford is forced to outrun a giant stone boulder that he inadvertently triggered by a booby trap switch."
Court records show that Rodvelt now faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, resisting arrest, and failure to mark explosives in connection to his arrest stemming from the 2017 standoff. He has resisted transportation from the jail site to the court and has refused the services of a court appointed lawyer, according to The Mail Tribune, a Medford, Oregon-based news organization.
Neighbors claim they had heard the sounds of Rodvelt working on his traps long before the injurious incident, according to The Mail Tribune. Teams brought in following the altercation have not discovered any other "improvised devices."
[Photo: Surprise Police Department]