(Editor’s note: This article includes descriptions of violence, thoughts of suicide and profanity. Discretion is advised. Central Oregon Daily News has redacted the names of people who contacted police to warn about the suspect.
Court documents from Multnomah County are providing more insight into the mindset of the Portland man who may have been plotting an armed, violent attack at Smith Rock last weekend. It also shows why police did not try contacting the suspect at his home in the days before he was picked up in Deschutes County.
Samson Garner, 39, is facing multiple counts of attempted murder, assault and unlawful use of a weapon in Deschutes County. His first court appearance is set for Friday.
The Multnomah County documents detail Garner’s struggles with his divorce, a homicidal father, his alleged thoughts about hurting family members and of targeting people climbing at Smith Rock after reading about the Craggin’ Classic climbing event.
A friend of Garner’s alerted police on August 22 about text messages he received from Garner, the documents said. The friend stated that he had known Garner for about six years and that the messages were “out of character and alarming.” The messages were so concerning that the friend and his family were not staying at their residence.
Garner’s friend allegedly also described text messages that sounded “delusional and referenced bloodshed and violence,” but no specific plans were stated. The friend said he believed Garner was well-armed.
Then on Sept. 30, Garner sent an email to a woman he’d recently been in a relationship with, the documents said.
In the email, Garner says he left a stash of climbing gear on her front porch and that he won’t get to experience climbing again.
“Honestly though, that thought doesn’t hurt as much as living life every day right now does.”
He went on to discuss his failed marriage, that he felt burdened by his child support payments and that he expected to eventually be charged with a felony once his back child support payments reached $5,000.
“My life was shattered when my marriage failed in August 2022, and I chose to ruin whatever was left in the year after. During the last year, I made a series of decisions that would put me into deep debt but allow me to travel, ski, and enjoy the time I had left — the time until legal obligations robbed me of my remaining financial independence and eventual physical freedom.”
He added, “My freedom is on a clock.”
“These things I’ve experienced in the last year and a half… the reality of my situation, this trauma, everything… is changing me. When I started to get good enough at BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) to dominate and cause violence to people, I really enjoyed it. It freaked me out at how much I enjoyed it. I stopped training and watching UFC because I thought the exposure to violence was making it worse. It didn’t help. I thought about trying to squeeze another few months of skiing, and really did get new powder gear, a pass, and even booked AirBNB’s from December through Feb, but I don’t trust myself.”
The dark tone continues.
“I fantasize daily about murder, death, and vengeance. Using my skills, life experience, and remaining resources to punish others with the same pain I feel.”
Garner described going to Michigan and torturing and killing his ex-wife and her family, the documents read.
Then the email goes into the alleged plans to attack climbers.
“Dreaming of attacking Mt. Hood Meadows opening day with my assault rifles and body armor, vividly filling the field around Mt Hood Express with bodies. Waking up in a cold sweat panting because it felt real, and I was having fun. I read an email about the Smith Rock Craggin’ Classic and my mind immediately thought about killing people rock climbing there and how easy it would be to rampage through the park shooting belayers and spectators while their climbers watched and lived the horror, unable to help or do anything to save themselves and their friends.”
In the Deschutes County charging documents, the potential victims are identified as “Belayer 1,” “Belayer 2,” “Spectator 1” and “Spectator 2.”
The email continues as Garner allegedly describes his fear of turning into his father, who he said brutally killed his grandfather when Garner was 11.
“The darkness and evil is overwhelming. Aggression, anger, and hate spewing out of me at random times and in random places. My brain didn’t used to work this way. I used to care about the social contract, helping people, and trying to make the world a better place. The golden rule and shit. Some part of me is horrible, psychopathic monster. I’m turning into him. I’m turning into my father. I can’t keep the mask on any longer. The isolation, sense of hopelessness and finality permeates every interaction with that world. I have nothing left to lose or give. I am broken. The demon inside is winning and will soon emerge victorious.”
He ended the email with a statement saying he planned to take his own life before he could hurt anyone else.
On Oct. 5, a detective allegedly spoke to Garner’s ex-wife and to the woman Garner had recently been with. Both stated Garner owned a number of guns, including rifles.
The documents say the detective then attempted to contact Garner, but that his phone had been turned off. It was also believed that Garner was home because packages delivered to him had been picked up.
“Based on the fact Garner is believed to be armed and since (the friend) reported on 08/22/2023 Garner is known to be very anti-capitalist and anti-government the decision was made to not go to Garner’s residence to contact him in an effort to not precipitate a force event,” the document reads.
The Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office said the Portland Police Bureau contacted the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 17, three days before the Craggin’ Classic started, to tell them about Garner. DCSO said Garner was picked up in Deschutes County on Oct. 19.
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress and needs help, you can call or text the free and confidential the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.