Kelly Swoboda ‘not an animal. He was my son’

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Luella Swoboda admitted her son robbed banks and struggled with depression. But she said he was not the danger to the public he was made out to be.

Kelly Swoboda in an undated photo provided by his mother, Luella Swoboda, on April 12, 2014
Kelly Swoboda in an undated photo provided by his mother, Luella Swoboda, on April 12, 2014

Kelly Swoboda was shot to death in a gunfight with Portland police near Woodrow Wilson High School on March 12. He was suspected of kidnapping a woman from a Milwaukie tanning salon in January and robbing a Eugene bank a few weeks later.

On the day of his death, Swoboda was seen near Wilson High in a manner suspicious enough for police to respond.

“He was not an animal. He was my son. We loved him,” Luella Swoboda told KOIN 6 News. “You know, these people who do dumb things, people love them, too.”

She showed pictures of a younger Kelly in the days before he was ever convicted of a crime. He worked and attended Clackamas Community College where he studied auto repair.

“He played football for the Portland football city league and all of a sudden, when he was 30, Kelly was gone,” she said.

Kelly Swoboda in an undated photo provided by his mother, Luella Swoboda, on April 12, 2014
Kelly Swoboda in an undated photo provided by his mother, Luella Swoboda, on April 12, 2014

In 1994, she said, the FBI knocked on her door and told her Kelly was suspected in a bank robbery. He robbed at least two more banks before being diagnosed with severe depression and a chemical deficiency.

Luella, 75, said her son was making progress after being released from prison. He was working and seeking treatment, she said.

“He stayed at my daughters, she’s got two children 12 and 13, there are other kids around there,” she told KOIN 6 News. “His PO (parole officer) left him around there so they apparently thought he was OK to be around families.”

In November, family members began to notice changes after Kelly was arrested for DUII. He became a fugitive suspected in three bank robberies.

Luella said her son robbed banks but does not believe his behavior would escalate to the violent kidnapping of a young woman from the Palm Beach Tan salon in Milwaukie.

“It’s just not in his character,” she said. “I know that things escalated, but it’s just not in his character.”

Kelly Swoboda in three mug shots from Clackamas County, two from 1999 and one from 2013 (file)
Kelly Swoboda in three mug shots from Clackamas County, two from 1999 and one from 2013 (file)

She said she doesn’t know if Kelly was on medication in the past several months.

But she wonders why police killed her son.

“Why did they have to shoot him three times? They shot him like an animal,” she said.

“They could have Tased him. They did not have to kill him. He was at a library at Wilson High. He loved libraries, he used to work in libraries. He wasn’t there to pick up girls.”

Kelly Swoboda was following students around in his van at Wilson High. In the gunfight with police, Swoboda, 49, wounded Officer John Romero.

Romero returned fire and killed him.

An investigation found Officer Romero was justified in his use of deadly force.

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