32 years later, bar shooting in Salem claims its final victim

Joce DeWitt / (Salem) Statesman Journal /

SALEM — On May 7, 1981, a 25-year-old Scio man walked through the front door of the Oregon Museum Tavern on Front Street. It was ladies’ night, and the young patrons were enjoying the live band Jenny and the Jeans.

The man, Lawrence Moore, pulled out a 9 mm Browning handgun and emptied two magazines of bullets into the crowded tavern.

Before customers could subdue him, Moore killed three people and injured 20. One died in the hospital hours later. Moore was convicted of aggravated murder months later.

Statesman Journal reporters spoke with witnesses and described the scene:

“A scene of sprawled victims — many with massive head, chest and leg injuries — bloody clothing, upturned furniture and broken glass greeted police officers. An immediate call went out to all the ambulances available ... Teams of medics alternated soothing words to dazed victims and frantic cries for stretchers and first-aid equipment.”

Thirty-two years later, the pain of the tragedy still resonates in Salem. Dennis Scharf, one of the most seriously wounded victims, has died.

Scharf was struck by a bullet between the fifth and sixth vertebra, paralyzing him from the chest down. He died Jan. 19 from health complications caused by injuries he suffered that awful Thursday night.

In the months after the shooting, victims began to regain their health, and from time to time were released from care. Scharf and another man suffered injuries that confined them to hospitals and rehabilitation centers long after the others went home.

On May 18, 1981, an article illustrated Scharf’s experience at the tavern the night his life was changed forever.

“When the deed was done, the gunman was himself on the floor. Someone — Scharf doesn’t know who — came over and put his hands on the wound to stop the bleeding.

“A friend bent over him and refused to listen to Scharf’s talk of death. ‘You’re not going to die, man, you’re going to be OK,’ he said over and over.”

Hospital staffers told reporters that Scharf’s spirits stayed high while he was treated.

His family and friends remember his passion for racing.

“He loved drag racing,” said Brenda Purdum, Scharf’s full-time caretaker of 32 years. “He spent a lot of time watching TV, watching drag races and boat races.” Before the shooting, Scharf sold automotive parts and spent a lot of time on the Willamette River.

He was surrounded by family and friends the week he was in the hospital prior to his death, and Purdum, who lived with him in a home built by the Salem Homebuilders in 1983, was with him until his last breath.

“Every day was a struggle,” Purdum said of Scharf’s life.But despite it all, she said, he showed no bitterness: “He wasn’t really angry. You’d think with something like this you’d be angry, but when there’s nothing you can do about it, you have to move on.”

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