Deschutes County investigators are awaiting the results of an autopsy of a 69-year-old Bend man who died two months after being punched in the head by a runner while walking his dog off-leash outside Bend.
If the punch is found to have caused the death of filmmaker Clemens D. Schenk, authorities could pursue criminal charges against the attacker, whose identity is unknown, said Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel.
In May, Schenk was walking his young white German shepherd in an off-leash area at Phil’s Trail complex west of Bend, along with a cousin from Germany and his cousin’s wife.
The dog, named Walter, barked at a man running by, according to Schenk’s friend, Amoroq Weiss.
The runner got angry and told Schenk to leash his dog.
“Clemens explained the dog had the right to run freely here, just like you do, sir,” Weiss said. “Clemens could be quite polite when engaging with people, and it was my understanding that he was here.”
Schenk’s friend Mike Panno said the filmmaker was peaceful, but didn’t shrink from confrontation.
“I love him dearly, but Clemens is the kind of guy where, if some guy says something, he’s going to say something back,” Panno said.
According to Weiss and Panno, the runner got angry and hit Schenk once in the head, knocking him to the ground and rendering him unconscious.
Schenk suffered a major concussion and a brain bleed as a result of the attack, according to Weiss. Schenk didn’t file a police report and only sought medical treatment several weeks later when he started experiencing severe health problems, Weiss said. He died July 30 in Bend.
Hummel confirmed Thursday his office is investigating Schenk’s death. One of his deputy district attorneys attended Schenk’s autopsy earlier this week.
“There’s a strong likelihood the death was the result of the punch,” Hummel said. “So right now, we need to dot our I’s and cross our T’s and make certain, but we think that’s probably what caused the death. Then, we’re going to try to find out who the suspect is.”
Panno said Schenk described his assailant as a man with dark hair and a beard.
Schenk grew up in Dortmund, Germany, and immigrated to California in the 1960s and lived among the “hippies, surfers and musicians” in Newport Beach, according to Panno, who met Schenk around this time.
He was passionate about telling stories in the visual medium, Panno said, and his work as a filmmaker took him around the world. It was while filming in Costa Rica that he met his wife.
In Bend, he worked as a videographer for a local television station until retiring several years ago.
In 2014, he released a film he directed and produced,“OR-7: The Journey,” about a lone gray wolf that traveled from Oregon to California and became the first known wild wolf in California in 87 years. The film premiered at Portland’s Hollywood Theater and played to packed houses at screenings and film festivals around the country, according to Weiss, a biologist who is featured in the film and who traveled with Schenk to screenings.
Schenk is survived by his wife, as well as two daughters from a previous marriage and two stepsons.
At the time of his death, he was working on securing financing for his second film. According to friends, he had fully embraced a late-in-life turn as a documentary filmmaker.
“It’s a shame. It’s so ridiculous,” Panno said. “He had a lot more to give.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org