Officer Who Killed José Mejía Shoots Young Asian-American Man
Coroner says Eddie Homsombath committed suicide

On October 21, Jeffrey Bell, the same Portland Police officer who killed José Santos Mejía Poot in 2001 (see PPR #24), shot and wounded Eddie Homsombath, a Laotian-American teenager, during a traffic stop. According to the police, Homsombath, 19, or one of his two passengers shot at Bell as he approached the car. Media reports indicate that Homsombath then led police on a high-speed chase that ended when the car crashed into a light pole at a freeway on-ramp in North Portland. The coroner said that Homsombath died from a gunshot wound to the head.

The Portland Tribune reported on October 31 that deputy state medical examiner Glenn Rudner ruled that although Homsombath had been hit by a "potentially fatal gunshot wound" from Bell's gun, he had committed suicide. (Remember, this is the medical examiner's office that didn't know an officer had stood on Damon Lowery's head and back while he was handcuffed, and therefore concluded he could not have suffocated‹see below‹and that Stephen Dons committed suicide by tying a sheet around his neck while paralyzed and taping the "up" button on his hospital bed, although the most they could have concluded is that he died of suffocation‹see PPR #14.) The October 30 Oregonian says that one of Bell's bullets was found lodged in Homsombath's chest, having entered through his "side or back," raising the question as to whether the car was moving when Bell fired.

The Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC) report on Officer-Involved Shootings and Deaths in Custody (see article) repeated in several places that the Portland policy on shooting at moving vehicles is vague, but requires officers to take into account the totality of a situation before taking the risk of using deadly force. While news reports state that Homsombath drove away after Bell fired, it would be important to follow up the PARC report by formally reviewing whether Bell's actions fit even the current guidelines.

The Grand Jury recently concluded there was no criminal wrongdoing in the case. The police have indicated that they are pursuing an Internal Affairs investigation but will not discuss details.

Homsombath is the eighth person of color shot at by police, and the fourth one that has died, in the last three years. Out of the 18 shootings since January, 2001, these 8 people constitute 44 percent of the suspects in a city that is 77 percent white. (Perhaps a study of the percentage of white suspects who are shot versus the percentage of suspects of color who are shot would show whether there is a disparity in who gets shot more often by Portland Police.)

Members of the Latino Network, the American Friends Service Committee, the Justice for José Mejía Poot Committee and Portland Copwatch are calling for police to release more details about the shooting and the status of the investigation into Bell's actions.

For more information contact the AFSC at 503-230-9427 or Portland Copwatch, 503-236-3065.


People's Police Report #31 Table of Contents
People's Police Report Index Page
Return to Copwatch home page