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
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.