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Big Deal: Officer Indicted for Firing Shotgun at Man
While Cops Who Shot Homeless Man's Dog, Keaton Otis, and Aaron Campbell May Go Free
In the biggest news regarding police shootings, perhaps since we started Portland Copwatch in 1992, the officer who "accidentally" shot William Monroe with live live rounds from a "less lethal" shotgun (PPR #54) was indicted in mid-November. Officer Dane Reister (#31663) was indicted on third and fourth degree assault charges by a Multnomah County grand jury. According to the Oregonian (November 19), this is the first time in County history that an officer has been charged for on-duty use of force. Portland Copwatch (PCW) had sent a letter to the District Attorney's office suggesting Reister may not have even had the legal right to use a "beanbag" round, much less a live one. The DA also added a misdmeanor charge of "negligent wounding" despite a judge's opinion that Oregon's law is meant to apply only to hunters; we hope this isn't being used as an escape valve to let Reister off with less than a felony. In other news of the Portland Police, while no shootings of humans have occurred since late June, a homeless man's pit bull was shot and killed on August 24, causing community outrage. Also, PCW has learned that the Police Review Board has recommended that the shooting of Keaton Otis (PPR #51) be found within policy. Meanwhile, the outcome of the arbitration hearing to reinstate Officer Ron Frashour, who killed Aaron Campbell in January 2010 (PPR #50), is unknown, though the City approved up to $400,000 to defend its right to fire Frashour.
One factor in the grand jury indictment of Reister was that he had been disciplined for accidentally shooting a fellow officer with a smoke canister from a Tl-1 launcher during riot control training in 2006 (Oregonian, October 18). Reister's lawyer attempted to blame the Bureau's lax policies as the reason he had mixed lethal rounds with "beanbag" shells in his duty bag. Though that did not fly, the PPB did issue a new directive on less lethal shotguns on October 26 that requires officers to carry the ammunition on the outside of the guns and suggests that they have a second officer present when loading the weapons.
While Reister may or may not end up being convicted of any crimes (he pleaded not guilty on December 13), he could be fired given his past history, which includes not only the smoke canister incident, but several incidents involving force and a short temper that we outlined previously: taking a man's camcorder after being recorded pushing a "drug suspect," failing to show up in court after manhandling a homeless woman, using a Taser on a suicidal woman, and taking part in at least two police excessive force crowd control incidents. The indictment comes as a new wave of such accountability stories are proliferating around the country: the officer who shot Oscar Grant in Oakland was convicted of manslaughter in 2010 (PPR #51), though he served only a year in prison. On November 2, Spokane officer Karl Thompson, Jr, who beat to death 36-year-old Otto Zehm, a man suffering from mental illness, was convicted of violating Zehm's civil rights by using excessive force (Associated Press, November 3). In August, five New Orleans officers were convicted of civil rights violations in the deaths of African American citizens after Hurricane Katrina (LA Times, August 6). And two Fullerton, CA officers who beat a homeless man to death (in circumstances eerily similar to the death of James Chasse in Portland) were indicted on murder and manslaughter charges in September (LA Times, September 21).
When Portland Officer Aaron Dauchy (#30873) shot Buddy the dog, he said he was protecting himself against an aggressive attack. However, witnesses who know Buddy's owner Richard Cook, a homeless man, said that the dog was not aggressive, and questioned the police story. In response, the Bureau did what they often do to smear the human victims of their shootings: they released a rap sheet on Buddy showing his past run-ins with animal control.* Dauchy, by the way, was the officer who roughed up Shei'Meka Newman (PPR #50) and who fought with a 12-year-old before she was shot by "beanbags" fired by Officer Chris Humphreys (PPR #49). PCW received more contacts about this incident than we do about many shootings of human beings. We now have a web page listing 20 officer shootings of dogs (plus one Taser death) over 20 years. With a cop like Dauchy, it should be seriously questioned whether he has a short temper and was simply itching to use his firearm to resolve a conflict, thinking taking a dog's life would not be controversial.
At our meeting with Chief Mike Reese (see "Reese's Pieces"), he told PCW that the Police Review Board had recommended that the 32 shots fired at Keaton Otis after he was pulled over for "looking like a gang member" be found within policy. Reese had not seen the entire case file at the time, but sounded inclined to affirm that finding. When asked why Officer Chris Burley, who was shot during the confrontation with Otis, was being allowed to travel to Bangladesh on an officer goodwill program despite being accused of hitting Otis in the face, Reese claimed he knew nothing of that allegation. (He also said that Burley is a "good officer.") While it was noted at the September Citizen Review Committee meeting that the case had been sent back for more work before the PRB's vote, it does not look as if Burley or any of the three officers who unloaded their weapons at Otis will be disciplined.
The good news: Reese is steadfast in his decision to fire Frashour and discipline three other officers involved in shooting Campbell. Though history shows that arbitrators side with officers (with the logic that no officer has been severely punished for killing a civilian before... see Lt. Jeffrey Kaer-Dennis Young/PPR #45, Officer Scott McCollister-Kendra James/PPR #38, and Officer Douglas Eriksson-Gerald Gratton/PPR #6), Frashour's past misconduct may make this one stick (PPR #52). The City's October 26 decision to spend up to $400,000 defending its right to fire Frashour is unusual since they are simultaneously defending the City from a civil rights lawsuit by Campbell's family (Portland Mercury, October 27). On December 8, a judge denied Frashour (and Officer Lewton, who fired beanbags at Campbell) a motion to dismiss the suit; the trial is set for February 7. The arbitration, which is not open to the public, began in September and reportedly came to a close in late November/early December, with a decision that could take months. We will keep you posted.
*People who received PPR #54 by mail may have read this on the return slip.
Portland Copwatch Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability
through citizen action.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.