People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Portland Police Shoot, Miss Only On-Duty Shooting in 8 Months
Exactly 200 days after Portland Police shot and killed Michael Johnson outside Good Samaritan Hospital last fall (PPR #68), they were involved in their most recent shooting incident. On May 24, officers shot at, but missed, Timothy James Bucher, 63, during a standoff at a mobile home park. A few days later, the Bureau gave out Police Medals to the officers who killed Johnson, a shameful rewarding of use of deadly force that the community thought would never happen again after 2002. There was also an off-duty shooting by former Chief Larry O'Dea (article here).
The time between the shootings of Johnson and Bucher was the 8th longest stretch without a Portland Police shooting since 1992.
Bucher had been arguing with his wife and allegedly shot at neighbors' homes with an assault rifle. Police deployed a Taser, a police dog and tear gas in addition to the gunfire, which they referred to as "cover shots" (Oregonian, May 28). It wasn't immediately obvious there had been an officer- involved shooting as the PPB's news release was titled "SERT/CNT Responding to Assist North Precinct Regarding Armed Suspect." They did not mention that Sgt. James Darby (#32384) and Officer Chad Gradwahl (#35226) fired their weapons.
Gradwahl and his brother Todd were both involved in the incident in which another officer shot Craig Boehler in 2010; Boehler's house caught on fire-- perhaps from police tear gas canisters-- and the coroner said although bullets hit Boehler, he died of smoke inhalation (PPR #52). Gradwahl was also involved in the 2005 non-fatal shooting of Marcello Vaida, an 18 year old African American man (PPR #37). Darby was one of the officers who piled on Richard "Dickie" Dow in 1998, a man with schizophrenia who died the next day (PPR #16). Darby was one of four officers awarded for his actions in that incident (PPR #19).
District Attorney Rod Underhill agreed to hold a grand jury on the shooting, even though Bucher was not hit; in a few similar cases, his predecessor Michael Schrunk refused to do so. This is a welcome change, as Schrunk's idea would mean that when civilians shoot at each other but don't hit anybody, no crime has been committed.
It's also notable the official story says Bucher "told an officer that he wanted officers to fatally shoot him," which means this is the first time in recent memory someone with a gun who allegedly expressed such a desire to die was not assisted--by Portland Police committing homicide. (Remember, our Medical Examiner labelled the deaths by police bullets of both Johnson and Clackamas teen Christopher Kalonji as "suicides.")
The two officers who shot Johnson were Chad Daul and Russ Corno. Corno has been in three officer involved shootings. In June, they were given Police Medals for "plac[ing themselves] in harm's way" despite the fact that years ago, after the officers who shot and killed José Mejía Poot in a psychiatric hospital were awarded, the community protested in outrage (PPR #28). Current Bureau policy requires that nominations for awards be sent to the coordinator of the Police Review Board (PRB) to ensure there were no questions about the officers' conduct. Since the PRB cleared the cops in this case, it was merely a political decision to award Daul and Corno.
Most recently, Officer John Romero was given an award last year because he was (allegedly) wounded by Kelly Swoboda in 2014 (PPR #62). The 2016 Police Medal was also given to the officers who chased Quintrell Holiman in a 2015 incident which some think ended with an officer involved shooting, though Holiman allegedly committed suicide (PPR #65). Since the US Department of Justice is in Portland to reduce use of force against people who are or who appear to be in mental health crisis, these medals send the wrong message.
Lt. Jeffrey Kaer, who was fired but reinstated after shooting a man outside his sister's home in 2006 (and not in his precinct--PPR #38) was given a Distinguished Service Medal in 2016 for his support of the Special Olympics.
--On May 12, community members gathered for an annual memorial to Keaton Otis, who was shot 23 times by Portland Police on that date in 2010 (PPR #51).
--Marking the fact that February was 20 years since his son Deontae was shot in the back by the Portland Police and left to bleed out (PPR #9), Joe Bean Keller released a music video called "Before There Was Trayvon" (youtube.com/watch?v=YElROA0qCS4 ).
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.