People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Portland Police Kill Black Teen with Shot to Head; Wound White
Man in Mental Health Crisis on Same Day
On February 9, 2017 Portland Police were involved in two shooting incidents-- as many as in all of 2016. The shootings, coming hours apart, included many similarities and a striking difference: Quanice Hayes, a 17 year old African American young man, was shot in the head and died; Don Perkins, a 56 year old white man in mental health crisis who goaded police to kill him, lived. Separate grand juries found police committed no crime in either case, even though both police narratives allege the suspects were reaching around, but not actively pointing the replica guns supposedly found at both scenes. Meanwhile, former Chief Larry O'Dea was able to avoid being prosecuted for shooting his friend in the back during a hunting trip (PPR #70) through a civil compromise in which his friend requested there be no prosecution-- but O'Dea had to be fingerprinted as a criminal suspect in Harney County (Oregonian, January 14). In other PPB shootings news, the Police Review Board report released in February (article) revealed new details about when police shot at Timothy Bucher last May (PPR #69), and a grand jury found no wrongdoing when an officer killed Steven Liffel in December (also PPR #70).
The Bureau was uncharacteristically quiet about most of the details of what happened to Hayes, other than stating he fit the description (code words for racial profiling) of a person suspected of taking a houseless man's benefits (EBT) card at gunpoint and identifying the shooter as Andrew Hearst (#50996). Hearst also shot and killed Merle Hatch in 2013, a man in mental health crisis who was holding the broken receiver from a telephone (PPR #59). After the grand jury refused to indict Hearst on March 21, the Bureau released details including that Hayes had drugs in his system (another capital crime?), was in possession of stolen goods including the EBT card, and that he was on his knees when Hearst shot him with an AR-15 rifle. Hearst used the same kind of assault rifle to kill Hatch.
The police had actually come across Hayes at about 7:30 in the morning but encountered him a second time roughly two hours later crouched in an alcove in a home at NE 83rd and Hancock. The cops had him crawl out on his knees. They claim he "made repeated and deliberate motions with his hands to the area of his waistband and pockets," leading Hearst to shoot three times. While two hits were to Hayes' torso, the third one to the head seems to be a violation of police training, which teaches them to shoot at "center mass." Police conveniently found a fake gun nearby with Hayes' DNA on it. The long delay in getting the case to the grand jury (39 days) may have been in part due to the DNA testing, which unlike on TV takes time in real life.
Hayes' family spoke out in the days after the shooting and again after the grand jury finding,
concerned the police were not sharing any information with them (including when Quanice died)
and demanding a federal investigation.
Hayes was the first African American shot and killed by the PPB since Keaton Otis in May 2010 (PPR #51). In the interim Darris Johnson died in custody in 2011 (PPR #54), teen Juwan Blackmon and 27 year old DeNorris McClendon were shot and wounded in 2012 and 2014 (PPRs #57 and 64), and police shot at but missed Kevin Moffett in 2011 (PPR #53). Ironically, one public information officer reporting the recent shootings was Chris Burley, who was wounded by gunfire after reportedly punching Otis in the face and officers fired 32 bullets, hitting Otis 24 times.
Don Perkins Threatened to Commit Suicide but Lived
Perkins was shot at about 6:30 PM the same day as Hayes at SE 22nd near Lafayette St. Perkins had called 911 to report he had taken pills and was planning to kill himself. Police claim there was an Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team member communicating with Perkins, but it appears the Bureau's training is to throw de-escalation out the window as soon as there's a hint of unrest. One of the two officers who shot Perkins was Bradley Clark (#46430), who shot and wounded Marcus Lagozzino when Lagozzino, in mental health crisis, was holding a machete and officers dropped their plan to contain him (PPR #53). We have no records on the other officer, Roger Walsh (#46434).
Details released after the March 15 grand jury hearing indicate Perkins "dropped something from the van that the officers thought was a gun... got out of the van and reached for the object, prompting an officer to shoot once at him." He supposedly told the police he wanted them to shoot him and "moved toward the replica gun" again, leading to more police gunfire (Oregonian, March 17). Initial reports indicated about eight shots were fired (Portland Mercury, February 15). Despite our protestations, police are still being taught to shoot before they see a gun. Neither man was alleged to have pointed a (fake) weapon at the cops, and the grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing even though there was no imminent threat of injury or death. The internal investigations into both shootings continue, but no Portland officer has ever been found out of policy for a shooting and then successfully held accountable.
Jeff Sessions was confirmed as US Attorney General on February 8, perhaps the PPB felt it gave police license to kill, as Sessions hinted at less rigorous enforcement of all US DOJ Settlement Agreements and Consent Decrees (article). Mayor Wheeler should get some credit for making a statement contextualizing Hayes' death among the ongoing rash of African Americans killed around the nation, even though it happened at a news conference where police paraded out the replica handguns they said the men were carrying.
Portland Copwatch has noted over the years police shootings often come in clusters. The day after the two PPB shootings, Vancouver, WA officer Ed Letarte shot and killed armed robbery suspect Justin Burton, 25 (Oregonlive, February 13).
PCW only has two other dates on record since 1992 with two incidents of police shooting at or having people die in custody on the same calendar day: March 12, 1999 and May 31, 1998.
Police Review Board Report Details May 2016 Shooting; Family Raises Questions in December 2016 Killing
The Police Review Board (PRB) report says that on May 24 last year, Timothy Bucher was firing his weapon randomly out of his home and Sgt. James Darby and Officer Chad Gradwahl (referred to as #1 and #2 in the report) were authorized to use deadly force by officer #3. The officers shot at the door jamb as "cover fire," a term that's not defined any more in the Bureau's Use of Force policy. The PRB called on the Bureau to create such a policy, which PCW asked the Bureau to do in March 2013, since bullets aimed at an inanimate object could strike, wound and/or kill a person. "Cover fire" was also used in the shootout with Ralph Turner in 2011 (PPR #53).
The PRB examined nine aspects of the shooting regarding 12 officers, assigning a finding of "In Policy." One Board member justified officer gunfire by calling Bucher's random fire "attempted homicide." An officer who set a K-9 dog to bite Bucher was also found in policy, since Bucher wasn't responding to commands to crawl toward police. Four officers who fired chemical agents were found in policy as they "avoided higher levels of force." Another officer used a Taser because Bucher was allegedly fighting with the K-9 dog.
The only questions that were raised were with regard to officers #10, 11 and 12 because the first two took extra time to hand over control of the incident site to #12. The Board recommended a debriefing and to discuss ways to transition better at all critical incidents. This is useful since such breakdowns also happened in the shooting of Aaron Campbell in 2010 (PPR #61).
Shortly before the report was released, a grand jury found no wrongdoing in the December 6
shooting death of Steven Liffel (Oregonian, February 11). The grand jury began meeting on
January 10, 35 days after the incident. It's not clear whether Liffel's family was offered the chance
to speak to the jurors. Liffel's son raised questions about his father's death and talked about
reconciling with him just three weeks before the shooting (Oregonlive, December 16).
Otis Shooter Cop Turned Lawyer Interviewed
The Oregonian ran a long piece (on March 5) about Cody Berne, one of the officers who shot Keaton Otis, who is now working for the Multnomah County District Attorney's office (PPR #70). They reported on the monthly vigils held to remember Otis, recognizing the community's concerns about the case, but printing Berne's assertion that Otis shot Officer Chris Burley as fact (the community has still never seen Otis' gun). "This guy just shot my friend, a police officer. Now people are protesting? ... More than anything, I was just sad," Berne said. He blamed Otis' death on failure to address his mental health issues, not his fellow officer Ryan Foote's assertion that Otis "looked like a gangster," which led to the confrontation. Berne beat out about 50 other lawyers to be hired by DA Rod Underhill. PCW member Dan Handelman is quoted in the article saying Berne will "instinctively side with police and fail to accept alternative versions of events." According to the O, "Underhill said he's confident police didn't cover up the circumstances of Otis' death and that Berne was an officer responding to a tough situation."
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.