People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
PPB Kills Man in Homeless Center, Shoots First Female Suspect in 15 Years Report Shows DA Bias and Other Updates
In the early morning of March 8, two Portland Police Bureau officers shot and wounded a woman identified as Sarah Michelle Brown, marking the first time a female suspect was the target of PPB bullets since Kendra James was killed in May 2003 (PPR #30). Weeks later on April 7, they shot and killed John Elifritz, 48, after he ran inside a homeless shelter and had allegedly been stabbing himself. These marked the second and third shootings since Danielle Outlaw became Chief of police, and the first two of 2018. The previous shooting, in which Officer Ryan Reagan (#36223) shot and wounded Chase Peeples in October (PPR #73), resulted in the first publication of a Grand Jury transcript after a non-lethal shooting in Portland. That transcript shows Reagan mistook Peeples' wallet for a weapon. OIR Group, the outside consultants who review PPB shootings for trends in training, policy and practices released a new report in February, which among other things pointed out how the District Attorney's presentations to Grand Juries are biased against the people shot by officers. In a blow to what little transparency exists, City Council refused to take oral testimony about the new report. And, in an update to the off-duty shooting that led to the resignation of former Chief Larry O'Dea in 2016 (PPRs #69-73), the state certification board decided his actions, including the cover-up, did not necessitate stripping O'Dea of his right to be a cop (Oregonian, February 16).
Man in Mental Health Crisis Shot by Eight Officers-- Where is the De-Escaltaion?
Elifritz had been the subject of a few police contacts earlier in the day he was killed, with the cops deciding his apparent suicidal state of mind should be followed up by the Behavioral Health Response Team. But since that team only works Tuesday-Friday, and this was a Saturday, no help was dispatched. Instead, Elifritz allegedly stole a car and crashed it on SE MLK near the CityTeam ministries. Over 20 people were inside at an AA meeting. A video of the shooting shows two officers firing less lethal rounds at Elifritz from the front door, then about a dozen cops swarming the room. A clearly terrified Elifritz moves to one side behind a railing separating him from the cops and the room erupts in gunfire. Among the seven officers and one Multnomah Sheriff's Deputy firing weapons was Andrew Polas, one of three PPB officers who fired 32 rounds at Keaton Otis in 2010 (PPR #51). Ironically the shooting happened 12 days before the City was scheduled to prove its officers learned de-escalation with people in crisis as a result of the US DOJ Settlement Agreement (see article: Hearing Held on DOJ Agreement ).
March Shooting: Super-Aggressive Cop Meets Double Identity Suspect
The woman identified as Sarah Michelle Brown, age 26, was allegedly in the process of burglarizing a home in SW Portland when officers Darrell Shaw (#28923) and Joseph Webber (#44629) opened fire on her. She was apparently wounded in the hand and leg, and allegedly fired back at officers after they shot her. She then hid under a porch but eventually was taken into custody by the Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT), hospitalized, and now faces 26 criminal charges. During the aftermath, the Oregonian reported Brown's original name is Alexis Elizabeth Wilder, and it's possible her true age is 28 (March 16).
Officer Shaw has a long history of violence (and racism, though that wasn't an issue here as the suspect is white). There is not enough room in this newsletter to recount all his exploits, but here are a few:
--He and two other officers shot and killed Vernon Allen, a houseless African American man, in 2005 (PPR #36).
--An African American man who was tasered by Shaw in 2010 won a $110,000 settlement in 2014 (PPR #63).
--He drove up to a primarily African American nightclub after strapping a gorilla doll to the front bumper of his car in 2003 (PPR #31).
--The Oregonian also reports Shaw was involved in a shooting in 2000 in which the suspect, driving an SUV, was not hit.
As is usual in cases where the suspect lives, Brown was indicted by the same Grand Jury who claimed the officers' actions were within the law.
Grand Jury on Chase Peeples: Let's Go Off the Record Here
The Grand Jury declined to indict Officer Reagan even though Peeples was found to have only a wallet, not a gun, and dispatchers did not claim he was armed when he allegedly robbed two financial institutions that day. According to the Oregonian (February 1), Peeples was struck in "his upper right bicep, lower left abdomen [perforating his intestines] and right big toe. Other bullets fired by Reagan hit a fence and cinderblock wall."
Since Peeples faced criminal charges of his own, it makes sense he did not testify to the Grand Jury. Deputy DA Brian Davidson called for the proceedings to continue "off the record" four times: when speaking to three witness officers and to Peeples' girlfriend Denaisha Meadows. Since Oregon law now requires recording grand jury proceedings (PPR #73), this seems odd. Meadows claimed Peeples was depressed and told her he would pretend to have a weapon so he could get shot by police. In questioning her, Davidson used the term "suicide by cop," which perpetuates the idea police are supposed to kill someone who threatens (or pretends to threaten) them. The OIR Group, which reviews PPB deadly force incidents every few years, echoed this sentiment in one of their recent reports. Reagan bought into this meme by telling the Grand Jury, "He forced me to shoot him, yes."
New Shootings Report Shows Bureau Won't Hold Officers Accountable
The OIR Group's February report covered six shootings which occurred in 2014 and 2015, meaning the analysis is again about three years late. There were interesting pieces of information revealed and well deserved criticisms of the system which protects shooter cops. Using the case of Kelly Swoboda (PPR #62) as an example, they expose how the DA seems to make the suspect seem as despicable as possible so civilians on the Jury will justify the officer's homicide regardless of the facts. OIR's informal recommendation to talk to the DA about their biased presentations was not raised at the February 15 City Council hearing, in part because Mayor Ted Wheeler refused to take public testimony. Portland Copwatch (PCW) has testified at all eight previous presentations of such reports since 2003 and expressed outrage at the Mayor's misuse of his discretion as chair. He used social media to deny public testimony was being forbidden, since he welcomed written testimony. But because the Chief, the head of the Independent Police Review (which oversees these reports), and the California-based consultants were all in City Council chambers, it was a missed opportunity for dialogue.
As with the last OIR report, there is no analysis of race in the one shooting involving an African American Portlander (Denorris McClendon), and the issue of mental health, while raised, doesn't emphasize how PPB's shooting so many people in crisis violates the spirit of the DOJ Agreement. OIR did reveal when the City changed its policy on post-deadly force incidents last year (PPR #72), the Bureau's Training Division stopped sending its opinions on officer conduct to the behind- closed-doors Police Review Board (PRB) hearings. To her credit, Chief Outlaw agreed with OIR's recommendation to put the analysis back before the PRB, but says it will require changing the policy. OIR also urged the Bureau not to let officers view video of incidents before being interviewed (as happened in the shooting of Allen Bellew-- PPR #66), and revealed when Officer Michael Honl shot at McClendon (PPR # 64) there was a houseless encampment nearby which could have been struck by gunfire.
Overall, the theme PCW found in reading OIR's report is that the system is set up to clear officers of wrongdoing in deadly force cases, to the point of practically coddling them because the incidents were traumatic-- with no recognition of what it did to the civilians who were shot and/or killed, or those they left behind.
One other interesting piece of information in the report: in the incident where Officer Charles Asheim shot at (and missed) white "gang member" Ryan Sudlow at a gas station (PPR #65), Asheim fired a bullet which ricocheted off the windshield and hit the overhead canopy at the gas station before falling to the ground.
For PCW's detailed analysis of the report, see OIR's Group's Look at Six PPB Shootings: Bureau Won't Hold Officers Accountable, an analysis by Portland Copwatch, Feb 15, 2018.
In March, the family of Don Perkins (shot and wounded in Feb. 2017--PPR #71), filed suit against the City (Oregonian, March 31).
Quanice Hayes' Family Holds Rally, Files Lawsuit
On February 8, one day shy of the anniversary of the police fatal shooting of African American teen Quanice "Moose" Hayes (PPR #71), his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city. Two days later, they held a rally at East Precinct to mark the anniversary. The family is involved with the Pacific Northwest Family Circle. That group is led by the mother of Christopher Kalonji, who was killed by Clackamas County deputies in 2016 (PPR #68). A gut- wrenching narrative of Quanice's last day on earth was published on Longreads on February 5: A Teen and a Toy Gun.
On December 17, the Oregonian published a blistering exposť of Oregon's Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST), revealing that they rarely strip officers of state certification unless there is a criminal conviction. This hits home in Portland, where Officer Dane Reister, who "accidentally" loaded live ammunition into a "beanbag" gun and seriously wounded William Monroe in 2011 (PPR #61), was allowed to stay certified.* Of the 21 Portland officers listed in the O's database, ten kept their certification despite misconduct including six DUIIs and domestic abuse (by Isaac Lackey-- PPR #70). Nine voluntarily gave up certification when they resigned. Only two were actually decertified. They were Officer Scott Elliott, who was in possession of child pornography (PPR #56) and Officer Homero Reynaga, who vandalized his neighbors' car and committed a DUII while on a second chance following his first conviction for that crime (PPR #66). The O referred to the study when opining that former Chief Larry O'Dea should have had his certification revoked (p. 1).
* Reister later committed suicide while facing criminal charges.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.