FIVE PORTLAND POLICE SHOOTINGS: TWO DEAD, ONE
WOUNDED, TWO MISSED
--AND ONE DAMAGED CLOSET
The most controversial, perhaps, was the shooting of Ronald Riebling, 40, who was killed after he allegedly pointed an umbrella wrapped in a towel at police early in the morning of March 20. Riebling was shot by officer Terry Kruger (#21778), who also shot Deontae Keller in February, 1996 (see PPR #9).
Riebling had allegedly forced his way into the home of his former girlfriend, Teresa Bartle, who called police. She managed to get outside, though her three children (between the ages of 12 and 22) were still inside. Bartle allegedly told police Riebling had surveillance cameras around the outside of the home. The police say that a Crisis Intervention Team officer, Sgt. Scherise Bergstrom, talked to Riebling on the phone in an effort to de-escalate the situation. However, when Riebling came to the door at one point, officers shot at him with a "bean bag" (lead-pellet bag) shotgun. We're sure this helped calm him down.
Eventually, Riebling came back out of the house carrying something the police only identified as "an object" for the first 30 hours after the incident. When it was announced that the object was an umbrella, police quickly defended Kruger's actions by stating they believed Riebling was armed because both Riebling and the children ("hostages") claimed he was (Oregonian, March 21- 22 and Portland Police Bureau [PPB]).
Another man shot and killed by police just days earlier was Dwayne Novak, 38, who allegedly confronted two Portland officers and a Multnomah County Sheriff's Deputy with a knife on March 12. The police were called to a motor home in Scappoose by a 14-year old who had witnessed Novak assaulting her grandmother, Norma Murff, 74. Novak apparently killed Murff and was ransacking the house when Officer William Gillentine (#38034), Officer James Nett (#41052) and Deputy Jeffrey Schneider all shot him (Oregonian, March 14-15, and PPB).
This incident is significant--it is the second time in five years Portland Police were involved with other agencies in a fatal shooting. In 2000, Justyn Gallegos was shot by the PPB, Troutdale and Gresham police (see PPR #22). The Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC), which is reviewing shootings from 2000-2001, refused to review this case despite Portland Copwatch's urging them to review the procedures when multiple agencies are involved in deadly force situations. Even if PARC reviews the Novak case, it won't be until at least 2007.
The third incident, which happened most recently, was the March 28 shooting of Gilbert Thomas
King, 35. King allegedly put the pickup he was driving into reverse as officers approached him, and
rammed the police car. The officers, Michael Honl (#33525) and Dell Stroh (#39607) shot nine
bullets, missing both King and his passenger. King received a head wound from the crash
(Oregonian, March 30-31 & April 12 and PPB). It is unclear why King is being charged
with attempted aggravated murder, since the officers were not in their car at the time. It is similarly
unclear whether these officers' actions would violate the new policy proposed by Chief Foxworth
restricting shooting at vehicles (see Foxworth's Foxhole, p. 11).
The fourth incident--the second chronologically--was the non-fatal shooting of John Vitale, 49, at an apartment building in northwest Portland on February 26. Officers responded to a call about Vitale "walking around and screaming" (PPB news release, February 26). They say when they arrived, Vitale came at them with a knife, and Officer Stacy Dunn (#43482) shot a live round at him. Shortly after, Dunn fired a second round while Officer Mark Friedman (#36237) used a "bean bag" shotgun.
Public Information Officer Brian Schmautz informed our friends at Flying Focus Video Collective that Officer Friedman is a fully certified Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officer, meaning he had 40 hours of training in de-escalating situations with people in emotional crisis. Officer Dunn had the minumum two-hour CIT training. This raises the question, could the suspect have been apprehended without the use of a firearm if both officers were fully CIT trained?
In the meantime, there were at least two incidents where officers shot and killed dogs during alleged meth raids (one was on Feb. 17). These raids often do not turn up any drugs and sometimes do not end in convictions. It appears, though, that no Use of Force Board, Humane Society, or any other group has been questioning the frequency with which police are killing dogs.
What can we learn by looking at these recent shootings? For one, the shootings have once again come clustered fairly close together (two 20 days apart, then three all separated by 8 days). And, after two years in which every shooting was fatal and five of eight victims were people of color, three of the five recent incidents did not result in death and none were reported as involving people of color. Finally, neither the PARC report nor the Attorney General's report adequately addressed ways to minimize the number of shootings (see article). One exception is the directive requiring officers to report when they draw their weapons (see Rapping Back). A caution: simply because these shootings appear to be "justifiable" under the circumstances does not mean they were necessary. The community should continue pushing for policy and training that encourages de- escalation over deadly force.
For a detailed list of Portland Police shootings and deaths in custody
Sidebar: Other shootings news for
People's Police Report #35 Table of Contents
People's Police Report Index Page
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