People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Chasse, Kaady Families Get Partial
Two of the largest police misconduct settlements in Oregon history got resolved in early July: Multnomah County settled with the family of James Chasse, Jr. for $925,000, and the city of Sandy settled with the family of Fouad Kaady for $1 million. In September, 2006, Chasse was chased by two Portland officers and one Multnomah Deputy, then they beat Chasse so badly that almost all his ribs were fractured and some "pulverized." After Chasse was released by medical personnel (EMRs) on the scene, despite his serious medical condition, he was put in a holding cell at the Justice Center. Later, jail staff had the officers bring Chasse to the hospital; he died on the way (PPR #40). A year earlier, a Sandy officer and a Clackamas Deputy tasered and then shot Kaady, who was naked, had no weapons and was badly burned (PPR #37).
Interestingly, the settlements are sort of mirror images: for the Chasse family, the County has settled, and the City of Portland and the ambulance company are still on the hook; for Kaady, the City settled, but Clackamas County may still end up in court. The trials are both scheduled for early next year.
Meanwhile, new documents have revealed previously unknown details of Chasse's death. The Medical Examiner (M.E.)'s finding of "accident" for this incident was way off the mark, given her new statements that "Chasse suffered 46 separate abrasions or contusions on his body, including six to the head and 19 strikes to the torso" and that "fractures to Chasse's rear ribs... likely resulted from a kick or knee-drop" (Oregonian, July 3). The M.E., Karen Gunson, added that had he "received proper medical attention at the scene or been taken to a hospital right away, Chasse likely would still be alive."
It was also revealed the officers did not disclose the full extent of the force they'd used against Chasse to the medical responders, and asked the EMRs for a waiver they could sign on Chasse's behalf so they could bring him to jail. Chasse family attorney Tom Steenson says police officers have never signed such a waiver in the past. The Oregonian further reports that some witnesses heard Chasse yell "mercy, mercy, mercy," and scream as he lay on the sidewalk. Showing his own maliciousness, Gresham Sgt. Terry O'Keefe, supervising Tri-Met officers Deputy Bret Barton and Officer Christopher Humphries, sent a text message saying "Nice work boys. Glad U R OK N HE ISN'T."
Unfortunately, the County's settlement with the Chasse family may mean no public airing of the involvement of Deputy Barton, who originally refused to be interviewed for the investigation, but apparently cooperated after transferring from Multnomah County to the Portland Police in 2007. Portland Sgt. Kyle Nice and Humphries are still named in the suit, which is slated for trial March 16. The Bureau's internal investigation, to which the Use of Force Review Board will attach findings, has still not been completed nearly three years later.
To their credit, Multnomah County officials agreed to spend money on improvements to the mental health system at the same time they announced the settlement. They offered $2 million to open up a triage center for those in crisis so they can be diagnosed and given care if needed, rather than taken to jail. Portland will pay part of the center's $3 million operating cost, though it isn't slated to open until 2011 or 2012. According to the Oregonian (July 2), the Chasse family negotiated with the county to ensure medical transportations to the hospital will be done by ambulance, not by police cars. It is not clear who will be making the call and who will pay for the transport.
The Kaady settlement lets former Sandy officer William Bergin* off from the pending lawsuit, which is being pursued by lawyers including the famous Gerry Spence. Clackamas County Deputy David Willard and the County Sheriff's Office face civil trial in April (Oregonian, July 1). Kaady's family said that Fouad, like Chasse, who had schizophrenia, suffered from mental illness. Portland has since trained all its patrol officers in Crisis Intervention Team training, emphasizing de- escalation tactics and how to recognize symptoms of mental illness.
On July 6, the Oregonian ran an editorial criticizing Oregon's closed-door grand jury proceedings, calling for swifter release of the facts in cases like Chasse's. Interestingly, they didn't dig up the quotes from Mayor Potter and Chief Sizer about their pledges to have a "'public and transparent' investigation into Chasse's death" (Portland Mercury , September 28, 2006). In mid-August, the Mental Health Association of Portland began circulating a petition demanding the completion and release of the internal investigation.
*As reported in PPR #47, Bergin resigned in October over
charges he was illegally using
people's driver's licenses.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.