People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Salem Man "Accidentally" Dies After Police Batons, Tasers Hit
Two recent police related deaths in custody were categorized once again by the State Medical Examiner as something other than homicide.
At 7:30 pm on May 23, Salem police were called to an apartment complex to respond to complaints of a trespasser. They found 37-year-old Gregory Rold who they claim "violently resisted arrest." Police used batons and Tasers to subdue Rold. One neighbor was quoted as saying "I heard at least 13 tasers going off. I heard him being beaten with the night sticks and they let the dog attack him" (KGW.com, May 26). Rold was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he died at 9:30 pm.
Rold had lived at the apartment complex with his mother, who still lives there, until he was banned for lewd behavior. The same witness says that "his mom went to the window and started telling everyone that they were killing her son" during the incident.
The four officers involved were put on administrative leave while the incident was investigated. They were cleared by a grand jury on June 19 (Oregonian, June 20). Oregon State Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson found Rold's manner of death to be "accidental," listing his cause of death as "Sudden Cardiac Arrhythmia Due to Hypertensive [Atherosclerotic] Heart Disease, Exertion, and Positional Asphyxiation, as well as the contributing factor of Obesity." (salem- news.com, June 20). So, it appears the police "accidentally" suffocated him, if the beating and multiple electric shocks didn't kill him.
This is Oregon's third Taser-related death after Nicholas Hanson in Ashland and Tim Grant in Portland in 2006 (PPR #38).
A little more than a week later, on June 2, 22-year-old Jesse Weatherford died after being shot twice in the chest by Milwaukie police. The State Medical Examiner, however, has ruled his death a "suicide" (KATU-TV, June 3). Police were called to an apartment complex in Milwaukie after a 911 call drew them to a welfare check on a "bloody armed man with a knife" (KGW.com, June 4). Police say Weatherford began approaching them and did not comply with orders to drop the knife they say he had. Police then fired their weapons, hitting Weatherford twice in the chest.
Two witnesses say different. One neighbor told KGW-TV, "(The suspect) didn't have anything in his hands. There was no blood on him. He was just walking toward [the officers]čand I heard those big guns cocking. It's not right." Another witness who also lives in the complex told KATU- TV part of the incident took place outside her window. She said, "He was fleeing. He was running away." Even if he was armed and suicidal, the police did not have to finish the job.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.