People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Second Shooting of 2010 Leaves Homeless Man Dead
Just 52 days after Aaron Campbell was killed by Portland Police (left), Officer Jason Walters (#33522) shot and killed 58-year-old Jack Dale Collins, a homeless man who was covered in his own blood and carrying an X-Acto knife. Meanwhile, the September, 2006 in-custody death of James Chasse, Jr. remained in the news, with another out-of-court settlement, trial location fights, and a public forum by the police review board. Officer Chris Humphreys, one of the three officers involved in Chasse's death, was summoned to testify for two trials of other people whom he roughed up. And, the civil suit around the shooting of Fouad Kaady by Clackamas Deputies came to a close with another massive settlement.
Collins was in the Hoyt Arboretum in SW Portland when park users called police "complaining about a 'drunk transient' harassing passersby" (Portland Mercury , March 25).
When Walters arrived, Collins came out of the restroom, covered in blood and carrying what Chief Sizer described as an "X-Acto knife with a six-inch handle" (Oregonian blog, March 23). With its half-inch blade, such a tool is far less threatening than a switchblade, hunting knife or bayonet.
Details were slow to trickle out, but some in the community were angered by the continuing police violence and marched in the streets, knocking over dumpsters on March 22, with one man throwing a bicycle at a motorcycle officer who ran into him (March 23).
In general, it seems Commissioner Saltzman and Chief Sizer's deal to re-instate Officer Humphreys after he shot a 12-year-old with a "beanbag" round (PPR #49) has given free license to police. Sizer also seems to have responded to the Portland Police Association (PPA) complaint that she does not support them, praising Walters for "protect[ing] the community in a location that is deeply loved by the community." Sgt. Scott Westerman, head of the PPA, was all over the media in the days after the shooting, explaining why Walters did not use a Taser (possible failure rate, no "lethal cover") and pooh-poohing the community for judging Walters when the facts weren't known. Ironically, Walters had not yet been interviewed, so both Westerman and Sizer were speaking before the facts were known, likely tainting the jury pool. The grand jury found no criminal conduct, and some jurors reportedly hugged Officer Walters (Oregonian, April 8). No one was there to hug Jack Collins.
As the second shooting in 2010, this already signals a possible upward trend: there was only one Portland Police shooting in 2009, though there were two each in 2007 and 2008.
Misconduct upon misconduct?: On March 29, protestors objecting to Jack Collins' death were pushed and stomped by police horses. Eight people were arrested, some on riot charges.
The Chasse case grabbed headlines again when the ambulance company, American Medical Response, settled out of court for a reported $600,000 (Oregonian, January 22). Multnomah County settled for $900,000 last year (PPR #49), while the City has paid hundreds of thousands to train officers in crisis intervention, and to defend itself. The judge denied a motion by the City to move the civil trial, scheduled for June, to Idaho or another location, rejecting the claim that the media has made it impossible to get an impartial jury. The City then announced it was hiring hotshot lawyer Anne Bremner, an occasional commentator on Fox news ( Mercury blog, March 17). Willamette Week reported on April 7 that the City is planning to blame Chasse for his own death, including that a poor diet led him to have osteoporosis--explaining why his bones broke so easily.
In a bold move, the IPR's Citizen Review Committee (CRC) held a public forum to gather community concerns about police accountability, specifically asking for input about the James Chasse case. Their plan is to share relevant information with the experts from OIR, a firm of police experts from Los Angeles hired by the Auditor to review the investigation and related policy and training issues. While the IPR Director and Auditor repeatedly told the CRC that OIR is only focusing on the investigation, it is clear from the contract they signed that even though there will be no change in the outcome of the discipline imposed, any issues around Chasse's death at the hands of Humphreys, Sgt. Kyle Nice and Deputy Bret Burton could be part of the final report. Despite what they described as "pushback" from the IPR and City Attorney, the CRC held a successful forum on March 14 (see CRC article in this issue).
Humphreys' latest high-profile incident, involving the beanbag gun, led to a criminal hearing for the 12-year-old in early March. Humphreys was called to the courtroom, but never put on the stand, since Officer Aaron Dauchy affected the arrest. The girl was convicted, and, described by her mother as aggressive when anyone touches her, set her own room on fire the night of the trial ( Mercury Blog, March 3-4).
An earlier case, in which Humphreys roughed up Lisa Ann Coppock in April, 2008 for failure to pay the fare on the MAX (PPR #47), was finally set to go to criminal court on March 16, but the City dropped the charges. Speculation is that they did not want Humphreys in the spotlight for more violence as the Chasse trial approaches, but the dropped charges may also have been a response to Coppock's family withdrawing their lawsuit. Coppock's mother describes her as having "an acute emotional sensitivity"... are we seeing a pattern yet?
In nearby Clackamas County, the case of Fouad Kaady, who was naked and badly burned when a Clackamas Deputy and Sandy Police officer shot and killed him (PPR #37), came to a quiet close. In mid-March, the County followed Sandy's lead and settled with the family for one million dollars (PPR #49). Attorney Kent Spence put out a statement that "The family has mixed feelings about settling this case because they feel it would have been important for the truth of this killing to come out in jury Civil Rights trial." We couldn't agree more.
Don't call the cops: After the shooting death of Aaron Campbell, The Skanner, a Portland-area African-American publication, encouraged its readers not to call police to respond to a mental health crisis (February 15).
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.