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While Another Incident Ends with Officers, Not Suspect, Wounded

The Portland Police started 2010 with a near-record: Only one shooting had happened in 2009, part of a three year down-ward trend. Then came three early-year shootings in January, March and May, with the third coincident to the appointment of Chief Mike Reese (PPR #51). After a six month pause, the shootings began again in November, one week after Reese fired Officer Ron Frashour for his role in shooting and killing Aaron Campbell, with another 24 days later. Between the time we went to press and the time PPR #52 arrived in people's homes, the Portland Police had shot at another three people. This cluster of five shootings in six weeks was unprecedented* and led to an amazing statement by Chief Reese: that the number of shootings was "unacceptable... I consider one too many. We're going to do everything we can to prevent officers from using their firearms."

Turner in the Bee However, Reese and Mayor Adams were quick to blame the increased shootings on the violence and mental health issues that police face, rather than the police themselves for not using their Crisis Intervention Team training or other de-escalation tactics. Reese also ordered a look at more "less lethal" weapons, which led to some scary proposed solutions (see CRC article). Complicating the discussion, another incident on March 6 left two officers wounded when a suspect shot at them; amazingly, the police took Ralph Turner into custody without wounding or killing him, though Officer Justin Clary (#40926) did fire numerous rounds from an AR-15 assault rifle at the man's house.

Oregonian Laggozino The cops did use "less lethal" weapons before shooting and wounding Marcus Lagozzino, 34, on December 27: a Taser and two "beanbag" guns. Nonetheless, Officer Bradley Clark (#46430)'s weapon of choice to shoot at the man, who had threatened his parents and was carrying a machete, was also an AR-15 assault rifle. Lagozzino lived, the only of the six people shot at in 2010 to do so. The shooting occurred 56 seconds after officers radioed their intention to move closer to Lagozzino's home. The officers made a plan, but apparently not one that included what to do if Lagozzino came at them with the machete. (Incidentally, in the same way police described the X- Acto knife carried by Jack Collins as having a 6-inch handle last March, they were sure to report the machete had a 22-inch blade). Lagozzino, who survived being hit with three of the four bullets fired at him, was charged with menacing, assault and harassment but may be able to enter mental health treatment as an alternative to jail (Oregonian, January 8).

Moffett Headline In early January, two incidents happened back-to-back: Early on New Year's Day, Kevin Charles Moffett, 31, allegedly shot a bouncer outside of a downtown nightclub; Sergeant Mike Fort (#26379) shot once at Moffett and missed, fortunately not hitting any of the other patrons pouring out of the club.

Oregonian Higginbotham The next day, January 2, Vietnam Veteran Thomas Higginbotham, 67, was shot and killed by officers who had come into an abandoned car wash near 82nd and Powell to investigate complaints he had harassed a security guard. Higginbotham allegedly approached them with a knife, and his thick winter clothing made their Taser ineffective. While Officer Jason Lile (#38941) says he felt he did the right thing, Officer Larry Wingfield (#26849) told the grand jury he wasn't sure they should have gone so far into the building and gotten so close to the man; there were no lights, stacks of junk piled up, and no exit scenario. Wingfield also regretted that at least three bullets hit Higginbotham in the back (Mercury blog, January 28). We hope Reese will go lighter on Wingfield, even though his regrets do not bring Higginbotham back to life. As is typical, before releasing his name, the police told the media Higginbotham had an extensive police record, though his record in Oregon consisted of felony theft and traffic offenses (Oregonian, January 9).

The March incident in which officers were wounded started as a "welfare check." According to police, as they knocked on the door of Ralph Turner's SE home, bullets came flying out, with one bullet allegedly passing through the pants leg of Officer Andrew Koefoed (#40928), and shrapnel hitting his bullet proof vest. The officers, unlike so many previous scenarios, retreated across the street to a park. 61-year-old Turner had a hunting rifle and began shooting at officers, seriously wounding Officer Parik Singh (#31724). What happened next raises concerns: Clary used "suppression fire" at the house, which could have killed Turner, and could have penetrated the home and perhaps other houses in the area. The Oregonian reports that the goal is to "neutralize the threat" (March 13). Eventually Sgt. Troy King (#28652), acting as a negotiator, was able to reach Turner by phone and he surrendered peacefully.

Mayor Adams, who is Police Commissioner, declared the officers were heroes before the end of the day, which is unfortunate as there had been no investigation into whether they followed policy. However, we have said before and say again: Everyone deserves to go home safe at night, officers and civilians. It is good that all involved were able to live through the situation.

Oregonian Editorial 031411 Other media, including the Oregonian, also hailed the officers' work, kicking it up a notch with the March 14 editorial "Yes, 'suicide by cop' is bad, but shooting of cop is worse." The gist is that officers' lives are somehow more valuable than other members of the community.

Details also emerged in the shooting of Darryel Ferguson, who allegedly met officers at his door with an air pistol on December 17 (PPR #52). Officer Kelly Jenson fired 5 shots, hitting Ferguson three times, and Jonathan Kizzar fired 15 shots, most hitting the door frame and a washing machine (Oregonian, January 11). According to the Portland Mercury, grand jury transcripts (which are now routinely released when the suspect dies) reveal that "everyone agrees the officers never identified themselves" (January 13). So, someone was knocking on Ferguson's door at 3:45 AM after he'd been in a dispute with neighbors. It seems as if Officers Jenson and Kizzar should be held accountable at least for their failure to announce themselves as police.

To recap, since January 2010, there have been nine officer involved shootings in Portland; three people survived (one was shot, two others were not); three officers were wounded (Officer Burley at the Keaton Otis shooting in May in addition to two at Turner's). Of those incidents, at least three were generated by people calling 9-1-1 out of concern for a loved one and the police responding with force: Campbell, Lagozzino and Turner, whose girlfriend had called for help worried he was going to overdose on pills.

Meanwhile, the family of Aaron Campbell amended their lawsuit, claiming the police have been harassing and conducting surveillance on them since the killing (Oregonian, March 19). The Albina Ministerial Alliance (AMA) Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, which has been following the case since it happened, co-hosted a memorial service for Campbell on January 29, exactly one year after his death.

Things are looking up for the fired Frashour. In February, the State of Oregon's Employment Department ruled that he was entitled to unemployment benefits, calling the shooting of the unarmed Campbell in the back an "'isolated' instance of 'poor judgment'" (Mercury, February 10). The Department of Public Safety, Standards and Training, which issues certification for police officers, refused to revoke Frashour's certification, since the shooting did not violate state standards (Mercury, March 3). However, it should be noted that since Frashour violated Portland's policies, his firing could still withstand the scrutiny of an arbitrator.

In the January Rap Sheet, Portland Police Association (PPA) President Daryl Turner made clear his intentions with regard to Frashour and discipline of the three other officers involved. "We will not allow politically motivated decisions to impact the working conditions of our membership. Neither the police commissioner, the police chief, nor anti-police organizations can change the facts regarding this incident." He says the PPA will keep up the pressure to "use every resource available to ensure that no member will be disciplined to minimize the political and civil liability of the Police Bureau and the City of Portland when they are within Police Bureau policies."
*The closest other cluster since 2001 was in February-March 2005, when there were five shootings over seven weeks


May, 2011
Also in PPR #53

Chief: 5 shootings "unacceptable"
Lawsuits rack up against Portland
Rights commission political shuffle
Auditor hires shooting review group
Shootings: DA Forum, Gresham cops kill
Sit/Lie: More selective enforcing
Drug Free Zones revisited
Terrorism task force debate delayed
Ending crisis training for all police?
$5 Million bought PPA contract
Review board hearing lots of cops
PPR Quick Flashes #53
  • Chasse case Sgt guilty of road rage
  • More horses to crush you
  • Legislature considers deadly force bills
Rapping Back 53

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

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