People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Other Information Contact info
Police Kill Suicidal Man, Wound Robbery Suspect;
Morgan had called the emergency line at about 3 in the morning to say he had robbed someone and was going to jump off a building, when in reality he was despondent about being cut off from an ex-girlfriend and the child they'd had together. While the 9-1-1 staff tried working with police to determine his location, the operator with whom he was speaking engaged him in conversation to the point where he might have been willing to change his mind. Someone in the chain of communication made a decision that the police should approach Morgan, who had hinted he had a weapon. As the cops arrived at the top of the parking garage at SW 4th and Morrison, Morgan hung up. The recording is heartbreaking to listen to, and raises once again the question of why the police and negotiators don't have a better line of communication. Sgt. John Holbrook (#32026) and Officer David Scott (#37557) apparently spent about 25 minutes talking to Morgan, asking for crisis specialists partway through, but having put themselves in a situation with nowhere to take cover, chose to open fire just after 4 AM. Of the five bullets fired, one killed Morgan.
The 209-day stretch between the shootings of William Monroe in June 2011 (PPR #54) and Morgan on January 25 was the fifth-longest stretch since Portland Copwatch started tracking shootings in 1992.
The shooting comes in the middle of the Federal Department of Justice investigation into whether the PPB uses excessive force, in particular against people with mental health issues (see p. 5). Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland told the Portland Mercury, "The police need to get out of the suicide business... If you always send police, that is effectively criminalizing mental illness" (February 2).
Interestingly, Sgt. Holbrook was the person who turned Jack Collins away from a precinct when he tried to turn himself in for long-ago crimes, just days before police killed Collins in March, 2010 (PPR #50).
Potter was located at around 7:30 AM on March 26 sleeping in his car by Laurelhurst Park. The police surrounded the car, identified in a robbery from the night before, then laid down spike strips to prevent an escape and called for Portland's SERT team. Apparently, Potter awoke and the officers started yelling commands at him to get out of the car. The police claim that when he woke, he was holding a gun (really a replica BB gun), so they shot at him seven times, hitting him once. The four officers are Dennis Wilcox (#24189), Larry Wingfield (#26849), Richard Storm (#35818) and Tracy Chamberlin (#32087). Wingfield was the officer who felt bad about how he and another cop came to shoot Thomas Higginbotham in an abandoned car wash last year (PPR #53).
On March 13, the SERT team was out of town training, so the PPB called upon the Washington County SWAT team to help serve a warrant in the New Columbia neighborhood of North Portland. SWAT officers were on the property of neighbor Alberto Flores-Haro, who came out with a handgun to protect his family against the unknown intruders. Area residents and family report a lot of shouting, but it is unclear whether the police identified themselves before opening fire on Flores. (Note that the PPB originally said there was "an exchange of gunfire" but later backtracked.) Hillsboro Officer Steven Slade and Washington County Deputies John Egg and Brian McLeod shot and wounded Flores, who was sent to the hospital in critical condition. On March 23, the Multnomah County District Attorney's office said that they would be investigating the shooting-- which is good to see, since the PPB should have been in charge of the "rules of engagement." We have long called for clarification on who decides when to shoot when multiple agencies work together (for example, the Justyn Gallegos shooting in 2000 [PPR #22], the Dwayne Novak shooting in 2005 [PPR #35] and the George Hawkins shooting in 2008 [PPR #46]). Unfortunately, the staff at the Independent Police Review Division (IPR) decided they would not go out to the scene of the Flores incident despite their new policy on shootings and the PPB's involvement.
Two other big stories relate to shootings in 2010: The Campbell settlement and the Otis disciplinary decision. The $1.2 million settlement is being reported as the largest payout from the City's insurance policy, despite the larger $1.6 million settlement in the James Chasse, Jr. case in 2010 (PPR #51). That's because the City spent its $1 million deductible hiring outside legal counsel. At a news conference coordinated by the Albina Ministerial Alliance (AMA) Coalition for Justice and Police Reform in early February, Marva Davis (Campbell's mother) explained that the family did not want to have to re-live in a courtroom the tragedy of Aaron, who had been despondent over his brother's death when police shot him. We can't blame them, but it is disappointing that the facts of the case will not be aired before a jury and the public.
Despite the arbitrator's ruling, the City is defending its decision to fire Officer Frashour, in what posed a huge conundrum for the lawsuit: on one hand, they fired Frashour for not following Bureau training and policy; on the other, they say he acted legally and did not violate Campbell's civil rights. Several training officers had been prepared to testify that Frashour actually did act within his training, causing the usually conservative Oregonian editorial page to call for Chief Reese to reconcile the "chasm" between policy and training (February 9). The reinstatement is yet another in a long line of outrages to communities of color, including the reinstatement of Officer Douglas Erickson (fired after shooting and wounding African American Gerald Gratton in the back in 1993--PPR #6) and the overturning of the six-month suspension of Officer Scott McCollister (who shot and killed African American Kendra James in 2003--PPR #38), as well as officers involved in leaving dead possums in front of a black-owned business in the early 1980s, and officers who made T-Shirts saying "Don't Choke 'Em, Smoke 'Em" after African American security guard Tony Stevenson was choked by cops in 1985. On April 12, the Mayor, citing state law, decided to ignore the arbitrator's ruling, triggering an immediate "Unfair Labor Practice" complaint from the Portland Police Association the next day.
The decision not to discipline any officer in the Keaton Otis case was never announced publicly by the Chief, unlike when he fired Frashour in late 2010. Instead, it was the second bi-annual PRB report that tipped off the community and Otis' family that no administrative wrongdoing was found. (This case has taken on a new relevance since the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida, who was deemed suspicious for wearing a hoodie-- the same reason PPB officers pulled over Otis.) The report broke down the incident into six areas: Traffic stop and box-in, Tasers, Use of deadly force, Use of "beanbag" shotguns (on Otis' mortally wounded body), Post-shooting actions and Operational planning. The only place where one member of the board questioned police actions was the number of "beanbag" shots fired (three). Overall, though, the report, which is heavily redacted, feels as though there was no consideration by the PRB that police were confronting a human being.
Otis' father, Fred Bryant, engaged an attorney to write to the IPR asking why they violated the City Code guiding the PRB and IPR. The ordinance requires notification when a recommended finding comes from the PRB about an incident involving a community member, to allow that person to file an appeal to the Citizen Review Committee. The IPR has consulted the City Attorney for advice.
Meanwhile, William Monroe filed a $5.5 million lawsuit against the City for Officer Dane Reister shooting him with live rounds from a "beanbag" gun last June (PPR #54). Reister, who was indicted for assault (PPR #55), had his criminal trial delayed from February to May.
Also, the PRB held hearings in the shootings of Darryel Ferguson (PPR #52) and Higginbotham in January and for Marcus Lagozzino (PPR #53); the results are not yet known. In April, Ralph Turner, who was shot at but not hit by police in March 2011 (PPR #53), was convicted for shooting at officers.
Portland Copwatch Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability
through citizen action.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.