People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Man Shot By Police After Car Crash Marks Most Portland
Incidents Since 2006
On September 29, Portland Police officers Erik Strohmeyer (#38637) and Garry Britt (#49588) were involved in firing shots at 27 year old Joshua Baker, a suspect in a shooting who drove away from them and crashed his truck at NE 148th and San Rafael. So far as we know, only the Oregonian has reported that Baker was struck in the head by a police bullet, though his injuries were not life-threatening (October 10). Baker's shooting marks the seventh incident involving the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) and a shooting or death in custody in 2012, bringing the number of incidents to the most since the year James Chasse, Jr. was killed in 2006 (also 7). Meanwhile, yet another person ended up with a gunshot wound during a standoff with the PPB, and Keaton Otis' father was denied the right to appeal the "no misconduct" findings in Otis' case, all while the US Department of Justice (DOJ) was examining the Bureau for excessive use of force (article).
Initial reports about Baker mentioned police firing shots and his injuries, but weren't clear whether the injuries were from the crash or the bullets. The Oregonian also reported Baker had a rifle wrapped in a cloth, but doesn't say whether he threatened the officers. The same grand jury was used to indict Baker on attempted murder charges and to determine there was no criminal wrongdoing by the officers-- another good reason to engage a special prosecutor for police shootings. When the person lives, the same jury should not be judging both the actions of the police and the person they shot.
Meanwhile, the Washington County District Attorney's office, all on their own with no jury, decided that Portland Detective Travis Fields (#40613) did not break any laws when he shot at (and missed) 25 year old Michael Anthony Tate in Aloha on August 21 (PPR #57). This despite the fact that Tate was carrying a cell phone, not a gun, and ran away from the police, jumping out a window and injuring himself (Oregonlive, October 9). Although the Independent Police Review Division (IPR) did not go to the shooting site in Portland where Washington County officers shot a suspect in March (PPR #56), they did go to Washington County following this incident.
Adalberto Flores-Haro, the man shot in North Portland in March, has filed a lawsuit against the Washington County Deputies who fired on him, and a tort claim against Portland reserving his right to sue them for their involvement in the incident (Portland Mercury, September 13).
Added to these two incidents is another curious police standoff where a person ended up shot-- this time, wounded in the leg, and not dead, as in three cases noted in PPR #57. Tyrell Milton Burton, a 23 year old African American man, was a suspect in an armed robbery, holed himself up in a "mud room" and later, surrounded by the SERT team, complained that he'd been shot (Oregonlive, October 13 and East Portland News, October 19). Will we ever know if police used their guns?
It feels as though the community is being given less information instead of more, despite previous efforts to release grand jury transcripts and the DOJ calling on the Bureau to improve community relations. The DOJ initially wrote there was nothing to prohibit a person involved in a police shooting from appealing non-sustained findings about misconduct to the Citizen Review Committee (CRC). Fred Bryant, the father of Keaton Otis, a young African American man shot 23 times by police in 2010, engaged an attorney to push IPR to allow him to appeal such findings, proposed by the Police Review Board in October 2011 (PPR #56). In September, IPR Director Mary- Beth Baptista denied the appeal, citing administrative exceptions in the City Code she believes make this case different from, say, the 12-year-old who was hit with a "beanbag" in 2009 and on whose behalf Baptista changed the rules to make it easier to file appeals (PPR #50). Bryant's attorney responded in early October, and no public discussion or response from IPR or CRC has been reported. For his part, Bryant testified to City Council when they were considering the DOJ Agreement, saying the denial was unfair because anyone else whose case was investigated and assigned findings other than "Sustained" has the right to appeal.
In other shootings news, the IPR reports that there has been a Police Review Board hearing in the case of Darris Johnson, who died in police custody in July 2011 (PPR #54), and that a PRB hearing is scheduled in the case of William Monroe, who was shot by Officer Dane Reister in June 2011 (also PPR #54). The latter is of particular interest because Reister is still facing possible criminal charges for the shooting.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.