People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
City Settles Shotgun Incident for Record $2.3 Million;
With Portland in its fourth longest stretch in the last five years without a police shooting (of a human*), the City settled the horrific shotgun wounding of William Monroe with a record-breaking $2.3 million payout and accepted a new outside report critiquing officers' past uses of deadly force.
On June 5, City Council unanimously voted to pay Monroe the sum of $965,000, with the other $1.335 million coming from their insurance carrier, for the incident in June 2011 where Officer Dane Reister shot Monroe with live ammunition from a "beanbag" gun, permanently disabling the young man (PPR #54). Ever seeking to avoid responsibility, the City referred to the incident by saying "Plaintiff was accidentally shot by a police officer with live rounds from a shot gun instead of less lethal ammunition," not acknowledging that Reister deliberately shot Monroe four times, and only stopped when the gun jammed. Reister's criminal trial is still on hold pending a ruling on the DA's effort to charge him with a firearm discharge allegation (which is designed to cover hunters). As PCW noted in its written testimony to Council, the payout is larger than the $1.2 million paid to Aaron Campbell's family (PPR #56) and the $1.6 million paid to James Chasse's family (PPR #51). The message: dead men tell no tales. Interestingly, the agreement to settle Monroe's case came on April 29, just 18 days after it was formally filed in court (Oregonian, April 12 and May 1). [For more on lawsuits, see article, this isse.]
In mid-July, the OIR Group of Los Angeles released their second report on Portland officer- involved shootings and deaths in custody, covering six shootings from 2005-2010 and Portland's only Taser-related death. The 100-plus page report prompted PCW to release its own analysis, which said the report did well to criticize bad police decisions leading up to most of the incidents, but contained a deeply disappointing discussion of race in relation to the case of Keaton Otis, who in 2010 was followed and pulled over due to racial profiling and ended up dead (PPR #51). The report's focus on reckless tactics, poor supervision and neglect of officer safety mostly in cases involving car and/or foot pursuits suggests that such chases may prompt officers to use deadly force more often.
--OIR repeated the Medical Examiner's finding that the 2006 Taser-related death was caused by a drug overdose, not questioning whether the electro-shock weapon may have contributed to Tim Grant's demise (PPR #38)--even though OIR suggested Officer Paul Park could have waited for backup and never zapped Grant.
--In discussing Otis's death, OIR repeats the litany of reasons officers gave for following and pulling over the 25-year-old African American man, including that he "looked like a gangster," wore a hoodie on a hot day, didn't "fit" the car he was driving (Otis' mother's Toyota), and was slouching in the car. Yet OIR did not analyze that these concerns would never have applied to a 20-something white kid in Portland.
--In another case involving a black suspect, Marcello Vaida was chased after supposedly littering, and ended up wounded by many of the 39 bullets two officers fired at him in 2005 (PPR #37).** The OIR Group revealed that a commander cleared the officers of wrongdoing based in part on an erroneous and easily disproven fact forwarded to the commander: he said the officers never lost sight of Vaida (which should have ended the chase) but both officers admitted doing just that.
--The Otis and Vaida cases, both involving black suspects and alleged gunshots toward police, involved what we believe are the largest number of police bullets in all PPB shootings since 1992.
--While Lt. Jeffrey Kaer left his official post in 2006 to check out his sister's concern about a man in a car near her house, eventually shooting and killing Dennis Young (PPR #38), OIR erroneously suggested Kaer did not violate Bureau policies by interfering in a personal matter. PCW pointed out that Directives 313.00 and 311.30 prohibit officers from using their position in personal disputes on or off duty. Most of OIR's well-crafted recommendations from this shooting, though, focus on how the arbitration process resulted in Kaer being reinstated after Mayor Tom Potter dismissed him (PPR #45). They suggest learning from arbitration decisions to fix police training and policy, which should keep cops fired in the future. OIR made overarching comments against language the Bureau used and the Arbitrator repeated that the "actions of the suspect dictated the actions of the officer," noting that such an analysis creates an "excuse for the outcome and does not sufficiently credit well-trained officers and their ability to bring suspects into custody intelligently and safely."
--The officer who bumped Scott Suran's van in 2006, causing it to flip over and catch fire, probably should have been investigated for the use of deadly force, even though the report suggests the officer's speed was probably within the top limit of 45 miles per hour to conduct such a maneuver. Suran ran and was shot at close range by Officer (now Sergeant) Anthony Passadore with an AR- 15 rifle (PPR #40). OIR called Passadore's concern that Suran running away might have posed a threat too generic, noting that any officer would be justified in using deadly force under his logic.
--OIR didn't make enough of the fact that in 2009, Officer Russ Corno fired his AR-15 rifle through a fence at Osmar Lovaina-Bermudez (PPR #49) so close that the bullet passed through the Latino man and lodged in the fireplace of a nearby home. They did, however, urge more negotiation before resorting to violent tactics such as throwing six canisters of gas into a small shed (which the cops did with Bermudez). Their recommendation could have changed the outcome in the shooting death of Merle Hatch, whom the police did not try to speak to or hail using a bullhorn before he ran at them, dying in a barrage of police bullets in February (PPR #59).
--OIR revealed that when David Hughes called a 911 operator in 2006 and asked to speak to a specific officer, who had a good rapport with Hughes, she both refused to put his call through and failed to realize he was a wanted fugitive the police were seeking. Eventually Hughes jumped out his hotel window and, trapped between two fences and two buildings, was shot at close range by three officers including Officer Nathan Voeller, using an AR-15 at close range (PPR #40). PCW pointed out that the better-trained emergency operator talking to Bradley Morgan in 2012 was making progress before police arrived, interrupted her, and shot Morgan (PPR #56), but that a public analysis of that case may not be done until at least 2015 due to the lag time in the outside reviews.
On the plus side, the new report used officer names throughout, something that would never have happened in the PARC reports released under Auditor Gary Blackmer (PPRs #31, 37, 41 and 47). However, PCW critiqued the new OIR Group report for failing to complain that with no true civilian oversight, "Portland's system is still too incestuous for officers to be held accountable," calling for more civilian oversight to include the investigations of deadly force and appeals to the CRC. PCW asked for, and from her testimony at Council it appears Auditor Lavonne Griffin-Valade is open to, allowing OIR to review some of the shootings from 2011-2013 in their next report, due in 2014.
The OIR report can be found at www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=54263&a=455591.
In other shootings news:
--In mid-April, the Portland Police Association filed its rebuttal to the City's appeal of an Arbitrator's decision to reinstate Officer Ron Frashour, who killed Aaron Campbell in 2010 and was subsequently fired (Portland Mercury Blog, April 19; see PPRs #50 & 52).
--The memorial events for Kendra James (10 years later) and Keaton Otis (three years later) held in May were each attended by dozens of community members. The James memorial was featured on KOIN-TV news (May 5).
--We thought officers were no longer going to receive awards for their involvement in the deaths of civilians after the killing of José Mejía Poot in 2001 (PPR #28). However, in June, the Bureau gave an award to Officer Pete McConnell, who shot Craig Boehler three times with an AR-15 rifle in 2012 (PPR #52) before Boehler's house caught fire and he died (Oregonian, June 12).
*-On July 16, Officer Robert Slyter (#26779) shot and killed a pit bull which was reportedly attacking a smaller dog. Slyter was involved in the 1996 shooting death of Charles Michel, Jr.
**-Previous reports only listed 38 bullets.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.