People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Portland Police 4th Shooting of 2014: Another Young Black Man in
Mental Health Crisis
On September 1, less than three months after the shooting of Nick Davis, a homeless man (PPR #63), Portland Police shot and wounded DeNorris McClendon, a 27 year old African American man with mental health issues. This shooting marked the fourth in 2014, bringing the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) to the average number for the past 10 years. Meanwhile, two lists of deadly force incidents made the news: Portland Copwatch (PCW) compiled a list of incidents around Oregon for 2010-14, and the Mental Health Association of Portland (MHAP) surveyed national shootings for the month of August.
McClendon's grandmother said he had been acting strangely in recent days, thinking the FBI was hiding in the bushes. He went to the hospital for a mental health evaluation the night before the shooting but was released (Oregonian, September 3). On Labor Day, he allegedly was pointing a replica gun at people in cars on Interstate 84, threatening to carjack them. Police arrived and chased him, with Officer Michael Honl (#33525) firing a shotgun and wounding McClendon in the leg. He ultimately surrendered to police. The use of a shotgun by the PPB is extremely rare (with the exception of the live round in the "beanbag" gun that led to Officer Dane Reister being fired for wounding William Monroe-- PPR #61); it will be interesting to see if Honl ignored training to hit "center mass," deciding to injure McClendon and avoid killing him. While he might be disciplined for the shooting, PCW hopes there will be no repercussions for wounding rather than killing a suspect.
Like Aaron Campbell, who was grieving his brother's death when the PPB shot him in 2010, McClendon lost his mom in July. Unlike Campbell, he did have a (fake) weapon, yet police managed to take him into custody without killing him. The PPB released a photo of the replica gun almost immediately, as they did with the crowbar Davis allegedly waved, whereas it took several days for them to release pictures of the less "scary" X-Acto knife and phone handle in earlier shootings (Jack Collins and Merle Hatch-- PPRs #50 & 59). Meanwhile, the community has still never seen the gun allegedly used by Keaton Otis (PPR #51).
Both victim and shooter appeared previously in the People's Police Report. In 2005, Honl and another officer fired nine bullets at Gilbert King's truck, but did not hit anybody (PPR #35). In 2004, McClendon complained to the Citizen Review Committee (CRC). Officer Paul Ware hit him with a Taser when he was holding the retaining bar from his family's sliding glass door after rushing in to report an assault on his own brother by a third person. CRC voted to move the Bureau's finding from "Exonerated" to "Insufficient Evidence" (PPR #33).
In a quick update to one of 2014's earlier shootings, John Romero, the Portland officer who shot and killed Kelly Swoboda in March (PPR #62), was awarded the Medal of Valor and Police Star by the PPB for his "calm heroism" after he survived a gunshot wound to his hand (Oregonian, September 28). While we are glad the officer was not killed, as mentioned in PPR #60 (in reference to Officer Pete McConnell's award for shooting Craig Boehler), we thought that the practice of giving awards to cops who kill civilians was ended after the outcry over such awards after the death of José Mejía Poot in 2001 (PPR #29).
On October 17, PCW sent a letter to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum listing 101 cases of deadly force by law enforcement over the 5 years from 2010-July 2014. One impetus was the state law passed in 2007 directing the AG's office to compile and occasionally publish data for deaths caused by law enforcement (SB 111-- PPR #42), information that has never been released. The Portland Skanner posted PCW's letter and data online along with a map showing the location of the incidents, which only included 22 involving Portland Police (November 6). The 101 cases broke down at 92 shootings (43 ending in death), 6 Taser-related deaths, 2 deaths in custody and 1 vehicle as deadly force. (Updated statistics below.)
MHAP's shorter-term but more ambitious data collection examined the month of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. Working to "crowdsource" the information over Wikipedia, MHAP identified 104 people killed nationally by law enforcement in August. They noted if this were an average month, there would be about 1200 deaths per year in the US, about 3 times more than the FBI's estimate of 400. They highlighted ten states where police killed people in mental health crisis, including Oregon (Portland Mercury, September 10).
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.