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Man in Crisis Killed by Portland Police;
Medical Examiner Calls It "Suicide"
Plus: Cops Inappropriately Viewed Footage in June Shooting

In November, the Portland Police shot and killed a man in mental health crisis outside Good Samaritan hospital in NW Portland, marking the sixth shooting of 2015 and at least the fifth fatal shooting of someone in mental health crisis since the report by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) called out a pattern and practice of excessive force in late 2012. Despite textbook and legal definitions that one person taking another's life is a "homicide," the Oregon State Medical Examiner declared the November 6 shooting of Michael Johnson a "suicide." Meanwhile, new information surfaced on the investigation into the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) shooting of Allen Bellew in June (PPR #66), revealing the officers were allowed to review security camera footage before being interviewed.

Details are still murky around the shooting of 51-year-old Johnson, but it appears numerous officers, including the Special Emergency Response Team (SERT), showed up trying to negotiate with the man, who appeared to be suicidal. Johnson allegedly fired two shots, at least one into the ground (Oregonlive, November 6), before Officers Russ Corno (#26712) and Chad Daul (#25075) shot and killed him. This marks an astounding third shooting for Corno, tying the record for most shootings in the last 23 years with Sgt. Leo Besner (according to our files). Corno shot and wounded Osmar Lovaina-Bermudez in 2009, firing his AR-15 rifle through a fence, bringing criticism from the group that analyzes PPB shootings (PPR #60). Corno's prior shooting was just over a year earlier when he shot under a car to try to kill Derek Coady, but Coady allegedly was not hit and committed suicide with his own gun (PPR #45). For his part, Daul was involved in the bizarre effort to capture Russell Stoneking in 2002, in which Daul fired "bean bag" rounds while another officer's live rounds missed the suspect (PPR #35).

Corno, who's with the Gang Enforcement Team, told the group looking at the City's gun ordinance in 2012 he didn't want to stop referring to "black-style gangs" because it is an "industry term" (PPR #58) and in 2009, told Willamette Week he's "not afraid" of the word "profiling," in the context of the cops being called racist.

The issue of the Medical Examiner calling the death a suicide is not new; we've noted for years how this office, funded by the State Police, tilts its reports to favor police narratives (PPRs #14 & 38, for example). Never mind that the state statute allows them to declare "legal intervention" as a cause of death, presuming they were able to determine whether the shooting was justifiable under the law.

By reaching six deadly force incidents this year, the PPB has gone back to its peak high since 2006, also achieved in 2010 and 2012. An op-ed by the Mental Health Association of Portland in the November 15 Oregonian pointed out that (a) three people per year have been killed on average over a long period of time, (b) the presence of the DOJ hasn't reduced such force being used, especially against people in mental health crisis (the main focus of DOJ's analysis), and (c) "death by a cop should never be an expectation, and no police officer should assist a suicide by pulling the trigger of his service weapon."

Meanwhile, the DOJ's assessment report on the Bureau's progress with the terms of the Settlement Agreement (p. 1) included information about the officers' viewing surveillance footage of Bellew's shooting. When Chief Larry O'Dea learned the officers had reviewed the video, taken from a nearby Taco Bell restaurant, he "admonished" Assistant Chief Donna Henderson and Detectives Commander George Burke that such a practice was not to be repeated in the future (Oregonian, September 25). The DOJ also revealed that the Bureau did not notify Internal Affairs or the "Independent" Police Review Division until 2-1/2 hours after the shooting, though Bureau protocols require notification to happen immediately.

On October 23, the Oregonian's editorial board connected the viewing of third-party footage to the issue of police body cameras, urging that "police officers involved in shootings should not get special treatment to view footage" (more on body cameras).

  People's Police Report

January, 2016
Also in PPR #67

PPB Kills Another Man in Crisis
  OR Police Continue Pattern of Shooting
IPR Annual Report Lacks Details
More Tension on DOJ Settlement
Review Board Flexes Power
Profiling: State Hearing, Spying
PPB Ignores Input on Directives
O'Deas of Our Lives 67
Devaluing Houseless Lives
Police Forums on Body Cameras
Updates PPR 67
  • OR FBI Sting Updates
  "Arresting Power" on DVD
  PPB Labels "Gangs" w/o Criteria
  Training Council Focuses on Process
Quick Flashes PPR 67
  Officer Badmouths Protests, Suspended
  Jury Deadlocks on Mistaken ID Case
  Klamath Sheriff Arrested for Force
  Clatskanie Cop Opposes Racism
Rapping Back #67

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.

People's Police Report #67 Table of Contents
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