People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
PPB Officers Kill Again After Short Break
After a blissful five months without any Portland Police Bureau (PPB) members firing their weapons, two officers, alongside a Clackamas County Deputy, shot and killed homicide suspect Jack Watson, 20, on April 24. The lull was the longest between PPB shootings since 2020. After 17 shootings in 2021-2022 combined, this was the first PPB shooting in 2023. Just under three months later, on July 22, three Portland officers shot and killed PoniaX Calles, 33, another homicide suspect they'd followed into Gresham. Meanwhile, on July 3, Jett Thomas, 29, allegedly tried to push his way into the Federal Courthouse in downtown Portland, leading to a struggle with a security guard from the US Marshals (KGW-8TV, July 5). The guard shot and wounded Thomas; this is the second incident with US Marshals in Portland in two years (the last was in April 2022-- PPR #86). The issue of delaying the release of Portland officer names continued despite no evidence presented that publishing the names would lead to threats against them.
Jack Watson: Murder Suspect Summarily Killed
Watson was wanted for the murder of Zachary Freeman, an employee at an "adult entertainment store." Interestingly, Freeman's family expressed concern that due to Watson's summary killing by police, they would have no answers about why their loved one was also dead (Oregonian, April 29). The officers say they had no time to de-escalate after Watson supposedly fired a gun at them (Clackamas District Attorney, April 26). The Clackamas deputy, David Sloboda (#61419), was identified three days after the incident. However, despite PPB's written policy requiring names to be released in 24 hours, and their claim that they will now do so in 15 days' time, the names of Officer Brian Wheeler (#57813) and Nicholas Wambold (#59907) were not released until May 11, seventeen days later (Oregonian, May 13). Wheeler violently pushed protestor Evelyn Cushing in 2020, injuring her, was found out of policy and cost the city $47,500 (PPR #88). When asked why the Chief's "Executive Order" to extend the deadline was created without the required public input on all Bureau policies required by the US Department of Justice Settlement Agreement, the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison said that threats against the officers justified such a move. However, the supposed threat began in July 2022, the order was given in December 2022, and there was no indication that releasing Wheeler and Wambold's names would cause problems; nothing was reported about threats to Sloboda. At a precinct meeting on the PPB's annual report in July (see Quick Flashes), Chief Lovell said he changed the policy upon advice from the FBI. In August, the Portland Mercury revealed that Lovell did not issue the Executive Order changing the timeline until April 25, the day after Watson was shot.
PoniaX Calles: Black Man with Mental Illness Killed by PPB
Calles was a Black man living with mental illness. He had allegedly shot and killed a security guard at Good Samaritan Hospital in NW Portland, then was seen in Gresham some 18 miles away. Portland Police, Gresham Police and Multnomah County Sheriff's officers all converged on Calles' van, yet for some reason only the three PPB officers felt the urge to shoot and kill. This is despite the PPB having undergone policy and training changes since 2012 to reduce deadly force against people in mental health crisis to follow guidelines from the US Department of Justice. Exactly 15 days later, the PPB identified the officers as Timothy Hoerauf (#51230), Seth Wingfield (#55940), and Justin Thurman (#48255). Thurman was involved in the death-in-custody of Darris Johnson in 2011 (PPR #85). After no shootings of Black people between January 2019 and November 2022, PPB officers have now shot three Black men, killing two, in just eight months.
Jett Thomas: While Hitting Someone on the Head Can Be Considered Deadly Force, Was Gunfire Necessary?
Video of Thomas shows that he grabbed the Deputy Marshal's radio and hit him on the head with it. Although hitting a person on the head can be considered deadly force, this raises the question of whether the Marshal's choice to shoot the man was the best option. Portland Copwatch raised questions about the PPB's draft annual report, which stated Detectives were investigating more officer-involved shootings than committed by Portland cops. Chief Lovell was unable to say whether his officers were investigating the 2022 Marshal shooting. However, a Bureau spokesperson explicitly stated they were investigating the 2023 incident (Oregonlive, July 5).
Grand Juries Fail to Indict
Several Grand Jury transcripts were released in the past few months, clearing the officers who killed Jonathan Worth (Oregonian, April 21) and Aaron Stanton (Oregonlive, July 11) last July (both PPR #87), and Jack Watson, just two months after the incident (Oregonlive, June 29). However there has still been no information about whether a Grand Jury heard the case from November of Immanueal Clark-Johnson, the first Black man killed by the PPB since 2019 (PPR #88).
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.