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In Memory of James Chasse Jr. community information

Copies of "Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse, Jr" on DVD!
Send $15 check or money order to
  Portland Copwatch/Peace and Justice Works
  PO Box 42456, Portland, OR 97242
(Sorry, we can't accept payment for DVDs or other items via our web donation page)
New as of April 2014!


For extensive links to articles relating to the 9/17/06 in-custody death of James Chasse Jr visit the Mental Health Association of Portland's website at

James Chasse case mentioned in Grand Jury report on County Jails (11/1/06)

ACTIONS: October-November, 2009

After Chief Rosie Sizer announced in late September that the only infraction of police policy was that Sgt. Kyle Nice failed to see James Chasse was brought to the hospital after being hit with a Taser, the Mental Health Association of Portland and other groups called for the officers to resign. We support the goal of seeing these officers leave the Portland Police Bureau--if the Chief and the Council won't fire them, they should without a doubt resign. Read the full action alert--including emailing the officers themselves, as well as City Council, to pressure the resignations.

Actions in September, 2008

Below are announcements for three events around the death of James Chasse, Jr, in Sept of 2006--
-a vigil on Tuesday the 16th from 12-dusk at Central Precinct
-a protest on Wednesday the 17th from 3:30-5:30 PM also at Central Pct*
-a benefit concert for "Alien Boy", the documentary on Chasse,
on Wednesday the 17th at 8 PM at the Wonder Ballroom

*and associated actions on Monday and Tuesday

Portland Copwatch isn't directly involved in these but we know people who are and want to be sure you have this information.

(Original announcements edited for clarity and brevity.)

Date: Mon, 8 Sep 2008 20:56:53 -0700
From: Mental Health Association of Portland

**Action to Remember James Chasse, Jr Two Years After Portland Police Beat Him to Death**

Tuesday, September 16, 2008
12:00 noon to dusk
Justice Center, 1111 SW 2nd

September 17 marks the second anniversary of the beating death of James Chasse.

To remember James, and others with mental illness and addiction who died in past years during police action, supporters of the Mental Health Association of Portland will join on *Tuesday, September 16* for a political action at the Portland Police Bureau Central Precinct and the Multnomah County Jail.

The action will begin at *Noon September 16 and end before dusk*. The action will consist of supporters drawing chalk outlines of persons who died during police actions on the sidewalks circling the block. Names, dates of death and perhaps remembrances of those who died will be written on the sidewalks in chalk. As per agreement with the City, all chalk drawings will be removed by the end of the day.

You're invited to participate with this political action. Come at anytime between 10 AM and 6 PM. Bring friends and help remember those who have died.

On a late Sunday afternoon, September 17, 2006, James Chasse Jr., walking home from a Northwest church, was attacked by and died at the hands of three law officers in downtown Portland in front of a dozen witnesses.

The officers, Portland Police officer Christopher Humphreys, Portland Police Sergeant Kyle Nice and Multnomah County Sheriff deputy Bret Burton, did not know Chasse, he was not suspected of a crime, and he did not provoke them.

When asked why the officers beat Chasse to death, one officer claimed Chasse "acted strange."

Chasse was tackled to the ground, punched, kicked, Tasered repeatedly and hogtied, resulting in 16 broken ribs, a number of abrasions, a broken shoulder, both lungs punctured.

James Chasse had a family, a history and a future, friends, neighbors, dreams and hopes. He was an artist, a small shy gentle person, and a person with schizophrenia. His death was merciless, brutal and pointless.

For a full listing about this event, go to http://mentalhealthportland.wordpress.com/2008/09/08/subject-second- anniversary-of-the-death-of-james-chasse/

For more information about James Chasse, see jameschasse.blogspot.com

To learn about a documentary film being made in Portland about the life and death of James Chasse, see http://www.alienboy.org

Jason Renaud
Mental Health Association of Portland


Date: Mon, 8 Sep 2008 15:45:00 -0700
From: pdxcap@gmail.com

Three Days of Action
Sept. 15, 16, 17

Monday, September 15th -- Housing Forum.
Come together with the community and discuss solutions to problems of poverty and houselessness. Then get organized and start putting solutions in place.
At First Unitarian Church, 1011 SW 12th, from 6-8pm.

Tuesday, September 16th -- Know Your Rights Training.
Get on the ball when dealing with the cops.
At PSU -- signs will be posted. 6 -- 8 pm

Wednesday, September 17th -- Be in the Streets!
Protest two years of lies about the death of James Chasse, a mentally ill man who was beaten by police and left to die in the back of their cop car.
At Central Precinct of the Portland Police Bureau, 1111 SW 2nd, downtown. 3:30-5:30.

Portland Coalition Against Poverty
All Power to the Poor


Benefit concert:

Come to the benefit for Alien Boy - a documentary film about the life and death of James Chasse, Wednesday, September 17, 8 PM at Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell in Portland.

Playing are Ah Holly Fam'ly, Tender Forever, and Calvin Johnson.

This is a all ages event.

Tickets available at Reading Frenzy, Jackpot Records, Wonder Ballroom, Ticketmaster. Admission $12, $15 through Ticketmaster or day of event.

All about Alien Boy and James Chasse at http://www.alienboy.org

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Actions 2006

Full-page flyer for 2006 memorial    •Quarter-page flyers

A memorial vigil for James Chasse Jr.
Friday, October 27, 2006 7:00 PM First Congregational Church 1126 SW Park Ave

Friends, family, and concerned community members will gather to remember James Chasse, Jr. on Friday, October 27, 2006 at 7:00 PM at Portland's First Congregational Church in a memorial vigil titled "Love One Another." Chasse, who died in Portland Police custody on September 17, is remembered as a peaceful man who wished no harm on anyone. People attending the vigil are asked to honor the family's wishes for a respectful event. Messages to be communicated apart from memories of James will be focused on simple, positive phrases such as "Justice," "Love," and "Remember James Chasse, Jr."

Speakers will include family members, friends, clergy, and community leaders who will reflect on the life of James Chasse Jr. and offer words of hope and encouragement.

Media attending should be aware that some speakers may not wish to have their presentations recorded or otherwise reported on. This information will be shared from the stage prior to the presentation.

The family has asked that donations in memory of James be made to Operation Nightwatch or the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The event is being co-coordinated by members of the Chasse family, First Congregational Church- United Church of Christ, Parkrose United Church of Christ, the Mental Health Association of Portland, and Portland Copwatch. It is supported by Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Oregon Advocacy Center, Mental Health Association of Oregon, Icarus Project-Portland, Operation Nightwatch, ACLU of Oregon, and others. For more information call Portland Copwatch, a grassroots group promoting police accountability through citizen action, at 503-236-3065.

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Correspondence with District Attorney 2006
Note that the letter we wrote to the District Attorney, below, was based
on information we had prior to the release of the autopsy report showing
that James Chasse Jr. died after 16 of his ribs were fractured in 26
places, with some pieces splintering and puncturing his lungs.

While this means the actual cause of his death is more related to the
beating by the officers that his inability to breathe, it does not mean
the facts we address had no bearing on Chasse's death.

It is still true that the officers should have known that their actions could have caused his death.

October 2, 2006


On Monday, October 2, Portland Copwatch, a grassroots organization promoting police accountability through citizen action, sent a letter to Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk urging an "aggressive and thorough" presentation of the in-police-custody death of James Chasse Jr. to the grand jury. The jury, which meets tomorrow, will be deciding whether the officers involved in the case should be indicted on criminal charges in Chasse's death. Portland Copwatch points out that the reports published to date imply that the officers could at least be charged with criminally negligent homicide.

The full text of the letter is below.

Portland Copwatch has been monitoring police actions in Portland, including shootings and deaths in custody, since 1992. For a full list of incidents see (http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/listofshootings.html).


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2006 11:31:45 -0700 (PDT)
From: Portland Copwatch
To: District Attorney Michael Schrunk
Subject: Urging an aggressive and thorough presentation of the Chasse case

Portland Copwatch
(a project of Peace and Justice Works)
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065 (office)
(503) 321-5120 (incident report line)

Michael D. Schrunk,
District Attorney
Multnomah County Courthouse
1021 S.W. Fourth Avenue, Room 600
Portland, OR 97204

October 2, 2006

District Attorney Schrunk:

We are writing to you today to urge you to present an aggressive and thorough case before the grand jury convening tomorrow in the case of the police in-custody death of James Chasse Jr.

By the accounts we have read of this case, Mr. Chasse:
--was unarmed
--was not posing a threat of serious bodily injury or death to police or the public
--suffered from mental illness
--died as a result of his inability to breathe caused in part by blunt force trauma to the chest during the struggle with police

Those same accounts indicate that the police officers involved:
--kicked Mr. Chasse in the head
(as noted in the Portland Police directive on deadly force, the use of body parts can constitute the use of deadly force)
--Tasered Mr. Chasse repeatedly
(an October, 2005 training memorandum warned against multiple uses of the Taser in part because "Repeated, prolonged and/or continuous exposure on the subject to the TASER electrical discharge may cause strong muscle contractions. These muscle contractions, especially if probes are placed across the chest and diaphragm, may impede breathing and respiration.")
--lay Mr. Chasse on his chest and "hog-tied" him despite his difficulty in breathing
--made the determination to take Mr. Chasse to jail rather than the hospital.

All of the above indicates that even if the officers did not intend to kill Mr. Chasse, they should have known that their actions could cause his death. It seems reasonable that a jury could indict the officers for criminally negligent homicide.

Your office has come under great scrutiny over the past few years in other cases which involved unarmed civilians dying at the hands of the police. To our knowledge there has never been an indictment of an on-duty officer for excessive use of force in Portland. In the last high-profile case, of James Jahar Perez, your office accepted paid testimony from a biased "expert" on police shootings to speak of "action-reaction" theories, which probably swayed the outcome of that case.

Attorney General Hardy Myers, when looking at the issue of deaths in police custody in 2005, recommended that transcripts of grand juries in these cases be released publicly. The Oregon Senate passed a bill to allow that transparency to happen, but the bill never made it to the house floor.

We would like to thank you for apparently agreeing with the Police Assessment Resource Center, which has been studying shootings and deaths in custody by the Portland Police, who recommended that deaths in custody be treated with the same procedures as police shootings. We hope it is never a question whether a death in custody should be presented to a grand jury.

Many members of the public are aware that the District Attorney's office has a very close relationship with the police and is thus reluctant to bring charges. It seems to us that an aggressive and thorough presentation of the facts in this case might lead to an indictment and the end of speculation that your office has a serious conflict of interest when considering police shootings and deaths in custody.


Dan Handelman
Portland Copwatch

October 3, 2006


On Tuesday afternoon, District Attorney Michael Schrunk responded to the letter released by Portland Copwatch on Monday, which urged an "aggressive and thorough" presentation of the circumstances surrounding the in-police-custody death of James Chasse Jr. to the grand jury.

The response assures the police oversight group that the case file was being presented to the family's attorney. It notes that criminal liability and civil liability are not necessarily the same. (The DA's response is attached, below.)

It does not respond to the central assertions of the original letter, that the officers should have known that their actions might have caused Chasse's death, or that the DA himself has a track record of going easy on police in shootings and death cases.

Since the grand jury is expected to wrap up on Wednesday, the group is not planning an immediate direct reply to DA Schrunk. Portland Copwatch Dan Handelman did say, "The tone of this reply indicates that the DA does not believe there was criminal liability in this case. I would be very surprised based on the content of this email if the grand jury were to indict the officers for negligent homicide."

On the other hand, such an indictment could be issued based on the medical information released Tuesday afternoon indicating that nearly every one of Chasse's ribs were broken, and some splintered, causing him to bleed to death internally.

The issues above underscore some of the shortcomings of the current system, in which the DA is the only person who can present evidence to the body considering whether criminal charges are appropriate.

The group hopes to monitor the internal investigation, which will culminate in a hearing by the secretive "Use of Force Review Board," and the outcome of the complaints filed with the Independent Police Review Division, as well as any other actions taken which could bring justice for James Chasse Jr.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2006 16:48:07 -0700
From: DA Mailbox
To: Portland Copwatch
Subject: RE: Urging an aggressive and thorough presentation of the Chasse case

Dear Mr. Handelman:

Thank you for your recent mail. The complete investigation into James Chasse's tragic death will be presented to the Multnomah County Grand Jury. I have spoken with his immediate family's attorney, Tom Steenson, and offered to have him or a representative of his office review the entire investigative file prior to the completion of the grand jury inquiry. I have also invited Mr. Steenson to forward the names of any witnesses or evidence he feels the grand jury should consider.

The grand jury will focus on a narrow question: whether any person has criminal liability in Mr. Chasse's death. The answer to this question is not the same as to the one of whether the death was justified or whether anyone is or is not civilly liable in relation to that death. It is also not a decision as to whether appropriate procedures or resources are available for the mentally ill in circumstances such as these.
In any event, should you have any further questions or comments please
feel free to contact me again.

Very truly yours,

District Attorney

We will try to keep you posted on upcoming community events.

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On This Page
Actions 2009
Actions 2008
Actions 2006
Correspondence with
  District Attorney 2006

Contact info

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org
(Click here for other email info)

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

Peace and Justice Works home page
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Posted October 17, 2006, last updated April 23, 2014

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