Shootings/Deaths: Portland Police Kill One Man After Neighbors' Call; Fire Through Window At
The most recent shooting involved Officer Stephanie Rabey (#29993) who, with a SERT team present, was the only officer to fire a gun toward 26-year-old Lesley Paul Scott Stewart after he'd released two apparent hostages on August 20. Rabey shot through a closed window (which has been discouraged since officers tried that in the Nathan Thomas shooting in 1992) and, out of his character, Public Information Officer Sgt. Brian Schmautz told the media he didn't know why she pulled the trigger. Rabey was wrestling with Peter Gilbaugh in 1998 when her partner shot Gilbaugh in the head (PPR #17). Stewart, an African American man, suffered a minor injury from either the window glass or the bullet (Oregonian, August 21).
The shooting death occurred on May 22 in NE Portland near Marine Drive. Neighbors called police when they heard 43-year-old Steven Richard Bolen ramming his pickup truck into his own garage door. He apparently had been locked out of his house. The neighbors said he was shouting and threatening to kill his girlfriend. When police arrived, Bolen allegedly pointed a shotgun at them, leading Jon Dalberg (#33528) and Jason Koenig (#41301) to open fire, killing Bolen (Oregonian, May 24). The woman who was allegedly being threatened was not even in the house when the police busted in the door (Associated Press, May 24).
Dalberg was involved in the death in custody of Damon Lowery in 1999 (PPR #21). News reports mentioned that Bolen had marijuana plants in his house and had previously been convicted of manufacturing or delivering drugs in 1997, a felony. A grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing by the officers shortly after the shooting (Oregonian, June 13), not much of a surprise.
It did come as a surprise--both to us and apparently to Chief Sizer--on May 9 when Mayor Potter informed Lt. Jeffrey Kaer (#23818) he intended to fire him for actions he took the night he shot and killed Young. Potter, as Police Commissioner, has the ultimate say, though Sizer apparently would have opted for lesser discipline. The Performance Review Board recommended a four-week suspension, so Potter's decision to take it further may make it easier for Kaer to file an appeal (Portland Tribune, May 15).
Potter did not go far enough, as Portland Copwatch pointed out in a joint letter with members of the Justice for James Chasse, Jr. Committee, the Albina Ministerial Alliance and the Justice for José Santos Mejía Poot Committee. Potter's letter cites Kaer for: shooting at a moving vehicle, a violation of one of the new directives out of the PARC reports on shootings and deaths; checking on Young's car based on a phone call by Kaer's sister instead of allowing dispatch to handle it; not running the license plate of the car; making contact with the suspect without waiting for backup; reaching into the vehicle to put the car in park; and not making a plan with Officer Lawrence Keller when he showed up. However, the letter expressly states that he is not being fired for shooting and killing Young, or for misusing his position in a personal dispute. We suspect that the Mayor may be afraid that the City could be found liable if he asserts that the shooting itself violated Bureau policy. On August 16, the Mayor announced his final decision to fire Kaer.
With regard to the Chasse case, an interesting and incriminating turn of events has put the spotlight back on Sgt. Nice. When citizen activist Richard Prentice was putting up flyers calling for the arrest of Nice, Officer Christopher Humphreys, and Deputy Brett Burton, he was arrested by Officer Matt Wells (#42663) for "Advertising on the street." While Prentice was in jail, Sgt. Nice came into his cell. According to Prentice, Nice berated him, asked whether he'd attended the grand jury hearings, and blamed the medical team for Chasse's death (Mercury, June 28). Sure, the medics released Chasse into police custody despite the fact that he had multiple fractured (and pulverized) ribs and other injuries, but Sgt. Nice doesn't want to take responsibility for giving Chasse those injuries.
Although Prentice says that Humphreys also came into the cell (to say he felt terrible about Chasse's death), it has only been confirmed that Sgt. Nice actually went in--both by an email from Nice sent to the Mercury asking about other, more inflammatory posters Prentice had in his bag that day, and by police spokesperson Brian Schmautz. If this had been a personal dispute between two civilians, the person on the wanted poster would not have been able to walk into the jail cell (likely in a uniform with a gun and other weapons) to talk to the suspect; it's clear that Nice violated the Bureau policy on Misuse of Official Position (directive 313.00), if not also retaliation (310.20) and three or more others. On July 9, the DA dropped the charges against Prentice, though they may refile anytime for a year. Prentice plans to sue on First and Fourth Amendment violations (Mercury, July 12).
In other news relating to the Chasse case, the Oregon Legislature ok'd funds for 24 hours of Crisis Intervention Training for all officers going through state training (though the full course is 40 hours). Of course, Crisis Training is not a "magic bullet" (bad choice of words) to avoid excessive force against people with mental health problems, as the former head of the CIT program admitted in a June 12 Oregonian opinion piece. Retired Sgt. Karl McDade went further, saying "Potter is responding to a liberal constituency that rises in outrage every time a citizen is injured or killed by police. But here's the dirty little secret: Police officers are trained to aggressively respond to criminals... Portland's police officers ply their trade in a city full of people who abhor violence to the extent that they believe the police should never harm anyone."
Meanwhile, the Portland Mercury reported on July 12 that Raymond Gwerder, shot in the back by Besner while Gwerder was talking to a hostage negotiator about his dog, was still alive for roughly 20 minutes before he received medical attention. Reporter Matt Davis says that the paperwork on the case shows the shot was fired at 4:02 PM, but that Gwerder was listed as "moving" at 4:19 PM; he was pronounced dead from the gunshot wound at 4:25 PM. It is unclear whether the new information will affect the family's lawsuit against the City.
Our last bit of local news: the Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) was called out to a NE Portland neighborhood when a man in a car was threatening suicide on May 17. SERT set up a staging area in the entrance to the sanctuary in the Augustana Lutheran Church, locking down the neighborhood and frightening church staff. The standoff ended without a shot being fired. Nonetheless, Pastor Mark Knutson, who has been active in marching against police violence for many years, felt that the potential use of violence to end the standoff came in conflict with religious traditions regarding holy ground. Knutson planned to meet with police and other faith leaders to discuss public safety respect for the sanctuary of places of worship (Portland Observer, May 23).
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