People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
City Settles with Four More Protestors for Over
Just in the few months of 2023 so far, the City has paid out over $200,000 for four more cases of police brutality during the 2020 uprising against racist police violence. Portland Copwatch (PCW) has been tracking settlements made for protest actions taking place from 2018-2020, with the money going out from 2020-2023, and the current total is at least $1,204,405. In part the full total is not known because some of the cases are not showing up in the media or on the City Council agenda when they are entered into the court as a judgment rather than a settlement. Those unpublicized cases, of which we know at least two, do not have to come before Council for a vote. The ones that do are often placed on the Council's "consent agenda," meaning PCW has to ask the Clerk to pull them off for discussion. The upside: pulling the items means the facts of those cases get read into the record and Council hears us ask them to discuss underlying policy issues. The downside: the response is almost always the same-- dead silence.
These are the four cases that were settled:
--On July 4, 2020, Erik Hoofnagle was in a crowd where police were throwing smoking chemical canisters to disperse people. He kicked the canister away from the crowd, took a few steps away, then was shot with "less lethal" munitions multiple times. He said the police action shattered his kneecap. Officer Brent Taylor falsely claimed that Hoofnagle threw the canister at officers to justify the brutal takedown. The City's response was to offer Hoofnagle $75,000 and move on with their lives (January 18). Hoofnagle was also harmed by Multnomah County Sheriff's Sgt. Kyle Smith, resulting in a separate settlement of $5000 from the County.
--On August 1, 2020, police clearing protestors from a street shoved Jake Johnson, an independent journalist, into a bush despite his being clearly marked as press. A second Portland officer then slammed him onto a car hood and maced him at close range (U.S. Press Freedom Tracker). The officer was identified as "Officer #6." Community members say #6 is Officer Chuck Elam, who was promoted to Sergeant nine months later. Johnson injured his pinky toe trying to catch his fall after an officer pushed him with a baton. The City paid him $13,750 (February 22).
--On June 5, 2020, Dominique Bouchard was shot in the back of the leg with a "less lethal" munition and body-slammed to the ground by the Portland Police, resulting in a fractured wrist. Ms. Bouchard had to have surgery including metal hardware placed into her arm. The officer's name in this incident is not known. The City agreed to pay $55,000 (March 8).
On August 24, 2020, Sergeant John Oliphant knocked a mask off of Jorge Bello's face, grabbed at his head and knocked him toward the ground. Other officers ripped off Belllo's helmet and pushed him to the ground with a baton, leading to his losing consciousness. The injuries from this violence were serious enough for the City to agree to a $60,000 settlement (March 15).
Meanwhile, portions of two federal lawsuits were tossed because Congress created laws limiting whether specific officers can be named in seeking damages. Donovan LaBella, who was hit in the head with a "less lethal" impact round (PPR #84), can still sue in general for the damages (Oregonian, February 15). Mark Pettibone, one of the people who was whisked away from a downtown protest in an unmarked van, and other co-plaintiffs, had their case thrown out on the basis that the officers and supervisor were acting on orders from the President of the United States (Oregonian, February 5). The first case was dismissed by a federal judge in Portland, the second by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Matthew Lovato and Stacy Carman, a brother and sister, and four children who were living together at a motel in February 2021 got evicted by order of the Portland Police. The law considered them tenants since they'd lived there over six months, but the cops didn't ask. In voting for a $15,000 settlement on April 5, the Mayor talked about how the police are in a tricky situation being asked by a property owner to trespass people, but "the law is the law." An important part of this story: The settlement would have been on the "consent agenda" if Portland Copwatch had not pulled it for discussion, and the Mayor would not have heard the City Attorney admit that no training or policy has occurred for the PPB despite this being flagged as an ongoing problem.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.