People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Multnomah Sheriff's Sergeant Shoots, Wounds Man;
Somehow the fact that the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) has now been involved in its sixth deadly force incident in five years brings a downer vibe to the news that the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), which shot or shot at 17 people in 2021-22, have not been involved in any deadly force incidents since November. The shooting and wounding of Sean Bahrman, 30, by Multnomah County Sergeant David Jackson (#53413) occurred in Troutdale on February 18. In March, the OIR Group, which has been issuing recommendations on policy and training around PPB deadly force incidents since 2010, released its new Report covering incidents from 2018 and 2019. Because the Behavioral Health Unit Advisory Committee has been reluctant to issue commentary specific to incidents in which the victims were people living with mental illness, Portland Copwatch (PCW) has hoped that OIR would address this issue. They did, but mostly with the shrug that Oregon has a failed mental health system and that officers confronting someone threatening harm are justified in shooting that person. *Sigh.* Meanwhile, PCW updated its online infographic of officers involved in deadly force since 1992, bringing the total number of represented officers up to 233.
Sean Bahrman Fired Fake Guns
Bahrman had been using a replica gun to shoot at the Troutdale Home Depot and vehicles in the parking lot. Both Gresham Police and the MSCO confronted him, and he allegedly pointed the weapon at them. He put down the first (fake) gun, took out another, and walked toward a residential area. Officers followed, and he allegedly pointed the new "weapon" at them. Jackson, using a rifle, fired and hit him in the abdomen. Bahrman later told police he had wanted the officers to kill him. Luckily they didn't succeed (Oregonlive, March 1).
Strangely, Jackson resigned from the Sheriff's Office in September, 2021 and re-joined six months later, less than a year before this incident.
OIR Group Reviews Eight Cases Including Five Fatal Shootings and a Choking Incident
The new OIR Report clocks in at just over 100 pages and covers several controversial incidents, including the shooting deaths of Samuel Rice (PPR #81), Andre Gladen (PPR #82) and Lane Martin (PPR #83). They're most critical of Sgt. Kelly VanBlokland, who killed Rice after seeing him through a motel bathroom window without communicating his intent to other officers on the scene. The report reveals that one officer had possibly been in touch with Rice's girlfriend via text message, indicating she wanted the police to go away. Though Rice could have authored the text, investigators didn't even look. The girlfriend was in a separate room, therefore not in immediate danger. OIR also pointed out that Rice was known to have mental health issues and had had a run- in with police shortly prior to the incident, at which the girlfriend was threatened but helped de- escalate, ending the need for police presence.
However, while Gladen similarly had encountered police earlier in the same day as he was killed, OIR simply expresses the tired trope that his being brought to a mental health hospital only to be released hours later shows a failure of the system. As has been noted many times, the mental health system did not kill Andre Gladen, Officer Consider Vosu did. Vosu was, however, criticized by OIR for: (a) not calling right away or waiting for backup, (b) asking the person whose house Gladen entered to help restrain him, (c) moving the knife with which Gladen allegedly threatened him and putting it back, and (d) carrying a knife on the outside of his vest in the first place. Gladen allegedly grabbed Vosu's knife. There was no analysis by OIR about Vosu backing himself into a corner of the house, then using that to justify the killing.
The consultants seemed to have a little more compassion for Lane Martin, who was swinging a small axe which he dropped after officers hit him with less-lethal rounds. Martin was then seen with a pocket knife. The OIR recognized that Officer Gary Doran was the only one of seven officers lined up facing Martin to decide to fire his weapon... eleven times.
The Group withholds judgment on Sgt. James Mooney for getting involved in the tactical situation and firing at Jeb Brock, because Brock was holding a woman at knifepoint and had apparently gravely injured or killed other people (April 2019--PPR #78). They usually suggest supervisors should do just that, supervise. They also did not criticize Officer Aaron Rizzo for hitting both Brock and the hostage with rounds from a less lethal weapon.
In what may be a first, a non-lethal use of deadly force other than by firearm was subject to OIR's scrutiny. It's not mentioned in the narrative, but in their table of all 65 incidents, that Jonathan Harris, who was choked by Officer Larry Wingfield in 2018 and lived (PPR #76), is listed as a Black man. The Training Division said Wingfield putting pressure on Harris' neck was not a carotid neck hold and thus was not deadly force. OIR disagreed, but seems to agree with the findings that because Harris may have been grabbing at Wingfield's gun, the force was justified.
The Report also covers another hostage situation, where David Downs held a woman at knifepoint in a stairwell and claimed he had a bomb (PPR #78). In a narrative which seems ripped from a (trite) Hollywood screenplay, Officer Nathan Kirby-Glatkowski saw the woman move down while in Downs' grasp, giving him the ability to shoot Downs in the head. While this eases the concern that they might have killed both people (as was possible in the Brock case and actually happened when police killed Nathan Thomas along with his hostage-taker in 1992), it does not mean PCW or anyone should condone police taking a person's life. Even those who believe in the death penalty would agree that a person has a right to a trial, not a summary execution on sight.
Another case was that of Ryan Beisley, who was inside the Fred Meyer Starbucks and emerged with a gun, leading to officers shooting 18 times and only hitting him twice (PPR #76). OIR suggests re-training officers who miss their target with so many bullets. For what it's worth, in the 60 shootings covered in OIR Reports, officers missed their targets altogether in nine of them using 45 bullets (about 5 per incident). They don't break down how many times people were hit, but in the other 51 incidents officers fired a total of 410 bullets (about 8 per incident).
The last case was of Jason Hansen, who fled from a traffic stop in 2018 and was wounded by police bullets (PPR #76). The shooting officer, Kameron Fender, was bitten by a Clackamas County police dog as he was trying to cuff Hansen. The PPB did not investigate Clackamas deputies for the dog's behavior (though Fender and the deputy who also fired on Hansen were cleared of criminal wrongdoing by a grand jury). The dog also allegedly bit Hansen, but the police did not take a picture of the injury. OIR suggested that photographing injuries be a mandatory policy. Along with 17 other recommendations, Chief Lovell agreed.
On April 19, for the first time in about seven years, the public was allowed to comment at the Council hearing when OIR presented their Report.
Naming Portland Cops Update
About a month after the PPB changed their policy to release officer names in 15 days rather than 24 hours (PPR #88), the Oregonian ran an article quoting public records experts who strongly questioned whether that policy aligns with state law. The gist of the Bureau's response seems to be, if someone files a public records request they might get the names earlier, but they are not going to willingly release them early any more (Oregonian, January 15).
Find the OIR Report at portland.gov/ipr/documents/oir-2023-report/download.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.