The Portland Police have finally interviewed the officer who shot and killed homeless Portlander Jack Collins Monday afternoon and just now released the details of that interview, along with information gleaned from 18 other witnesses.
Portland Police Officer Jason Walters self-dispatched himself to the Hoyt Arboretum in order to respond to the call. Officer Walters has worked the area around Washington Park for five years and is very familiar with the area. Officer Walters requested that a Hooper Detox Unit come to the scene, anticipating that the threatening subject might be intoxicated. Officer Walters arrived at the scene at 3:24 p.m., made contact with the person who had called 911, and was told the male subject was in the bathroom that is located in the park center at Hoyt Arboretum.
Officer Walters approached the bathroom door and knocked on it. A male subject, later identified as Jack Collins, opened the door and Officer Walters immediately saw that Collins had blood on his face, neck and hands. Officer Walters asked Collins if he needed help but Collins did not respond. Officer Walters saw that Collins had a knife in his hand and immediately began to back up in order to provide distance between himself and Collins. He also started giving commands to Collins to drop the weapon and called for immediate cover officers. Collins exited the bathroom and began walking towards the officer. Officer Walters continued retreating and shouting commands to Collins to drop the weapon. Collins continued advancing on Officer Walters and told the officer that he was not going to drop the weapon. Officer Walters was unable to continue retreating due to physical barriers but continued to give commands to Collins to drop the knife. Collins continued advancing and Officer Walters fired two gunshots. Officer Walters saw Collins remain standing and slowly spin around with the knife still in his hand. Officer Walters gave more commands to drop the knife but Collins again advanced towards him. Officer Walters then fired two more shots. Collins dropped to the ground and Officer Walters called for immediate medical assistance.
Officer Walters was interviewed by Portland Police Detectives yesterday at 4:00 p.m. Detectives have interviewed 18 witnesses during their investigation and during their interviews learned that just prior to Officer Walters's arrival, Collins had approached a woman and her son and had threatened to kill both of them.
A grand jury hearing is scheduled next week on the shooting. Both Mayor Adams and Commissioner Saltzman have said they will push to make the transcripts from that grand jury public.
Update 11:50 AM: One key difference between the officer's story and the initial report that trickled out from police union president Scott Westerman is the way Officer Walters and Collins first encountered one another. Westerman initially told reporters that Collins emerged from the bathroom and "charged" Officer Walters.
Yesterday, Portland public defender Chris O'Connor broke down why officers aren't interviewed right after they're involved in a shooting—and why they should be.
Update 12:13 PM: Police spokeswoman Mary Wheat clarifies that the woman and child who say Collins threatened them reported what happened to a Parks staff person, who then placed a 911 call to police. Officer Walters did not know about that call or threat, however, he was responding to the initial 911 call which described Collins as a drunk transient who was harassing people, but not physically violent.
Wheat could not confirm whether any of the 18 witnesses actually saw what happened between Officer Walters and Collins. She could also not release a photo of the knife.
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