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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chief Reese: "I'm Proud of the Officers' Actions."

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Thu, May 13, 2010 at 12:15 PM

Chief Reese and Mayor Adams: Put to the test.
  • Chief Reese and Mayor Adams: Put to the test.
A press conference this morning at the Justice Center revealed more details about last night's officer involved shooting and also gave Mayor Sam Adams and new police Chief Mike Reese their first chance to play by the rules of what they say will be a more transparent and community-oriented police department.

Despite having arguably the worst first day ever, new Chief Mike Reese seemed calm and collected at this morning's briefing as he spelled out the details of the what went down last night.

According to the police account, officers on the HEAT team began following a car around the Holladay Park area after they saw it violate a traffic law. With the (perhaps unmarked) cop car behind it, the suspected car made several unsignaled turns and cut across lanes of traffic, prompting the HEAT officers to turn on their lights and siren in an attempt to pull the car over. The driver, who was alone in the car, did not pull over for some time but eventually pulled over to the curb at NE 6th and Halsey.

"As officers approached the vehicle, the subject shouted profanities at the officers and was not complying with directions. Additional officers arrived and witnessed the subject reaching over toward the passenger area of the vehicle," reads the official police statement. "A taser was deployed, but did not stop the subject's movements. Another taser was deployed and again did not have any effect on the subject's movements. At some point, the subject pulled out a gun, shots were fired and Officer Christoper Burley, a 5-year veteran assigned to HEAT, fell to the ground."

Two other officers, Cody Berne, Andrew Polas and Jim Defrain opened fire. Still unsure if the driver was a threat, the officers then shot beanbag rounds at him, until they approached him as a group and removed him from the car. "The subject began receiving medical assistance but was pronounced dead at the scene."

Officer Burley, meanwhile, was shot once in both legs and is expected to make a full recovery. The mayor stopped by his hospital room yesterday before heading down to the scene and wrote him a "Get Well" note on the back of a business card. What? No Get Well tweet?

The identity and age of the deceased driver are not being released until the Medical Examiner can tell his next-of-kin.

During the briefing, Chief Reese and Mayor Adams stressed their commitment to transparency and openness, but couldn't answer many of the specific questions about the investigation, such as how a man who's being tasered managed to grab his gun, or what specifically prompted the initial traffic stop.

"I can certainly say that my first day as chief of police was eventful. I'm so grateful that the officers are doing okay," said Chief Reese, who told papers yesterday that he hopes to be a "peacekeeper" on the force. "I'm proud of their actions and their response."

"This was a heartbreaking scene to see: a young Portlander dead on one of our sidewalks," said Mayor Adams, adding that he was not passing judgment on the officers. "This shouldn't happen in my city, this shouldn't happen in Portland."

More details about the investigation (and Adams' promises of transparency!) below the cut.

Mayor Adams stressed that the investigation into this shooting would be more open than those in the past, starting with a release of the grand jury testimony of all the officers and witnesses involved. "This is the first case of the new administration of the police agency, where we are going to debrief as we go," promised Adams. He went on to explain some delays in releasing information: the car, for example, has not been searched because the police need legal permission from the owner. The body of the driver was left exposed on the street for several hours as the police waited for a medical examiner.

Adams spelled out that he and the new chief had discussed crisis contact protocol just after Reese was sworn in. Some wondered why Adams turned up at the scene yesterday evening. "I told him that I would be going to these scenes not to direct but to get a lay of the land," says Adams. The mayor says he also called up Pastor Haynes of the Albina Ministerial Alliance (an outspoken critic of the Aaron Campbell shooting) and emphasized that he would be doing "outreach to the community."

Asked whether he thought the post-shooting protest at the scene was justified, Adams replied, "Peaceful protest is a key right in this county. I think the concerns are justified. Use of deadly force is as a last resort."

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