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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Video Emerges of Keaton Otis Police Shooting

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Apr 11, 2012 at 4:19 PM

IndyMedia blogger and video-capturer Joe Anybody has posted on YouTube a newly enhanced cell phone video showing the May 2010 police shooting of Keaton Otis. It's short, and captioned. You can hear two Taser zaps, someone saying "I've got my hands up!" and then "Let's do it!"—and then a bunch of gunshots.

Update 5:40 PM: Here's a copy of the original video, which is longer, but also more muffled.

Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman says he wished the enhanced video included more footage before and after the shooting, but said, after a few viewings, that "it does seem to be contrary to the official story. Somewhat."

In grand jury transcripts released in June 2010, it came out that Otis—whose mother had been increasingly worried about his mental health—had been pulled over because he was wearing a hoodie and didn't fit the "nice" car he was driving. When he was confronted, he resisted officers who fired several Taser cycles at him. He shook those off, too, they testified, grabbing a gun from his glove box and firing twice—hitting Officer Chris Burley in the leg—before he was hit with 23 bullets.

Indeed, just like the woman who recorded the footage testified, you can hear a slight pause between the first shot and the volley that followed. But in a wrinkle that emerges in the enhanced video, you can also hear someone say something that wasn't mentioned in the transcripts: "I got my hands up." There are still some community members and accountability advocates who argue that the city never proved (despite Burley's DNA on a bullet that matched the gun cops say was in Otis' car) that Burley wasn't hit by friendly fire.

The timing of the video's release is intriguing for a couple of reasons. Otis' father, Fred Bryant, has asked a lawyer to help him appeal last year's Police Review Board ruling, which cleared the officers in Otis' shooting, to the Citizen Review Committee. His attorney sent a letter (pdf) to the Independent Police Review division. Whether he'll be able to isn't exactly clear. Portland Copwatch has been arguing that Bryant and others in his circumstances do deserve that right.

Beyond that, the two-year anniversary of the shooting is next month, which makes me wonder if this also heralds a potentially imminent lawsuit.

Here's Copwatch's argument on why Bryant should get his appeal, submitted after questions were raised about this, with IPR director Mary-Beth Baptista attending, at the most recent monthly CRC meeting:

When the ordinance was changed in 2010, as Director [Mary-Beth] Baptista has stated repeatedly, the intent was to be sure that there was no longer a differentiation between "B" cases (those which in the past were initiated by the Police Bureau) and "C" cases (those initiated by a civilian complaint). An example of why this change was made was the case of the "beanbag" shooting in 2009, in which the Bureau opened up its own investigation before the 12-year-old's family had a chance to file a complaint, which could have cut off her ability to file an appeal.

The Police Review Board ordinance and the IPR ordinance both indicate that when a Police Review Board hearing is held on a case that involves potential misconduct by an officer against a civilian, the person in question will receive notification from IPR about their right to file an appeal. Note that a "Type I" case is a case where a civilian files a complaint and a "Type III case" is one where IPR initiates an investigation whether or not a complaint is filed. The only two types of cases not included in these categories are "Type II" and "Type IV" which do not involve community members, but are about police misconduct or "poor member performance or other work rule violations."

PRB:

3.20.140 (G) (1) Appeal of Board Recommendation.

As provided in Code Chapter 3.21, once the Board has prepared a statement of proposed findings relating to complaints of alleged misconduct of an officer during an encounter involving a citizen, the complainant or involved officer may have the opportunity to appeal the recommended findings to the IPR Citizen Review Committee.

IPR:

3.21.120 (G)(5). Notification and Appeals of Type I and III complaints after Police Review Board hearing.

In Type I cases and Type III cases where the alleged misconduct occurred during an encounter with a community member and the recommended findings are sent to the Police Review Board for a meeting, the Director shall send a letter to the complainant explaining the disposition of the complaint and add any appropriate comment regarding the reasoning behind the decision. IPR will notify the complainant that they have a right to request a review of the recommended findings to the Committee and provide an appeal form.


While the City Code refers to "complaints of alleged misconduct" (PRB) and "the complainant" (both PRB and IPR), if, indeed, the intention was to make it so that a person subjected to police misconduct has the right to appeal __whether or not he or she has filed a complaint__, the broad reading of these pieces of code indicate that a person has the right to appeal _any case heard by the PRB that includes possible police misconduct involving a community member._

A strict reading of these code provisions claiming people who are victims of police shootings (or families of those who died) have no right to appeal would mean that civilians who do not file complaints also do not have that right, because they can't, under the definitions of the code, be called "complainants."

So, either our assertion about shootings is right, or the IPR Director's claims that people who did not file complaints but have their cases investigated can file appeals are wrong.

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