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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Is Discipline Looming in Latest Police Shooting? Ask Chief Reese.

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 2:14 PM

Surveillance image
  • Surveillance image
Portland police have confirmed that the suspect injured after after running from a "high-risk" traffic stop in outer Southeast—identified as a 17-year-old boy—really was shot by police. And bureau officials also have identified the officers involved in the shooting.

Those details are included in a new release sent out by the bureau—providing more information about the gun/gang investigation that led to the shooting and offering a surveillance photo that, according to spokesman Sergeant Pete Simpson, depicts the 17-year-old showing off a gun before getting into the car that was later pulled over.

From the bureau's latest statement:

The third person to get out of the car was the 17-year-old armed suspect seen earlier by officers with the gun. Officers gave the armed suspect commands which he refused to follow and he began to flee into the neighborhood. The armed suspect was shot with one round from a less-lethal beanbag shotgun by Portland Police Officer Dennis Wilcox. Officer Gregory Moore fired one round from his firearm. Officer Wilcox is a 21 year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau [last in the news in the spring shooting of Jonah Potter] and Officer Moore has been with the Portland Police Bureau since March 2011....

The suspect was suffering from a non-life-threatening injury that was later determined by hospital staff to be a gunshot wound to his right thigh. Investigators believe that this gunshot wound is the result of the officer's shot, not a self-inflicted injury.

Simpson wrote that a grand jury will take up Moore's use of force pending an investigation by bureau detectives. He said that investigation will cover "what behavior or information led to an officer using deadly force and whether or not there was justification for the use of force."

Previously, Simpson wrote that the teen ran off after refusing officers' orders to lift up his shirt—a pretty common hiding place for firearms. Today's release repeatedly refers to the teen as an "armed suspect," and says Moore shot the teen after Wilcox fired a beanbag at him to no avail. There's no mention, yet, whether the teen actually displayed a weapon as he was running away or took offensive action toward the officers or posed an immediate threat. Two guns were, however, found under a garbage can in a nearby neighborhood.

Why is that important? Because apparently, if the teen didn't do those things, whether he was armed or not, it could lead to discipline for Moore.

Let's look at Police Chief Mike Reese's testimony in the Ron Frashour arbitration hearing, as reported by the Oregonian. Aaron Campbell, as some cops saw it, was believed to be armed and was shot in the back by Frashour while running away from officers (although he wasn't armed and, significantly, didn't start running until afterhe was beanbagged). Frashour was fired for that shooting.

An arbitrator decided Frashour had followed his training, a finding the mayor's office and Reese didn't agree with. But that was before Reese's testimony went public in the O and in the Portland Police Association's Rap Sheet newsletter—and, presumably, was pored over by officers who ought to be paying attention when their top commander articulates his expectations on deadly force.

"We don't have a right to shoot him. He never displayed a weapon. He didn't take any offensive action towards the officer," Reese said in a sworn statement. "We can't use force on him."

For Campbell to have posed an immediate threat, the chief testified, he would have had to take an "offensive action"—"turn toward us, pull something out, take a shooting stance."

Granted, we only know what we know so far, which isn't very much. Details may emerge that blow this scenario out of the water. One roadblock to transparency, ironically, will be the fact that the injured teen lived. That'll likely mean grand jury transcripts won't be released.

But if that's the standard Reese has in mind, this could be a very interesting case indeed.

The full release from the bureau is below:

The Portland Police Bureau is continuing to investigate the circumstances of Tuesday's officer-involved shooting in Southeast Portland's Centennial neighborhood.

This investigation started when Portland Police Bureau Gun Task Force and Gang Enforcement Team officers were conducting surveillance on a location related to a federal gun case involving Sid Willis.

On May 24, 2012, 33-year-old Sid Edward Willis Jr. was arrested by Portland Police officers after he threatened another man with a gun. Willis was charged with multiple felony crimes, including Felon in Possession of a Firearm. Willis, a known Crip gang associate, was then indicted by a Federal Grand Jury on June 5, 2012 for Felon in Possession of a Firearm as an Armed Career Criminal. Willis has remained in Federal custody since then as a flight risk and a dangerous offender.

As part of that investigation, the Portland Police Bureau Gun Task Force and Gang Enforcement Team obtained a federal search warrant for 646 Southeast 148th Avenue, Apartment #39. The search warrant is related to alleged witness tampering involving the federal case against Sid Willis. During several days of surveillance, investigators observed several suspected gang members and associates come and go from the apartment.

On Tuesday morning, investigators saw a young man they did not know come out of the apartment, armed with a handgun. Investigators observed him "showing it off" to others, then saw him get into a blue Honda two-door along with three other people, later identified as 25-year-old Kristi Kirkpatrick, 27-year-old James Crowell and 20-year-old Dadeffo Gebeyessa.

Gun Task Force investigators requested East Precinct officers perform a high-risk traffic stop on the vehicle and described the person in the car that was seen with the gun. A surveillance photo taken by a Portland Police officer of the suspect with the gun has been released, with the faces being blacked out.

East Precinct and Gresham Police officers stopped the vehicle in the driveway of 15301 Southeast Division Street and conducted a high-risk stop, which is used when there is information that someone in the vehicle is armed.

The driver, Kristi Kirkpatrick, and front seat passenger James Crowell, exited the vehicle, followed commands, and were taken into custody.

The third person to get out of the car was the 17-year-old armed suspect seen earlier by officers with the gun. Officers gave the armed suspect commands which he refused to follow and he began to flee into the neighborhood. The armed suspect was shot with one round from a less-lethal beanbag shotgun by Portland Police Officer Dennis Wilcox. Officer Gregory Moore fired one round from his firearm. Officer Wilcox is a 21 year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau and Officer Moore has been with the Portland Police Bureau since March 2011.

The armed suspect fled into neighborhood and officers, including a Police K-9 Unit, searched the neighborhood and located him in the yard of 1933 Southeast 149th Avenue.

The suspect was suffering from a non-life-threatening injury that was later determined by hospital staff to be a gunshot wound to his right thigh. Investigators believe that this gunshot wound is the result of the officer's shot, not a self-inflicted injury.

Officers searched the neighborhood for the gun believed to be possessed by the 17-year-old and police located two loaded handguns in the yard of 2247 Southeast 153rd Avenue.

The fourth person in the car, Dadeffo Gebeyessa, was also taken into custody and was bitten by the police K-9 on the wrist prior to being taken into custody.

Officer Moore has been scheduled for an interview by detectives, who are continuing to interview witness officers and neighborhood witnesses. Detectives would like to speak with any other neighborhood witnesses that have not spoken to police and would ask that they call (503) 823-0400.

One aspect of an officer-involved shooting investigation is to determine what behavior or information led to an officer using deadly force and whether or not there was justification for the use of force.

The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office will schedule a grand jury after the investigation is complete.

The Portland Police Bureau Gang Enforcement Team and Gun Task Force are continuing to actively investigate gang and gun crimes in the City of Portland, including the illegal possession of firearms by juveniles. Anyone with information about gang and/or illegal gun crimes in the City of Portland is encouraged to provide information to the Portland Police Bureau.

If you see an illegal gun crime in progress, call 911.

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