This Week in the Mercury


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Coroner Identifies Adventist Patient Shot by Cops; Police Still Won't Confirm If Gun Was Recovered

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Update 6 PM: All of this agitating yesterday and today about the "missing" gun wasn't for nothing. Look what the O is reporting, citing police roll calls:

Merle M. Hatch was carrying a black piece of plastic that police thought was a gun and had no firearm on him, some Portland officers were told at roll calls Tuesday.

Police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson declined to comment on the new information, saying police would release no additional details until detectives had interviewed the sergeant and two officers who fired at Hatch. The interviews are scheduled Wednesday.

Told you so./end update

The Adventist Medical Center emergency room patient shot dead by Portland police officers Sunday night has been identified by the state medical examiner's office. And despite front-page headlines, ahem, referring to the man as "armed," the Portland Police Bureau still isn't confirming whether a gun or replica gun has been recovered.

According to the Oregonian, the dead man is Merle Hatch. He was 50 years old. And, according to an interview with his mother, he spent years in and out of prison for crimes including bank robbery while battling a decades-long drug addiction.

Update 12:15 PM: The O now says Hatch was a federal "escapee" who was released from the medium security federal prison in Sheridan on February 12 but never showed up at a halfway house back in Colorado.

Mary Hatch, Merle Hatch’s mother, said she hadn’t seen her son in two decades. She said Hatch lived in Colorado. She didn’t know how he ended up in Portland.

“He was troubled,” said Hatch, who lives in Iowa. “He was in and out of prison most of his adult life. He got into drugs early. There wasn’t much left of the person we knew as a kid growing up.”

The medical examiner's office tells me Hatch wasn't carrying any identification and that he was identified using fingerprints. The office also couldn't find a listed residence for Hatch, but it can't confirm, on the other hand, that he was homeless.

Sergeant Pete Simpson said the bureau is waiting until detectives finish their interviews before releasing more information, something that he says won't happen until tomorrow. He told me that after I asked him whether a gun or replica handgun had been recovered. In other police shootings where guns or replica guns had been recovered, the bureau released that information within hours. Simpson also declined to confirm the O's use of the word "armed" in its print headline today.

A hospital spokeswoman yesterday said the man only told a worker at the emergency room he had a gun—enough, all the same, to send Adventist into a "code silver" lockdown. It was 911 dispatchers who told cops on the way to the hospital that the man was reportedly armed.

"I can only confirm the information that I released, which was that we responded to the report of an armed man," Simpson told me this morning.

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