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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Grand Jury Clears Cops in Shooting of Merle Hatch

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Mar 6, 2013 at 5:59 PM

A Multnomah County grand jury has found no criminal wrongdoing in the February 17 police shooting of Merle Mikal Hatch, a patient killed outside Portland Adventist Medical Center after goading and taunting officers and then running at them while holding a broken black phone handset.

From the district attorney's office this afternoon:

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Hatch's shooting, and the hollering that preceded it, was captured on a cell phone video shown to reporters at a carefully managed press conference three days later. The implied result of the video is "suicide by cop." But the police bureau, citing the grand jury process, has declined to comment on whether three cops who shot Hatch considered using less-lethal weapons as he shot them. The bureau and the hospital have both declined to comment on why Hatch was at Portland Adventist, citing medical privacy laws. Those answers might come out in the grand jury transcripts.

Hatch, 50, wasn't even identified until the Tuesday after the shooting, lacking identification. It turned out, though officers didn't know it at the time they shot him, that Hatch was a recent federal fugitive who left an Oregon prison with a plane ticket to a Colorado halfway house he never used. At the presser where Hatch's death was shown, police also tied him to two recent bank robberies. His family told the Oregonian he struggled with drug addiction.

The findings by the grand jury come just two days after the second police shooting of 2013. Santiago A. Cisneros III, a 32-year-old Iraq War vet, was shot and killed atop Metro's Lloyd District parking garage after police say he fired a shotgun at two cops. Cisneros had told a Seattle TV station in 2009 that he had attempted suicide at least once before, months after leaving Iraq.

The bureau today identified the officers involved: Brad Kula, who's worked in Portland for 10 years, and Michele Boer, who's worked here for four years. Both are scheduled for interviews tomorrow.

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