Police Chief Mike Reese has announced he's fired Officer Dane Reister—the Portland cop who nearly killed a man in a mental health crisis more than two years ago after repeatedly firing a beanbag shotgun mistakenly loaded with lethal rounds.
The dismissal comes just shy of six months after a record $2.3 million settlement between the city and lawyers for William Kyle Monroe, the 20-year-old man Reister permanently injured on June 30, 2011. The bureau, in a short statement this afternoon, said Reister violated the bureau's policies on overall job performance and the proper handling of less-lethal weapons.
"This has been a long and thorough investigation, which had complexities due to the pending criminal charges," Reese said in prepared remarks. "The events of June 30th devastated the lives of those involved, but we hope that this action will bring some sense of closure."
Reister also has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in connection with the incident—an unprecedented indictment by a Multomah County grand jury in a police use of force case. Reese and then-Mayor Sam Adams, the city's police commissioner, both publicly apologized to Monroe and his family the day after the shooting—issuing a strong condemnation of a mixup that could have taken Monroe's life.
"I want to be clear about this," Reese said during a July 1, 2011, news conference. "Using lethal rounds in less-lethal situations is a terrible mistake. We don't know how it occurred, but we know it should not happen. It is not a part of our training protocol."
Reister's firing for the inappropriate use of force is the second of Reese's tenure. Reese fired Ron Frashour, the officer who shot and killed Aaron Campbell in January 2010, in November of that year. The city later settled with Campbell's family for $1.2 million in 2012—but an arbitrator a few months later overturned the city's decision, and Frashour has returned to the bureau while the city challenges that ruling.
Monroe's lawyers, as part of settlement talks with the city, had demanded Reister lose his job. Monroe's lawyers also urged the city to fix its policies and safeguards around the handling of lethal and non-lethal ammunition. A report by the Citizen Review Committee in 2012 noted that some improvements had been made, but urged the bureau to go even further by buying beanbag guns incapable of firing live rounds.
The Oregonian in the spring reported Reister still on paid leave. In that story, it summed up Monroe's shooting as such:
He ended up in Lair Hill Park the next morning, where children from a day camp were playing. Monroe pulled discarded flowers out of a park garbage bin and tossed them near the children. Camp supervisors told Monroe to leave. Police received two 9-1-1 calls from camp officials. The camp director said in the second call that Monroe may have had a pocketknife up his sleeve.
Reister responded to the call. He spotted Monroe on Southwest Naito Parkway, commanded him to stop and get down on his knees with his hands behind his head. Reister asked Monroe whether he had any weapons, and Monroe emptied his pockets, discarding his miniature Swiss Army knife, the suit said. Monroe put his hands behind his head but asked why he should get on his knees. Reister grabbed his beanbag shotgun from his car as two more officers arrived.
Monroe assured police he hadn't done anything wrong as he backed away, then began running and yelled for help. Without warning, the suit said, Reister fired five times. The fifth round jammed because of Reister's "excessively rapid firing," the suit said.
The Portland Police Association had been raising money to help with Reister's legal fees and his family's expenses. PPA President Daryl Turner declined to comment on the announcement, citing ongoing litigation.
"We're not going to say anything right now," he told the Mercury.
Update 4:46 PM: KC Cowan, a spokeswoman for Mayor Charlie Hales, the current police commissioner, said the mayor wouldn't have a statement of his own.
"He signed the termination notice. Clearly he feels that was the right thing to do."
Curiously, the O's story notes that Reister had been defended in the federal civil rights case by Janet Hoffman, the attorney Jeff Cogen has reportedly hired to help defend him in an ongoing investigation in whether he used public money in an affair with a county employee. She argued in court, the paper reported, that Reister's mistake was because of the police bureau's negligence.
Update 4:54 PM: Cowan phoned back and said the mayor would have a brief statement, after all. "This is an appropriate ending to a very sad story," the mayor says.
Update 5:09 PM: The O has spoken with Hoffman:
"We're very disappointed in the chief's decision,'' said Reister's lawyer, Janet Hoffman. "However, we're confident the union will pursue all grievance procedures.''
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