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Monday, November 18, 2013

The Police Tasered a Guy Friday, and They Want You To Know Why

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 5:22 PM

It's not incredibly rare in this town for a cop to deploy a Taser. Officers hit eight suspects with more than one cycle of the debilitating device from July through September alone, according to a recent report.

Far rarer is a press release to explain a Tasering incident, which is what hit Portland's collective media inboxes this afternoon. The release details a brief standoff Friday morning at the Pearl District Whole Foods, after a man with "significant mental health issues" grabbed an unspecific number of knives and refused to leave.

The reason for the release, apparently, is this (partly NSFW) video, which a breakfasting witness posted to YouTube.


The footage is pertinent given recent scrutiny over the Portland Police Bureau's dealings with people suffering mental illness. Just two weeks ago, bigwigs gathered in Portland City Hall to announce an agreement with the city's top police union over federally mandated reforms spurred by cops' inadequate handling of these encounters.

It's pretty clear officers in this instance gave the suspect ample warning and opportunity to de-escalate the situation (not that that necessarily matters when a person's in crisis)—and also that they were ready to use far more force than a Taser. It appears at least two officers have their handguns out, and a third has a bean bag shotgun.

Cops say they've had past run-ins with the man, including an incident where he was wearing a tactical vest and holstered replica pistol. In all, an officer hit the suspect with four cycles of the Taser— "due to his continuing struggle, his swatting and grabbing at the Taser probes and putting his hands underneath his body," according to the press release. He was charged with menacing and second-degree disorderly conduct.

More from the release after jump.

Officers talking with the man knew his name and used it as they slowly and calmly gave him clear and repeated instructions to put down the knives. The man refused to drop the knives as officer continuously repeated commands to put them on the ground. Concerned for the safety of other customers and for man himself, officers told the man several times that he may be Tased if he did not drop the knives.

Officers talked with the man for several minutes before the sergeant deployed the Taser, which caused the man to drop the knives and fall to the ground. As officers were attempting to get control of the man, he rolled around on the ground and struggling with officers. Due to his continuing struggle, his swatting and grabbing at the Taser probes and putting his hands underneath his body, three additional Taser cycles were needed to safely gain control of the man and put him into handcuffs.

During the struggle, the man suffered a bloody nose while on the ground. Medical personnel responded to the scene, checked his injury, then cleared him for police transport. Officers walked the man out to a waiting patrol car where he again briefly struggled with officers before being placed into the car.

Officers learned from store employees that they witnessed the man shoplifting prior to him grabbing knives from a display rack inside the store and telling store employees that he was not going to leave after being asked to by employees.

And in case you wanted to know more about the gentleman whose breakfast was so unceremoniously ruined, he's also posted this video.

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