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Police officials have produced a reasonably detailed narrative laying out their side of yesterday's fatal officer-involved shooting outside Wilson High School—the city's first in more than a year—identifying the officer who fired the shots and detailing the criminal record of the man who was killed.
Officer John Romero, an eight-year Portland cop working as a school resources officer, shot the man dead after he kept walking away from Romero, refusing to listen to orders—only to stop and fire his own weapon at the officer.
The bureau has also confirmed the dead man was the driver of a sketchy green van reported earlier that day tailing students—and revealed that the man was wanted by state and federal authorities, in connection with a recent kidnapping case and on bank robbery charges.
Cops, after stepping up patrols around the school, found him around 4 pm yesterday after noticing a van matching the description in those reports. But he said he was headed to the Hillsdale Library, and they let him go, initially, after deciding he didn't match the description of the driver. That changed as he was pulling away. Officers noticed his front and rear license plates didn't match, and that one of the plates was awful close to what witnesses had reported earlier.
After a couple of cops had gone out to check the library, Romero, on his way to the green van, happened to see the man walking up SW Cheltenham. He confronted him, and that's when the shooting happened.
The Oregonian has details about the kidnapping case.
Clackamas County sheriff's deputies and the U.S. Marshal's Service had alerted law enforcement in the metropolitan Portland region and beyond to be on the lookout for the man after he was suspected to have been involved in a stranger-to-stranger pistol-whipping and kidnapping of a woman working alone at an Oak Grove-area tanning salon in January. The woman, who was bound with duct tape, was able to jump from the suspect's purple minivan and get away, police said.
Romero, with injuries in his hand and arm, was treated at OHSU yesterday and released after a few hours. An autopsy for the man he shot is scheduled for today.
Police have yet to reveal his identity, pending notification of next of kin. Scratch that... at 11:50 AM, the police identified him as 49-year-old Kelly Vern Swoboda.
Swoboda's mother went on TV in January, holding up one his boyhood portraits, to beg him to turn himself in after the kidnapping.
The full police statement—with a remarkable amount of detail, given how recent the shooting was—is after the jump. Update 2 PM: Mayor Charlie Hales' office has also sent out a statement—praising Romero and mentioning that he'd visited the officer in the hospital. Hale's statement has been added to the jump, below the police statement.
On March 12, 2014, around 4 p.m. in the afternoon, Portland Police Officer John Romero, an 8-year veteran assigned to the Youth Services Division, and Central Precinct Officers Sze Lai, a 22-year veteran and Edgar Mitchell, a 9-year veteran, were in the Hillsdale area, near the Hillsdale Library, looking for a suspicious male driving a van.
Central Precinct and the Youth Services Division had taken reports of a suspicious male driving a green van in the area of Wilson High School. In response to these reports, officers were providing extra patrol in the area, and had been working with area schools on getting information to students and parents.
A 9-1-1 call had reported the van possibly could be in the area and Officer Mitchell, who was first to arrive, observed the van and its driver on S.W. Dewitt, but the man did not match the description of the driver. The man told Officer Mitchell he was going to visit the library. After he departed, Officer Mitchell observed the back and front license plates of the van were different and the front one included numbers that were reported to be associated with the van.
Officer Mitchell and Officers Lai and Romero, who were now on scene, went to the library to search for the man. Officer Mitchell and Lai looked for the man at the library while Officer Romero went back to the van and then saw the suspect walking down S.W. Cheltenham Street.
Multiple witnesses have given statements to investigators that Officer Romero gave numerous commands to the man, but he kept walking, ignoring the officer. At some point, the man stopped and during the course of the encounter, both Officer Romero and the man fired weapons. At 4:07 p.m. Officer Romero reported shots fired. Medical personnel were dispatched and Officer Romero took a position of cover. Responding officers rendered him medical aid while others approached the downed suspect with a ballistic shield. Medical personnel checked the suspect and confirmed he was deceased. A firearm was found near the suspect.
Portland Police Bureau Detectives responded as did Mayor Charlie Hales, Chief Mike Reese, members from the Independent Police Review and the Police Bureau's Internal Affairs Division, the City Attorney's Office, the District Attorney's Office as well as the Major Crimes Team to assist in the investigation.
Officer Romero was transported to a local hospital with an injury to his hand and arm. He has since been released and is resting comfortably at home.
An autopsy is scheduled for this morning by the Oregon State Medical Examiner. The suspect's name will be released after he has been identified and family notifications have been done.
The suspect, who had a warrant for his arrest for robbery, was also a suspect in bank robberies and other crimes in multiple jurisdictions. He was also a suspect in a kidnapping and attack that occurred in January. Federal officials and other jurisdictions were actively looking for the suspect.
Portland Police Detectives have confirmed that the suspect was also the person involved in the associated reports of a suspicious van following kids.
Due to the cases involving multiple jurisdictions, this is a complex investigation. Investigators will be interviewing numerous witnesses that have come forward, executing a search warrant of the van with the aid of the other jurisdictions and gathering additional evidence, prior to interviewing the officer.
As is standard procedure, Officer Romero will remain on paid administrative leave, pending the ongoing investigation.
Once the investigation is complete, the entire case will be presented to the District Attorney's Office who will schedule a Grand Jury.
My thoughts go out today to Portland Police Officer John Romero, who was shot in the line of duty on Wednesday. Officer Romero, along with Officers Sze Lai and Edgar Mitchell, were investigating reports of a mysterious vehicle seen near Wilson High School students.
I was at the scene of the shooting near Wilson High yesterday afternoon and evening; I got to speak with his fellow officers and the command staff, and I’ve heard the reactions of people from Wilson High School, where he is known as a valuable member of the community and a School Resource Officer. I later was at the hospital to speak to Officer Romero, his wife and his understandably concerned colleagues.
I am thrilled to hear that Officer Romero’s health is improving.
We await the results of the autopsy, the investigation of the shooting, and a Multnomah County grand jury review.
I thank Officer Romero and all of his fellow officers for the service they provide every day, protecting our community.