Knife-brandishing carwash-squatter dies in police confrontation

Learn more about what happened – and read remarks from Portland’s mayor and police chief that have gone largely unreported …

Throughout the evening, SE 82nd Avenue of Roses was closed, from here at SE Powell Blvd. north to SE Division St., while police investigated the shooting of an armed man who wouldn’t surrender.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
By many accounts from folks who run businesses along SE 82nd Avenue of Roses north of SE Powell Boulevard near Kelly Street, the 60-year-old man who took up residence in an abandoned car wash behind a closed-down coffee shop was not a pleasant person.

He was known as an “aggressive panhandler” in the area, and often got into dust-ups with proprietors of nearby bars and restaurants.

This is the building that a security guard pointed out to the responding officers, where a man who threatened to kill him was squatting.

Such was the situation on January 2, when two Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct officers – 10-year veteran Jason Lile, and 18-year veteran Larry Wingfield – were called to deal with this man. According to official records, he argued angrily with, and then threatened to kill, a security guard at one of the nearby businesses.

“The officers contacted the subject inside that location who came out of an inner room displaying a large knife,” stated PPB Public Information Officer, Lt. Kelli Sheffer.

Instead of putting the knife down, Sheffer reported, he came at the officers, brandishing the bladed weapon. “One officer first deployed a Taser® on the advancing subject, but it was ineffective. The subject continued to advance, and was ignoring commands to drop the knife. Two officers, including the officer that attempted to use a Taser®, fired their handguns at the subject, and the subject went down to the ground.”

PPB detectives and criminalists investigate the scene where the knifeman challenged police.

Officers immediately called for medical personnel to respond, and when paramedics arrived they determined that the subject was deceased, Sheffer added.

Hearing the calls, other officers came into the area; the subsequent investigation closed down SE 82nd Avenue of Roses for hours.

SE Division Street marks the northern boundary of the area shut down for the police investigation.

The Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s office determined the man died of multiple gunshot wounds, but have not yet been able to locate and notify next-of-kin, in order to release his identity.

“We do know is the man did have an extensive arrest record in both Oregon and California, and had been incarcerated in California for serious person-to-person crimes,” Sheffer told us the following day. “In our records, we did not find any indication of mental health issues. This doesn’t mean that he didn’t have mental health issues; if he did, we just don’t have it on file.”

Portland Mayor Sam Adams and PPB Chief Michael Reese hold a press conference regarding officer-related shootings at City Hall.

A press conference regarding officer-related shootings was held City Hall on December 3 by Portland Mayor Sam Adams and PPB Chief Michael Reese.

The pair didn’t talk about this specific case, because the investigation is ongoing. But, Mayor Adams did indicate that some of the aggressive confrontations police have been experiencing are due to people with mental- health issues.

“When we find people who are so challenged in their mental health, we will fast-track [supply treatment or aid for] what we think works,” Adams said. “This is in terms of social services and mental health services support.  We are already the largest funder of homeless services in the entire region. These are affordable housing resources, and resources devoted to homeless services.”

Mayor Adams tells reporters that the City is the region’s major provider of many social services.

Adams said the City of Portland spends more on these services than all other regional government agencies combined. “We have a lot of difficult discussions on the State level, on the regional level, and with partners in the County. We have to have these difficult discussions, because what’s ahead is to come up with resources to keep Portland and the rest of the people in the state, healthy.”

Regarding incidents surrounding recent officer-involved shootings, Chief Reese acknowledged that questions have come up regarding to less-lethal options not being effective.

In outer East Portland, PPB Chief Michael Reese speaks directly to citizens at the monthly Commander’s Forum.

Police chief talks frankly at Citizen’s Advisory meeting
Then, on January 4, Reese came to speak to more than 50 community members who attended the East Precinct Citizens Advisory Counsel meeting.

“A reporter asked me a question yesterday,” Reese began. “The reporter asked if the number of [police related] shootings was acceptable. I asked back, ‘Is 10 acceptable? Five? Is four? What’s the magic number? All of these shootings are unacceptable. Even one officer-involved shooting is too many.”

Reese continued, “What I don’t think got reported was that, unfortunately, our officers are placed in very difficult circumstances, where they’re forced to make life-and-death decisions. We’re dealing more and more with the mentally ill and people who are drug-affected. Our officers in these recent confrontations, used really good tactics. They used less-lethal options. They tried to have a peaceful outcome.”

Officers are now asked to deal with more armed subjects than ever, Chief Reese says.

Calls subjects ‘highly motivated’
“But, unfortunately, officers have been faced with people who are highly-motivated – and are armed with knives or handguns. We are faced with these kinds of calls every day. The officers are really trying to do their very best to make good decisions. The reality is, you don’t hear about the good work that police officers do on so many other calls; you hear about the few that don’t work out so well.”

Looking around the East Precinct Community Room, Reese continued, “I really want to speak to the officers and the sergeants here tonight. Our officers and command staff are making really good decisions. They are deploying deadly force only when it is necessary. And, they are using good tactics, and less-lethal options – which are not perfect.  Especially this time of year, we’re finding that our Tazers are not very effective, when people are wearing many layers of bulky clothing.

“The officers have my support, and I want to commend here, publicly, the good job they’re doing.”

Reese says the Police Bureau is constantly looking for ways to improve interaction between officers and the public.

Bureau looking at all options
Reese said they are not complacent. “We are exploring, and trying to improve ourselves, every day. We’re looking at every option we can, and giving them other less-lethal tools.

“And, we are also looking at different response protocols, because maybe there is information we’re not getting from the Bureau of Emergency Communications, when [officers are called to] respond. We’re looking at everything we possibly can to keep officers from having to make [life-and-death] decisions. But when they make that decision, I believe they make the right decision, protecting their community and protecting themselves.”

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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