From The Skanner News, June 2, 2011 – by Lisa Loving
On Sept. 13, 2010, Parkrose High School senior Kyeron Fair went to school. Within 24 hours he was incarcerated and in the middle of a nightmare so deep he couldn’t eat, sleep or track what was going on around him. The 17-year-old had no prior arrest record.
(Read The Skanner News’ previous reporting on the case, ‘Portland Teen Hospitalized With Severe Internal Injuries While in Custody’)
Criminal charges against Fair are scheduled for a settlement hearing this Friday, June 3, at the Multnomah County Justice Center. Meanwhile questions about what happened to him in custody have generated an 1,151-page Oregon State Internal Excessive Force Investigation, obtained by The Skanner News.
Arrested on charges he was present during the armed robbery of an alleged marijuana dealer – and hit with nearly a dozen gun charges himself even though the alleged victim told police Fair was not armed – the teen was arrested by the Portland Police Gang Squad, questioned at the adult jail before his parents even knew where he was and lodged at the Donald E. Long Center, where he began showing mental health problems within hours.
By the time a week had passed, Fair had been housed in the adult jail, Tasered, beaten, placed on suicide watch, “approved for strip-search,” dosed with anti-psychotic medications, and lodged in the OHSU cardiac intensive care unit in a catatonic state.
All that before being arraigned on any charges.
The Oregon State Police investigation into why a 17-year-old was hospitalized in an intensive care unit while in the custody of Multnomah County authorities was requested by state Rep. Lew Frederick, who spoke recently about Fair’s case on the floor of the Oregon legislature before passage of a law against incarcerating minors charged with Measure 11 crimes in adult facilities.
The investigation into county law enforcement, opened Oct. 13, 2010, was done by Oregon State Police Det. Scott Sudaisar and Multnomah County Sheriffs Det. James Eriksen.
Among the questions tackled in the state’s use of force investigation, three stand out: Did the teenager get the care he needed once he began showing signs of mental health crisis? Was he subject to unjustified use of force? And how did Fair end up in an ICU unit while in custody?
Measure 11 Charges
Fair started showing signs of mental agitation during the initial police interview at the MCDC.
On Aug. 31, 2010, a medical marijuana card holder named Martin Hensley called Portland Police to say three African American males entered his home, pulled a gun and robbed him of more than a pound of pot and $80.
Hensley said he could identify one of the men, by first name only: “K-Ron,” who, he said, was approximately 17-years-old. He said the two unidentified intruders – one of whom held a handgun during the robbery – were about 20-years-old.
On Sept. 13, Det. Robert Hollins of the Portland Police Gang Enforcement Team arrested Kyeron at school and took him to the MCDC, where he proceeded to question him about the incident without an attorney present and without his parents’ knowledge.
In his police report, Hollins said Kyeron rambled extensively, first implying he knew about the crime, then denying it, at times saying he knew who did it but that he “did not want to tell on his friends.” He said he’d bought pot from Hensley for months, but that the dealer was angry with him over a money dispute. He maintained throughout that he did not participate in the robbery.
After 45 minutes of questioning, Hollins wrote in his report, he put Kyeron back in a cell because he was “getting excited and animated.” After a break the questioning resumed – still without a lawyer present. After more than two hours, Hollins wrote, Fair demanded an attorney and the session ended with him trying to get up and leave the room. He was restrained and placed in a cell.
Half an hour later, Hollins wrote, he “learned” that Fair’s mother Kelli Jarrell was waiting in the Central Precinct lobby, and Hollins brought her up and allowed her to hug her son before he was booked.
Fair was charged with first and second degree robbery with a firearm – including separate charges on each for all five people who were in the house at the time of the alleged robbery — plus unlawful use of a weapon. All are Measure 11 counts involving use of a firearm, even though Fair was never said by the victim or witnesses to have held or used one in the alleged incident.
Fair’s path to the ICU was bumpy and paved with officials denying he had a problem.
Many details of the conflicting medical opinions on his case – which played out over two trips to the hospital within several days – weren’t sorted out until Sudaisar and Eriksen conducted interviews with Trillium Family Services Children’s Farm Home staff weeks after Fair was admitted there and began to improve.
During his first two days in juvenile detention, Fair refused to eat any of his meals and remained isolated in his cell, the state report says. He was seen by Project Response, the mobile mental health crisis team for Multnomah County, on Sept. 16 and their recommendation was that he be hospitalized immediately.
“… however they expressed concern that he would likely injure himself if placed in shackles and handcuffs,” the state report says. A JDH staff member was assigned to watch him one-on-one through a two-way mirror in his cell.
The report says he began ranting about being watched and being recorded; he didn’t recognize his parents. Staff reported that he started shouting, for hours, words to the effect of: “I didn’t do it, they made me do it, they held a gun to my head.”
Fair tried to charge out of his cell whenever the door was opened; he wouldn’t cooperate with staff trying to check his physical health. At one point he hung his pillowcase around his neck, the report says, like an athlete wearing a towel to wipe sweat off his face – prompting staff to declare him a suicide risk.
Next the documents show that, as Fair was placed on suicide watch Sept. 18, an odd game of ‘hot potato’ broke out between the JDH manager and the MCDC manager.
Juvenile officials sought to get Fair moved out of the Donald E. Long Center because, they said, he was violent, disruptive, suicidal and they couldn’t handle him. Numerous interviews and records show that JDH officials thought the teenager was faking mental illness, despite reports from more than one mental health evaluator that his crisis was real.
JDH Customer Services Manager Craig Bachman directed his staff to call MCDC and arrange a transfer; at first MCDC Corrections Sgt. Michael Phelps refused.
The two agencies traded phone calls and memos for hours on Sept 19 before the JDH finally won out.
In the end, the state report says, MCDC officials were not filled in by JDH on the extent of Fair’s illness – and the fact he was on suicide watch – when he was transferred.
“Sergeant Phelps told us that Mr. Bachman told him the juvenile inmate was not suicidal but the form showed that he was on suicide watch,” the state report says.
Use of Force ‘Hot Spots’
Hotspots in the use of force against Fair date to his transport from MCDC to OHSU on Sept. 18.
Records show that Fair was Tased by Multnomah County Sheriffs Deps. Mindy De Armond and Gordon Glasser simultaneously (Glasser reported he used two cycles), as they forced him out of his isolation cell to transport him to the hospital.
Documents show Fair was carried out of the juvenile jail by half a dozen staff members, his wrists and ankles shackled, then dumped out onto the pavement outside the facility. After some struggle by the teenager, followed by curses and threats by MCDC Deputy Tim Barker, Fair was picked up off the pavement and alternately dragged, dropped, punched in the legs and pushed into the back of a transport van.
(The state report shows the incident was reviewed in Hazardous Incident Reports; four certificates confirming a ‘justified’ ruling are contained in the state document collection, including for Dets. Barker and DeArmond. No such certificate is included for Glasser.)
He was taken to OHSU, where blood tests showed traces of marijuana in his bloodstream. He remained combative to staff, who decided that his mental crisis was “behavioral” and soon sent him back to the MCDC. There he was given Geodone, Ativan, and Rispertal “to help with symptoms,” the report says.
There the psychiatric nurse practitioner continued to monitor the liver enzymes in his bloodstream – a general indicator of infection. After three days of gradual rise in the infection, she arranged to have him sent back to OHSU.
At OHSU the teenager was shackled by his arms and ankles to a hospital bed for days as, the report shows, doctors speculated — and his jailers at times gossiped — about how he had come to suffer air pockets under his skin from his head to his chest, and whether he was “faking” a mental breakdown.
What exactly led to air pockets in his chest and head is not firmly established in the state report. The jail nurse who examined him from Sept. 20-23 repeatedly states that it could not have been caused by Tasing, but probably resulted in blunt force trauma to the chest.
Nevertheless the air pockets were the direct reason he stayed in the ICU for so many days, a stay that led to a systemic infection caused by a catheter that went unchanged “for too long,” the MCDC nurse told investigators.
Much of his second stay at OHSU, Fair alternated between “catatonic” — completely unresponsive to anyone or anything around his bed – and screaming, thrashing fits. He remained cuffed to his bed at the wrists and ankles throughout.
State investigators asked the MCDC nurse about the elevated infection levels and the air in the chest cavity and the possible causes. She said “…it was probably not caused by being Tased, but could be caused by falling and hitting something or could be caused by the use of force during his custody,” the report says.
But the nurse went further in her testimony to state investigators.
“She said with information she heard about Fair ‘slamming into the wall,’ this could have caused the air,” the state report says. “She said she wasn’t sure who she heard that Fair was slamming himself into the wall.”
The report continues, “She said that Fair did not appear medically injured when he left to OHSU on the second visit and said she was surprised there was air in his chest cavity.”
State Police Report
The state report combines hundreds of documents from many jurisdictions gathered over the course of several months, from the original Portland Police reports on the alleged armed robbery that started it all, to the final reports filed at the Trillium Farm secure facility where Fair was sent to recuperate before court hearings and his release on bail last February.
Throughout the report, Fair’s mother Kelli Jarrell figures as a staunch advocate for her son, calling officials and staff, prodding them for information and services, even writing thank-you notes. The state report shows that two of those thank-you notes ended up in law enforcement files.
The report shows the juvenile, MCDC and OHSU officials’ consistent failure to inform the family on Fair’s status, his physical condition or even that he had been arrested — and hospitalized — in the first place.
“Kyeron’s mom is mostly concerned about the medical staffs, and corrections (at MCDC and JDH), inability to immediately recognize a mental health problem and obtain appropriate services immediately,” says a memo in the state report by Det. Sudaisar to Det. Eriksen.
“She is also concerned about the physical symptoms that were revealed while at OHSU the second time.
“She mentioned receiving a phone call that Kyeron had been transferred to ICU, but ‘the good news was that he was breathing on his own again.’ She lacks medical answers to these issues.”
Fair’s family has retained attorney Jason Kafoury to explore a lawsuit against area agencies involved in the teenager’s incarceration. His criminal charges are being fought by attorney Gary Bertoni, who was appointed on his behalf by the county.