Mental Health Association of Portland

Oregon's independent and impartial mental health advocate

Chronic Offender Pilot Project wrongly used to nab sit-lie violators

Posted by Jenny on 7th March 2014

The Portland Mercury, Feb. 28, 2014

HandcuffsJustice Cripps went to jail in July, after cops had warned her to hold her dog’s leash.

Almost two weeks later, 19-year-old John Johnson was standing at the same downtown intersection, singing, when the cuffs were slapped on. His backpack and skateboard were on the wrong part of the sidewalk, cops say.

“Could not charge sidewalk-use violation, as that charge is not a crime,” said an officer’s notes on the arrest, obtained by the Mercury. Instead, as they did for Cripps and 16 other transients last year, Portland police officers leveraged an oft-criticized Oregon statute to bring a criminal charge. Johnson is now a wanted man within the bounds of Multnomah County.

Welcome to the Chronic Offender Pilot Project. This is not how it was supposed to work.

The project, COPP for short, is a little-known enforcement tool used to target offenders with stepped-up consequences for crimes that, authorities say, have made the city feel dirty and unsafe: urinating in public, drinking in public, and littering.

But late last month—in the face of questions from the Mercury about how the policy had been applied—the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office acknowledged the effort had gone off the rails.

It turns out cops weren’t really targeting those “quality of life” offenses. Instead, at a time when police leadership and the mayor’s office were talking about how much they’d like to revive Portland’s controversial sit-lie law, the cops last year essentially made COPP sit-lie’s secret sibling.

“We were looking at behavior that was active quality-of-life behavior,” said Chuck Sparks, a chief deputy in the district attorney’s office. “Not someone sleeping in a sleeping bag.”


According to documents released by the DA’s office, 17 of 19 arrests and prosecutions under COPP have been based on violations of the city’s sidewalk-use ordinance. People were targeted for sleeping under bridges and in alcoves, for not leashing their dogs, and for having items in so-called “pedestrian-use zones.”

According to a review of the arrests, the district attorney’s office believes many offenders are so-called “travelers,” who descend on the city every summer. But prosecutors concede there’s no scientific way to make that distinction.

Additionally, 43 percent of the warnings that police handed out under COPP had to do with sidewalk offenses, according to a list provided by the prosecutor’s office. The sidewalk-use ordinance was enacted after sit-lie was ruled unconstitutional in 2009. Rather than prohibiting sitting and lying on sidewalks in general, it bans certain activities from 7 am to 9 pm.

But it was never supposed to help arrest people under COPP.

The problem, Sparks says, is that a memo issued to police early on in the pilot project contained “violating the sidewalk-use prohibitions” as behavior to be targeted. Sparks says the verbiage was inserted into the memo by a deputy district attorney under his supervision.

“I think it was just an oversight,” Sparks says. “I should have caught it.”

Sparks was alerted about the oversight in October—around the time COPP was extended beyond the initial four-month tryout. He says he gave word then that cops should stop using COPP to enforce the sidewalk law, but couldn’t remember to whom. (Multiple inquiries at the Portland Police Bureau on this point had not garnered an answer as of press time.)

And the DA’s office didn’t look, at that time, to see how many people had been arrested and subjected to stiffened penalties as a result of the mix-up (all 17 of the sidewalk-related arrests had been made by October 22). That didn’t happen until the Mercury filed a public records request last month.

COPP—as it’s supposed to work—uses the state’s “interfering with a peace officer” law to leverage increased penalties on crimes often associated with homelessness.

Police give out warnings for targeted misdeeds and add offenders’ names to a lengthy list. Then, if the same person is caught peeing, drinking, or littering again, police can arrest them for not following a lawful order.

Prosecutors say the project is aimed at increasing accountability. Transients arrested for these minor offenses rarely show up for court, and there’s no mechanism to make them. But under COPP, offenders are arrested, then released a short time later. A bench warrant is issued if they skip court hearings.

The goal is to either convince scofflaws to accept treatment or force them to move along to a more-convenient city [“The Secret Weapon," News, Feb 26].


Many of the people cited under the policy have several past cases in Multnomah County, and all of those who’ve been arrested are apparently homeless.

Cripps was first cited under COPP in late June, just weeks after the project was enacted. According to police records, she was seated near SW 3rd and Ash with her black dog. The dog had a leash on, but Cripps “did not have the dog in hand,” reads a police report by Officer John Oliphant. “She was standing moving belongings around. I rode up to her, and when I mentioned the dog she immediately stepped on the leash… I issued her an improper sidewalk-use warning.”

Roughly two weeks later, officers found Cripps “blocking the sidewalk” and put her in handcuffs for “interfering.” Court records show she failed to appear at multiple court hearings, but was arrested on a warrant and pleaded guilty to the class A misdemeanor. When she didn’t complete required community service, she was sentenced to five days in jail.

Johnson, the singer whose skateboard was allegedly in the middle of the sidewalk, had been warned before. He didn’t show up for his court date and is wanted on a warrant.

And then there are thornier cases, like that of 20-year-old Angel Lopez.

According to documents provided by the DA’s office, Lopez was first issued a warning for violating the sidewalk ordinance in August. So when police found him sleeping under the Morrison Bridge after 7 am on October 1, they initiated an arrest. In the scuffle that ensued, Lopez pushed an officer who was trying to take a friend’s dog and slapped another officer on the arm, according to documents from the DA’s office.

When all was said and done, he faced seven criminal charges. The police bureau even sent out an alert about the incident. “Officers were conducting routine ‘wake-up’ calls and asking folks to pick up their property,” the release said, referring to several people who “became combative.” It makes no mention of COPP, or that the altercation might not have occurred if Lopez wasn’t being arrested for violating the sidewalk ordinance.

“I think the program has value. I think it can work,” says Jim Hayden, a senior deputy district attorney. “I’m just frustrated we got off track.”

The DA’s office says it will ensure open COPP cases based on sidewalk offenses are remedied. But criminal convictions will stand.


Even without the missteps, COPP has proved controversial. Public defenders and civil liberties lawyers say the policy raises questions about the use of the “interfering with a peace officer” statute.

And Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she was “horrified and very disturbed” to learn of the policy. Fritz, who’s worked extensively on homelessness issues in recent months, said Mayor Charlie Hales, the commissioner in charge of the police bureau, should have told her about the project.

“The communication obviously is lacking, and how to correct that more than a year into this council is an ongoing challenge,” Fritz said.

There are indications Hales’ office knew COPP was being used in exactly the way prosecutors say it shouldn’t be. In an interview on February 26, spokesman Dana Haynes told the Mercury he wasn’t familiar with the name Chronic Offender Pilot Project, but did know about a new enforcement policy.

“Folks who had been saying: ‘I’m going to stay on the sidewalk forever and ever and there’s nothing you could do about it,’ we could go to them and say, ‘You can’t live here,’” Haynes said. “‘Do you really think coming to Portland every summer is so much fun when you have a bench warrant?’”

But pressed—after the DA’s office admitted to COPP’s enforcement errors—about how much the mayor’s office knew of the project’s intent, Haynes said he was “fairly unfamiliar with what it’s doing and where it’s going.”

“Right now I don’t really know that much,” he said in a voicemail message left on March 3.

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Lawsuit demands firing of officer who mixed up ammo, shot and severely injured man in 2011

Posted by Jenny on 12th April 2013

Officer Dane Reister

Officer Dane Reister

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, April 11, 2013

Portland Police Officer Dane Reister should lose his job for suddenly firing a beanbag shotgun that he mistakenly loaded with lethal rounds at a man obviously suffering from a mental illness, a federal lawsuit filed Thursday says.

READComplaint – William Kyle Monroe v City of Portland et al (PDF, 573KB)

The attorney for William Kyle Monroe, wounded by Reister on June 30, 2011, accuses the officer, Police Chief Mike Reese and the city of Portland of violating Monroe’s civil rights through false arrest, assault and negligence.

The suit seeks more than $11 million in damages.

Monroe, who was 20 at the time and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, narrowly escaped bleeding to death only because OHSU Hospital was near the shooting scene, but he’s permanently disabled, his lawyer said.

The suit alleges that the police chief could have prevented such a mistake by prohibiting officers from mixing lethal ammunition with less-lethal munitions in their duty bags, as Reister did. Further, the suit contends, the bureau has failed to adequately discipline officers who are “pre-disposed” to using excessive force.

“Defendant Reister’s conduct was so extreme that it goes beyond all possible bounds of decency, and it constituted conduct that a reasonable person would regard as intolerable in a civilized community,” Monroe’s attorney Thane Tienson wrote in the suit.

The suit calls on the court to order the Police Bureau to fire Reister and appoint an independent monitor to enforce the terms of the city’s pending agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice on use of force policies, training and oversight. The reforms stem from a federal investigation last year that found Portland police engage in a pattern of excessive force against people with mental illness.

Nearly two years after the shooting, the police chief and city have not disciplined Reister, who remains on paid administrative leave while facing criminal charges, the suit notes. Reister has pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with third- and fourth-degree assault charges. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office added a negligent wounding charge. The indictment marked the first time in the county’s history that a grand jury brought criminal charges against a Portland officer for force used on duty.

“By their inaction, said defendants have condoned, ratified or otherwise turned a blind eye to defendant Reister’s extreme misconduct and demonstrated a deliberate indifference to the plaintiff’s constitutionally protected rights,” Tienson wrote in the suit.

Janet Hoffman, Reister’s attorney, issued a statement after she informed the officer about the suit Thursday. “Officer Reister is thankful that Mr. Monroe survived and is recovering,” she said. “He is looking forward to the facts coming out at trial and fully explaining the situation.”

According to the suit, Monroe, who lives with his father in Hillsboro, had intended to drive to Bremerton, Wash., to visit his mother the day before the shooting, but became disoriented and was suffering from a paranoid mania.

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 the park. Police received two 9-1-1 calls from camp officials. The camp director said in the second call that Monroe may have a pocket knife 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 if he had any weapons, and Monroe emptied his pockets, discarding his miniature Swiss army knife, the suit says. Monroe put his hands behind his head, but asked why he should get on his knees. Reister grabbed his beanbag shotgun from his car, and two more officers arrived.

Monroe assured police he hadn’t done anything wrong as he backed away and then began running and yelled for help. Without warning, the suit says, Reister fired five times, emptying his clip. The fifth round jammed because of Reister’s “excessively rapid firing,” the suit says.

The shots fractured Monroe’s pelvis, punctured his bladder, abdomen and colon. The fourth shot, fired from less than 15 feet away, left a “softball-size hole in his left leg,” and severed the sciatic nerve, the suit says.

The next day, then-Mayor Sam Adams and Reese called the shooting a “tragic mistake.” The president of the Portland Police Association said the union would “stand by” Reister through the judicial process.

Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said Thursday night that the bureau can no discuss not pending lawsuit.

Four months after the shooting, Reese issued a new policy, requiring that beanbag ammunition be stored only in a carrier attached to the side or stock of the orange-painted, 12-gauge beanbag shotguns.

Five years earlier, the suit noted, Reister mistakenly fired a loaded riot-suppression launcher during training, injuring an officer posing as a protester with a smoke round.

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What Happened to Merle Hatch

Posted by Jenny on 18th February 2013

130218-Portland-Adventist-Shooting-660

Officer-involved shooting takes man’s life at Adventist Medical Center

By Alastair Jamieson, NBC News, Feb. 18, 2013

An “officer-involved shooting investigation” has been launched after a suspected gunman’s death at a Portland, Ore., hospital.

Officers were called to the Adventist Medical Center in south-east Portland  at 9:30 p.m. Sunday local time (0:30 a.m. ET Monday) following reports of a man with a gun on the hospital’s grounds, city police spokesman Pete Simpson said in a statement.

Police encountered the suspect as they locked-down the hospital and its campus, according to Simpson.

“Shots were fired and the suspect is deceased,” the statement said. “Portland Police are now in the very early stages of an officer-involved shooting investigation.”

Judy Leach, spokeswoman for the Adventist Medical Center, said the hospital “issued a code silver as a result of a combative person on the premises.”

She added: “There were no injuries to any patients or staff. The suspect is officially deceased. Portland Police continue to investigate the incident.

“The health, security, and safety of our patients, physicians, and staff is our number one priority. The policy put into place worked. Counselors and chaplains are on hand for anyone requiring services.”


Update on Officer-Involved Shooting at Portland Adventist Medical Center

Portland Police Bureau press release, Feb. 18, 2013

The Portland Police Bureau is continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the officer-involved shooting on Sunday evening in the parking lot of Portland Adventist Medical Center (PAMC), located at 10123 Southeast Market Street.

On Sunday February 17, 2013, at 9:24 p.m., Portland Police officers assigned to East Precinct responded to PAMC on the report of someone in the courtyard armed with a black handgun. As multiple officers were enroute, additional information was broadcast that the suspect was a patient and was currently in the employee parking lot. Additionally, information was given to 9-1-1 dispatchers that the suspect pointed a gun at a PAMC Security vehicle.

As officers and sergeants began arriving in the area, they immediately began to develop a plan to safely address the situation. Officers requested that PAMC go into lock-down and a Sergeant requested that Project Respond and Portland Police Air Support be called out to the scene. Additionally, a K-9 Unit and Medical Personnel were asked to respond.

Officers encountered the suspect in the PAMC employee parking lot and began giving him commands. During the course of the encounter, three officers fired shots at the suspect, who fell to the ground. Officers immediately approached the downed suspect with a ballistic shield and rendered medical aid. Medical personnel checked the suspect and confirmed he was deceased.

An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday 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 three involved Bureau members are all assigned to East Precinct afternoon shift: Sergeant Nathan Voeller a 12-year-veteran; Officer Andrew Hearst, a 3-year-veteran; and Officer Royce Curtiss, a 7-year-veteran.

As is standard procedure, all three involved members will remain on paid administrative leave pending the ongoing investigation and are scheduled to be interviewed on Wednesday February 20, 2013.

To protect the integrity of this ongoing officer-involved shooting investigation, no additional details on this case will be released until sometime late Wednesday.

Once the investigation is complete, the entire case will be presented to the District Attorney’s Office who will schedule a Grand Jury.

Representatives from the Chief’s Office, Mayor’s Office, Office of Professional Standards, Office of Independent Police Review (IPR), and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office were at the scene on Sunday night and have been briefed on the status of the investigation.


Portland AdventistMan shot and killed by police at Portland Adventist Medical Center was an emergency room patient

A man shot and killed by Portland police Sunday night was an emergency room patient at Portland Adventist Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said.”He came into the emergency department and then left the emergency department,” said Judy Leach, director of marketing and communication for the hospital.Police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said the dead man’s identity remains unknown. An autopsy is planned by the Multnomah County Medical Examiner on Tuesday.”We don’t know who he is, but maybe the M.E. can work their magic and help us find out,” Simpson.Three officers from the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct, who all fired shots during the incident, were placed on paid administrative leave while the shooting is under investigation.

Simpson said officers were called to the employee parking lot at 9:24 p.m. on the report of a man in the hospital’s courtyard armed with a black handgun. As officers sped to the scene, dispatchers told officers that callers to 9-1-1 now said the man was patient at the hospital and that he had pointed the gun at a medical center security guard’s vehicle.

Simpson said officers and supervisors developed a plan to safely handle the situation, telling hospital staff to lock-down the building.

They also activated Project Respond member, which parks an officer with a mental health expert. The program provides 24-hour, 7-day-a-week coverage to help officers deal with people who are in mental health crisis.

Officers also called for the bureau’s air support unit, a K-9 unit and paramedics to respond to the scene.

During the encounter with the man, officers gave him several commands. All three officers then fired at the man, who fell to the ground.

The officers approached the man from behind ballistic shields and rendered first aid; paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene.


View Larger Map

The three officers involved in the shooting were identified as Sergeant Nathan Voeller a 12-year-veteran; Officer Andrew Hearst, a 3-year-veteran; and Officer Royce Curtiss, a 7-year-veteran.

Leach said the hospital activated an emergency plan known as “code silver,” which means there is an armed, combative subject on hospital grounds.

“We practice these scenarios all the time,” Leach said.

This is the first fatal shooting of a suspect since the Justice Department found in September that Portland police engage in a pattern of excessive force against people who suffer from or appear to suffer from mental illness, and the first fatal officer-involved shooting since Mayor Charlie Hales took office.

Simpson said Hales visited the shooting scene overnight, and received a briefing on the incident by Chief Mike Reese Monday morning.

Simpson said once the investigation is finished, details of Sunday’s shooting will be presented to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office and reviewed by a grand jury.

The last fatal officer involved shooting by Portland police occurred on July 28, 2012. Billy Wayne Simms, 28, was shot six times and killed by Portland police in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven at 6840 N. Fessenden St. Officer Justin Clary told a grand jury he fired his AR-15 rifle through the passenger window of Simms’ car after he thought Simms was reaching for a gun in the car’s center console.

A .22-caliber handgun was found tucked into his waistband, near his right rear hip. A grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing by police.

The last officer-involved shooting occurred on September 29. A Multnomah County grand jury also found no criminal wrongdoing by two Portland police officers who shot and wounded Joshua Stephen Baker.

Baker, 27,  was charged with attempted murder with a firearm, first-degree assault with a firearm, felony elude, fourth-degree assault involving domestic violence and two counts of menacing.

The incident stemmed from a domestic violence assault at the Hathaway Apartments on Southeast 134th Avenue. A Good Samaritan had tried to intervene, but was allegedly shot by Baker.


Identity released of man shot by police at Adventist hospital

By KGW Staff and Associated Press, Feb. 18, 2013

The man shot and killed by officers responding to reports of an armed gunman at Portland Adventist hospital has been identfied as Merle M. Hatch, 50.

Officers responded Sunday evening about 9:30 to the Southeast Portland hospital after the initial report of a man with a gun in the courtyard, according to police bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson.

As officers were on the way, they learned the suspect was a patient.

The patient told a staff member that he had a gun and would use it on the employee, before demanding the employee lead him to the exit, a hospital spokesperson later said.

The hospital initiated what’s called a “Code Silver,” which means a staff member has seen an armed, combative person on premises, said hospital spokeswoman Judy Leach.

The suspect left alone, and hospital security saw him outside on hospital grounds.

The suspect was in the employee parking lot, and had pointed the gun at a security guard’s vehicle, Simpson said. Officers “encountered the suspect in the PAMC employee parking lot and began giving him commands.”

Three officers fired shots at the suspect, who fell to the ground, according to a police report.

Officers administered first aid and called for medics. The man was later pronounced dead. An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday morning.

The three involved officers are all assigned to the East Precinct: Sergeant Nathan Voeller a 12-year-veteran; Officer Andrew Hearst, a 3-year-veteran; and Officer Royce Curtiss, a 7-year-veteran.

A witness told KGW he heard nine shots fired.

“We appreciate the vigilance of individuals who helped keep this a safe community,” Leach said.


Man shot dead at Portland Adventist Medical Center was federal escapee

Portland Adventist Medical Center

Portland Adventist Medical Center

By Bryan Denson, The Oregonian, Feb. 19, 2013

The man fatally shot by Portland police was identified Tuesday as 50-year-old Merle M. Hatch, a long-time convict who was supposed to turn himself into a Colorado pre-release center but failed to report.An autopsy is scheduled this morning for Hatch, who was released from the medium-security federal prison in Sheridan on Feb. 12 with orders to report that evening to the Independence House-South Federal Center, in Colorado.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons listed Hatch as an escapee at 9:01 p.m. that day.

Hatch checked into the emergency room Sunday evening at Portland Adventist Medical Center, then threatened a hospital employee with a gun, authorities said Monday.

He walked out abruptly and pointed the gun at a security car in an employee parking lot, police said. He was shot soon after emergency responders arrived.

Mary Hatch, Merle Hatch’s mother, said she hadn’t seen her son in two decades. She said Hatch lived in Colorado. She didn’t know how he ended up in Portland.

“He was troubled,” said Hatch, who lives in Iowa. “He was in and out of prison most of his adult life. He got into drugs early. There wasn’t much left of the person we knew as a kid growing up.”

She said her husband last saw their son 15 or 20 years ago and that he looked like he’d fallen on hard times. Public records show Hatch had an extensive criminal history, including arrests for drug-related crimes and a 2004 conviction in U.S. District Court in Colorado for bank robbery.

She said her son never married, had no children and no employment. She said he regularly got into trouble with the law. He stole to pay for drugs, she said. “Boy, does that ruin more people than we can even shake a stick at,” she said.

While serving a 10-year stretch for bank robbery at the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colo., in July 2009, Hatch wrote a polite note to the judge who sentenced him in hopes of correcting the record on his criminal history.

“Your Honor, Good day and God bless,” he began. “I was convicted of bank robbery in your court 5 years ago. I received 10  1/2 years. At that time the court used a prior felony against me and counted it as violent.”

The prior violent crime wrongly tacked on time to his sentence, Hatch wrote, because the court believed he had robbed an occupied dwelling.

“But the condominium was not occupied,” he wrote. “It was vacant and up for sale at the time of the offense . . . thereby making it a non-violent crime. I would like to ask if you would reconsider my sentence in light of this. Thank you for your time. Merle Hatch.”

No action appears to have been taken on Hatch’s request, based on available records.


Man killed by police at Portland hospital was an escaped federal prisoner

Merle Hatch

Merle Hatch

A man who was shot and killed by police officers in a Portland hospital parking lot Sunday night was considered an escaped prisoner after failing to report to a federal halfway house in Colorado last week.

According to court documents obtained by KOIN, on Feb. 12, 50-year-old Merle Hatch was supposed to report to the Independence House-South Federal Center in Denver after being temporarily released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Ore.

Hatch failed to report to the halfway house, and at 9 p.m. on Feb. 12, his status was changed to escaped, according to a letter sent Feb. 13 from Marion Feather, warden for FCI Sheridan, to U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger.

Hatch was serving time for a federal conviction in 2004 for bank robbery out of Colorado. He was sentenced in January 2005 by Judge Krieger to 125 months in prison and three years of post-prison supervision.

According to Paul Thompson, satellite operations administrator with FCI Sheridan, Hatch was given a commercial airline ticket and an itinerary. He was not accompanied on the trip. Thompson did not confirm what prompted Hatch’s transfer to the halfway house.

Merle Hatch’s father, Robert Hatch, described his son as troubled.  Robert Hatch, who lives in Iowa, told KOIN by phone early Tuesday morning that the Multnomah County Medical Examiner notified him and his wife that their son had been killed.

“We hadn’t seen him in 15 to 20 years,” Hatch said.

Hatch said homicide detectives with the Portland Police Bureau have not provided the family with any details about what occurred Sunday night.

Portland police responded to Adventist Medical Center after a man reportedly threatened an employee and claimed to be carrying a handgun. Officers found the suspect in a parking lot. At some point, after yelling commands, three officers shot him dead. The involved officers, identified as Sgt. Nathan Voeller, Officer Andrew Hearst and Officer Royce Curtiss, are on paid administrative leave.

Officials confirmed that Hatch checked into the hospital as an emergency room patient. The details of his visit were not released because of privacy laws.

Hatch said his son continuously go into trouble as a child and adult.

“I think that would be a fair way to put it,” Hatch said.

The family struggled at times because Merle Hatch started using drugs.

“He’d use just about any kind of drug,” Hatch said.

Hatch said he did not know why his son would have checked himself into the hospital. He said the last time he and his wife saw their son was 15-years-ago in Colorado. Robert Hatch said his son was not married and did not have any children. He described his upbringing as typical.

“He played football,” Hatch said. “He grew up here in Iowa.”

The medical examiner will perform an autopsy on Hatch’s body sometime Tuesday.

Portland Police said homicide detectives will continue to investigate the circumstances involved with the shooting. Once their investigation is complete, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office will present the case to a grand jury.


Merle Hatch goaded Portland police, raced toward officers before they shot him

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, Feb. 21, 2013

Police said they believed Merle Hatch had a gun.  It was actually a phone receiver.

Police said they believed Merle Hatch had a gun. It was actually a phone receiver.

Merle M. Hatch taunted police, telling them to “Come on, play,” after they rushed to Portland Adventist Medical Center on reports of a man threatening staff and security guards with a gun.

In the darkened employee parking lot Sunday night, Hatch can be heard on a cellphone video yelling: “Close as you gonna get? That ain’t close enough, come on.”

Hatch shouted that he “ain’t gonna draw” and goaded the officers with obscenities to “come from behind you all, do something” and “One a ya, anyone a ya. I can’t see ya anyway.”

When an East Precinct sergeant and two officers — huddled about 80 yards away in the driveway outside the emergency room — didn’t react, Hatch yelled: “I’m coming to you then, pig. Let’s go! Let’s go!”

Hatch ran toward them. Police shouted “Stop” and “Hands up!” Hatch responded: “One! Two! Three!”

When he got within 14 yards of them, the sergeant and officers each fired multiple rounds, killing Hatch. He fell on his back.

WATCH – press conference on Merle Hatch’s death

Police on Wednesday released the video taken by a resident who was leaning out his window across the street from the hospital and confirmed that Hatch didn’t have a gun.

After the shooting, officers found half of a black telephone handle a few inches from Hatch’s right hand that they believe he used to simulate a handgun.

In the minutes leading up to the shooting, officers can be heard on police dispatch audio alerting their colleagues emphatically several times that the suspect had a gun.

LISTEN - 911 dispatch tape

“He does have a gun, probably in the right hand,” one officer radioed. Just before the shooting, an officer radioed, “He’s got the gun in his hand.” Even after Hatch went down, an officer radioed: “Shots fired, Code 3 medical. He’s still got the gun in his hand.”

Hatch, 50, had stolen the plastic phone handle from the hospital’s emergency room earlier that night, police said. They say he used it to simulate a gun when he threatened a female security guard inside the hospital and then pointed it at a security vehicle in the parking lot.

The shooting occurred at 9:36 p.m., just 12 minutes after police were called to the parking lot and before other help that police had summoned could get there.

“I think it’s safe to say everyone thought it was a gun they were looking at,” Assistant Chief Donna Henderson said.

The case will now go to a Multnomah County grand jury for review during the first full week of March, said Don Rees, a chief deputy district attorney. The grand jury testimony likely will be recorded, with a transcript made public.

Chief Mike Reese said the officers “intentionally kept their distance,” but the encounter unfolded quickly. On the way to the call, a police sergeant had asked for a mental health crisis worker, a police dog and a police plane to respond, “but there was no time for these resources to arrive,” Reese said.

Police declined to say how many gunshots were fired, but at least eight are heard on the video. They withheld information that Hatch didn’t have a gun until Wednesday “basically for the integrity of the investigation,” Henderson said.

Nathan Voeller, the East Precinct afternoon shift sergeant, and Officers Andrew Hearst and Royce Curtiss each fired shots. They were interviewed by police detectives Wednesday morning, more than 48 hours after the shooting. Voeller, 34, has been with the bureau for 12 years, Curtiss, 31, for seven years and Hearst, 25, for three years.

Voeller was involved in the fatal police shooting of unarmed fugitive David E. Hughes in November 2006. He fired seven rounds from an AR-15 rifle. Two other officers also fired their handguns.

Voeller also worked as one of the Police Bureau’s lead defensive tactics instructors before his recent promotion to sergeant. In February 2012, he was among police trainers who was set to testify in support of Officer Ron Frashour in federal court. Frashour shot an unarmed man in the back in 2010. Voeller noted that Portland officers are trained that they don’t need to see a gun before using lethal force if they believe a suspect poses an immediate risk of death or serious injury.

Two years ago, Hearst was among the officers who responded to the same hospital after a man had suffered a heart attack and crashed his car in the hospital’s lot. Hearst had tried to summon medical help from the ER, only to be told to call 9-1-1.

Police did not say why Hatch had gone to the hospital’s emergency room. Police didn’t know until later that Hatch had an extensive criminal history, including arrests for drug-related crimes and a 2004 conviction in U.S. District Court in Colorado for bank robbery.

At the time Hatch was shot, he was considered a federal prison escapee for failing to report the night of Feb. 12 to a halfway house in Colorado after his release from federal prison in Sheridan that same day on a bank robbery conviction. He was supposed to board a plane bound for Denver.

Police have since tied him to a robbery of a Wells Fargo bank in Clackamas last Friday and the robbery of the Albina Community Bank off Northeast Sandy Boulevard last Wednesday.


Autopsy says Merle Hatch, killed by police after threats, died of multiple gunshot wounds

Federal fugitive Merle M. Hatch died of multiple gunshot wounds after three police officers fired at him Sunday night outside Portland Adventist Medical Center, according to autopsy results released Tuesday.Hatch was a career criminal with arrests in California, Arizona and Colorado on various charges, including burglary, bank robbery, theft and homicide, Portland police said.He had been released from the federal prison in Sheridan on Feb. 12 with orders to report that evening to the Independence House-South Federal Center, a pre-release facility in Colorado.

Hatch was driven from Sheridan by car that day with a ticket and an understanding that he would get on a plane bound for Denver, according to the U.S. Marshals Service in Portland.

But he didn’t arrive in Colorado as scheduled and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons listed Hatch as an escapee at 9:01 p.m. that evening.

On Sunday evening, Hatch checked into the emergency room at Portland Adventist Medical Center, 10123 S.E. Market St., then threatened a hospital employee, saying he had a gun, authorities said.

He then walked out and allegedly pointed a gun at a security car in an employee parking lot, police said. Police responded to a 9-1-1 call at 9:24 p.m. and some of the officers found Hatch and began giving him commands. A short time later, they shot him.

Asked Tuesday if a gun was recovered from Hatch at the scene of the shooting, police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson would say only that the bureau would release additional details late Wednesday “after all the interviews are complete.”Mary Hatch, Merle Hatch’s mother, said she hadn’t seen her son in two decades. She said Hatch lived in Colorado. She didn’t know how he ended up in Portland.

“He was troubled,” said Hatch, who lives in Iowa. “He was in and out of prison most of his adult life. He got into drugs early. There wasn’t much left of the person we knew as a kid growing up.”

She said her husband last saw their son 15 or 20 years ago and that he looked like he’d fallen on hard times. Public records show Hatch had an extensive criminal history, including arrests for drug-related crimes and a 2004 conviction in U.S. District Court in Colorado for bank robbery.

She said that to her knowledge, her son never married, had no children and no employment. She said he regularly got into trouble with the law. He stole to pay for drugs, she said. “Boy, does that ruin more people than we can even shake a stick at,” she said.

While serving a 10-year stretch for bank robbery at the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colo., in July 2009, Hatch wrote a polite note to the judge who sentenced him in hopes of correcting the record on his criminal history.

“Your Honor, Good day and God bless,” he began. “I was convicted of bank robbery in your court 5 years ago. I received 10 1/2 years. At that time the court used a prior felony against me and counted it as violent.”

The earlier crime wrongly tacked on time to his sentence, Hatch wrote, because the court believed he had robbed an occupied dwelling.

“But the condominium was not occupied,” he wrote. “It was vacant and up for sale at the time of the offense . . . thereby making it a non-violent crime. I would like to ask if you would reconsider my sentence in light of this. Thank you for your time. Merle Hatch.”

No action appears to have been taken on Hatch’s request, based on available records.


Portland police shooting: Grand jury transcripts released in case of fugitive Merle Hatch

From the Oregonian, March 20, 2013

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office just released the transcripts from a grand jury review of the Feb. 17 Portland police fatal shooting of Merle M. Hatch, 50, outside Portland Adventist Medical Center.

Read the transcripts:
Merle Hatch Grand Jury testimony #1 PDF
Merle Hatch Grand Jury testimony #2 PDF
Merle Hatch Grand Jury testimony #3 – Redacted version PDF

The grand jury in the Hatch case found no criminal wrongdoing by a sergeant and two officers who shot and killed. Police had been called to the hospital on reports of a man threatening staff and security with a gun.

East Precinct Sgt. Nathan Voeller and Officers Andrew Hearst and Royce Curtiss found Hatch in a darkened hospital employee parking lot. A cellphone video recorded by a witness and released by police shows Hatch taunting police.

“Close as you gonna get? That ain’t close enough, come on,” Hatch is heard yelling. When the sergeant and officers — huddled about 80 yards away in the driveway outside the emergency room — didn’t react, Hatch yelled: “I’m coming to you then, pig. Let’s go! Let’s go!”

Hatch ran toward the officers. Police shouted “Stop!” and “Hands up!” and fired multiple rounds at Hatch when he was 42 feet from them, police said. Police found half of a black telephone handle beside Hatch’s right hand that they believe he had stolen from the hospital and used to simulate a gun.

Police haven’t said why Hatch had gone to the hospital’s emergency room. At the time he was shot, Hatch was considered a federal prison escapee for failing to report the night of Feb. 12 to a halfway house in Colorado after his release from federal prison in Sheridan that same day on a bank robbery conviction. He was supposed to board a plane for Denver.


Merle Hatch, killed by Portland police, was in mental health wing at Portland Adventist

By Helen Jung, The Oregonian, March 21, 2013

Merle M. Hatch came to Portland Adventist Medical Center on Feb. 17 convinced that two people were out to kill him. But he didn’t appear to have a medical complaint.

Instead, the 50-year-old seemed paranoid, focused on his alleged pursuers and at one point said, “Tonight is not a bad night to die.”

That’s according to Richard Butler, a security guard who sat with Hatch for about an hour as he waited for a doctor in a wing for mental health patients.

Butler was one of 18 witnesses to testify before a Multnomah County grand jury about the shooting. The grand jury cleared Sgt. Nathan Voeller and Officers Andrew Hearst and Royce Curtiss of criminal wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of Hatch outside the Southeast Portland hospital.

On Wednesday, prosecutors released transcripts of the grand jury testimony, revealing new details of what happened.

Hatch had voluntarily come to the hospital earlier that Sunday evening, under the name Daniel Fox, according to Butler and another security officer, Carol Graff.

He told a nurse that he had used methamphetamine about three days earlier, Butler recalled. State medical examiner Karen Gunson also noted scratches on Hatch’s arms that are common among those who use meth or cocaine.

Around 9:20 p.m. he came out of his room, said Graff, who was watching him. She offered to get a nurse or a doctor for him, but he told her that he was going to leave and she was going to go with him, Graff testified.

Hatch told her he had a gun, threatened to shoot her if she didn’t do as he said, and lifted his shirt where she saw something black tucked into his waistband. The item was later found to be a broken telephone handset.

He had Graff walk with him out of the secured mental health wing to the ER waiting room as she mouthed “help” to staff.

Hatch then ran out of the doors of the emergency room, she said, and she radioed for help alerting others to the “code silver” indicating there was an armed patient.

Two students from the neighboring nursing school campus noted that Hatch was acting strangely as he walked around the parking lot outside the hospital. Butler, who was driving in the parking lot, came across Hatch. Hatch appeared to point a weapon at him.

As police officers arrived, Hatch started making a lot of noise, Sgt. Voeller testified.

Seeing the man in the darkened parking lot, about 70 yards away, Voeller recalled that Hatch looked “almost like a gorilla in a cage pacing back and forth, trying to make himself look kind of big.”

At one point, Voeller said, Hatch appeared to point a gun at the officers. But Hatch was still a fair distance away, Voeller said, adding that he hoped to de-escalate the situation.

Officers ordered the hospital locked down and made their way into the fenced parking lot where Hatch was, Voeller said.

But they missed an opportunity to use a beanbag shotgun when Hatch was briefly within 25 yards, Voeller said. A canine unit hadn’t yet arrived on scene, Voeller said.

He saw Hatch sit down on the roof of an SUV in the parking lot and hoped he was losing steam, Voeller said. If Hatch calmed down enough, it could allow a mental health counselor to make contact, he said.

But Voeller saw Hatch jump down from the SUV. Hatch yelled more taunts at the officers, at one point shouting: “I’m coming to you then, pig. Let’s go! Let’s go!”

Hatch headed toward Voeller and the other officers, the sergeant testified, closing in from about 70 yards away. Hatch quickened his step, first to a jog and then sprinting from about 30 yards away with what appeared to be a gun aimed at them, Voeller said.

Despite a police officer’s calls to stop and “Hands up,” Hatch yelled: “One. Two. Three” according to smartphone video taken by a witness.

Voeller interpreted the counting as “an ultimatum…He’s going to kill us.”

Seconds later, Voeller and the two officers fired 19 rounds at Hatch. Six shots struck him and two were fatal, with one hitting his right chest and the other piercing his liver, gallbladder and left kidney.

At the time he was shot, Hatch was considered a federal prison escapee for failing to report the night of Feb. 12 to a halfway house in Colorado after his release from federal prison in Sheridan that same day on a bank robbery conviction. He was supposed to board a plane bound for Denver.

Hatch was also identified as a suspect in two bank robberies between the time he was release and when he was shot. Authorities say he robbed an Albina Community Bank along Northeast Sandy Boulevard on Feb. 13, and a Wells Fargo bank in Clackamas on Feb. 15.


Portland Police Bureau releases files in Merle Hatch shooting

PORTLAND POLICE BUREAU NEWS RELEASE – March 25, 2013

Police Reports Released on Officer-Involved Shooting at Portland Adventist Medical Center

The Portland Police Bureau is releasing all the investigative reports associated with the officer-involved shooting that occurred on February 17, 2013, involving Merle Mikal Hatch, following the conclusion of the recent Grand Jury on this case.

READMerle Hatch reports released by PPB (PDF, 20MB)

LISTENMerle Hatch 911 audio.mp3

WATCH – witness cell phone video:

The files can also be found at: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/61944

As with all officer-involved shootings, the review will continue through the Bureau’s Use of Force Review Board which reviews policies and training in regard to this shooting.

###PPB###

 

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