Even through a stack of documents released last week revealed further discrepancies between witnesses and Portland police accounts of the fatal Sept. 17 takedown of James Chasse Jr. in the Pearl District, they do back police up on a crucial point.
None of the civilian witnesses describe a higher level of violence than the officers involved themselves described in their statements: several punches and kicks and the application of a Taser (which didn’t seem to have much effect). But it will be up to medical experts in the litigation that will likely stem from the incident to argue whether those blows could have led to the 42-year-old schizophrenic man’s death.
The state’s chief medical examiner, Karen Gunson, ruled the broad-based injuries were consistent with an officer falling on top of Chasse. An attorney representing the family is questioning those findings.
“I have seen um police brutality on the news and it wasn’t as, it wasn’t um, I wouldn’t say it was gratuitous,” said Constance Doolan, who saw the incident from across the street. “Um you know, I did feel like the kicking happened in response to the man trying to bite them but having read in the paper today that you know he was acting strange and pissing on the sidewalk, makes me angry that that this is the treatment he received and that he wasn’t, if it, even if it did take that much force to arrest him, and now I’m wondering if there was even a good reason for it.”
Like many of the other witnesses, Doolan questioned the adequacy of the medical evaluation of Chasse.
“I wondered whether he had broken ribs or who knows what after what had transpired,” she said.
The investigator asked her, “What made you think he might have broken—from the kicking?”
“The kicking and landing on the ground, all the struggling, the arms twisted behind the back.”