The families of two women murdered by an off-duty Clackamas County sheriff’s sergeant filed an $8 million lawsuit Thursday, alleging that the county, Sheriff Craig Roberts and two of his top aides knew the man was dangerously unstable but failed to intervene.
Roberts and other defendants knew Sgt. Jeffrey A. Grahn presented a threat to his wife, Charlotte, and that he was emotionally unsteady, angry, depressed and had substance-abuse problems, according to the wrongful-death lawsuit filed in Multnomah County.
On Feb. 12, 2010, Grahn confronted Charlotte Grahn and two of her friends, Victoria Schulmerich and Kathleen Hoffmeister, at the M&M Restaurant & Lounge.
Grahn, who was legally drunk, entered the Gresham bar, argued with his wife and threw a drink in Schulmerich’s face. He then grabbed Charlotte Grahn by her hair, pulled her outside and shot her in the head with a Glock .40-caliber pistol. He returned to the bar with his gun drawn and killed Schulmerich and Hoffmeister with shots to the head.
Grahn again went outside and, standing next to his wife’s body, committed suicide.
The Schulmerich and Hoffmeister families each are seeking $3.5 million for loss of companionship and the women’s pain and suffering. The families are asking almost $1 million more in lost earnings and expenses.
The family of Charlotte Grahn has not filed a lawsuit and has until 5 p.m. Friday to do so.
A year before the killings, the Sheriff’s Office received reports that Grahn was abusive and potentially explosive and asked the Portland Police Bureau to investigate.
“The Sheriff’s Office knew that Grahn was violent, abusive, and out of control. They were specifically warned that he was likely to kill his wife, his family, and himself. Nonetheless, the Sheriff’s Office intervened to prevent the Portland Police from sending their investigation of Grahn to the Clackamas County District Attorney. Now, four people are dead,” said Greg Kafoury of Kafoury & McDougal law firm, which represents the Hoffmeister estate.
If the case goes to trial, it will shed light on how the Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies handle domestic violence issues involving their employees. Roberts and Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote or his second-in-command could be called to testify.
The DA’s office maintains it should be advised of domestic violence incidents involving sheriff’s deputies.
The county received a copy of the lawsuit Thursday afternoon but declined to address the allegations. “At the insistence of the county counsel, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office will offer no specific comments in the matter of former employee Jeffrey A. Grahn,” Sgt. James Rhodes, sheriff’s spokesman, said in a statement. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to the victims of this tragedy, their families and all those affected.”
According to police reports obtained by The Oregonian, Charlotte Grahn allegedly told one of her husband’s co-workers, a deputy, that she was the victim of domestic violence but the deputy did not report the incident.
The reports also show that a couple — both law enforcement officers and long-time friends of the Grahns — told the Sheriff’s Office they had serious concerns about Jeffrey Grahn’s behavior. The friends and Charlotte Grahn’s sister “fear .. that they will receive a phone call one day that Jeffrey has killed everybody in his family then himself,” according to a report written by Undersheriff Dave Kirby in April 2009, 10 months before the shootings. One of the friends said Grahn had “gone off the deep end” and drinks “like there’s no tomorrow,” Kirby noted.
Charlotte Grahn told an investigator that Jeffrey Grahn exhibited signs of depression and suicidal behavior and was worried that if it became known he had obtained a prescription for anti-depressants, it could affect his employment.
Portland police investigators said Grahn was depressed, angry, drinking heavily and occasionally suicidal.
Portland police routinely enlist help from the district attorney’s office when investigating domestic violence involving officers and requested that the Clackamas County District Attorney be brought in.
Clackamas County sheriff’s Lt. Graham Phalen, who is assigned to the internal affairs unit, asked investigators to “hold off” on contacting the district attorney’s office, according to a memo written by one of the Portland investigators. Phalen also was named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by the Schulmerich and Hoffmeister families.
Phalen concluded that the evidence did not support criminal charges against Grahn.
Two dead, two injured in Gresham bar shooting – KATU.com, Feb. 12, 2010
Police: Gresham bar was shot up by an officer – KATU.com, Feb. 13, 2010
Brother-in-law describes gunman as ‘control freak’ – KGW.com, Feb. 13, 2010
Deputy’s shooting rampage sparks damage control – KATU.com, Feb. 13, 2010
Off-duty Ore. cop kills self, wife, one other – PoliceOne.com, Feb. 15, 2010
Clackamas deputy, wife appeared to be reconciling before fatal shooting – The Oregonian, Feb. 15, 2010
Charlotte Grahn expressed fear before murder-suicide, relative says – The Oregonian, Feb. 15, 2010
Before his own burst of violence, Clackamas deputy worked in trauma intervention – The Oregonian, Feb. 16, 2010
Separate services planned for husband, wife killed in murder-suicide – The Oregonian, Feb. 17, 2010
Domestic-abuse allegation preceded Clackamas deputy’s murder-suicide – The Oregonian, Feb. 19, 2010
The secret that’s still hidden away – The Oregonian, Feb. 21, 2010
Woman injured in shooting at Gresham’s M&M Lounge in critical condition – The Oregonian, Feb. 24, 2010
Victoria Schulmerich, victim in Gresham shooting, succumbs to injuries – The Oregonian, Feb. 25, 2010
Third victim shot by off-duty deputy in Gresham dies – KGW.com, Feb. 25, 2010
Documents: Friends, family worried for safety of wife killed by deputy – KGW.com, Feb. 26, 2010
Sister of shooting victim Charlotte Grahn warned police of murder-suicide threat – The Oregonian, Feb. 26, 2010
Gresham police release report on M&M Lounge murder-suicide – The Oregonian, Feb. 28, 2010
Gresham bar where off-duty Sgt. killed 3 women, self plans Sunday fundraiser – The Oregonian, March 12, 2010
Memorial for woman murdered in Gresham – KGW.com, March 15, 2010
Murder victim’s kids thank supporters – KGW.com, March 15, 2010
Clackamas deputy was intoxicated before murder-suicide in Gresham – The Oregonian, March 18, 2010
Clackamas sheriff’s office prevented DA from helping investigate deputy, memo says – The Oregonian, May 21, 2010
Today’s headlines: Clackamas County authorities had multiple complaints about cop who shot wife, friends and self – The Oregonian, May 22, 2010
Football camp set at Barlow to benefit shooting victims’ families – The Oregonian, July 15, 2010
Husband seeks compensation in Clackamas sergeant’s murder-suicide – The Oregonian, July 28, 2010
Clackamas County commissioners will appoint a special committee to review Sheriff’s Office personnel policies – The Oregonian, Aug. 31, 2010
Clackamas declares October Domestic Violence Awareness Month – The Oregonian, Sept. 30, 2010
Clackamas sheriff promises zero tolerance of domestic violence – The Oregonian, Jan. 11, 2011
Clackamas sheriff reaffirms order against domestic violence; pledges to improve hiring, training, discipline – The Oregonian, Jan. 21, 2011
Lawsuit seeks $8M in murders by Ore. sergeant – The Columbian (Clark County, WA), Feb. 9, 2012
Lawsuit filed by victims’ families seeks $8M in murders by Clackamas County, Ore., sergeant – The Republic (Columbus, Indiana), Feb. 10, 2012
Witness who watched deputy shooting spree: ‘It was just so surreal’ – KATU.com, Feb. 13, 2010
Veteran cop revealed as gunman in murder/suicide – Salem-News.com, Feb. 14, 2010
Clackamas County commissioners accept ‘zero-tolerance’ policy on domestic violence – The Oregonian, Feb. 15, 2011
Family ‘devastated’ by Gresham murder-suicide – The Outlook, Feb. 16, 2010
Message regarding the recent tragedy from Steve Hyson
Feb. 18, 2010
Beloved citizens of Clackamas County and all of Oregon,
On Friday, February 12thone of our CCPOA members, Jeffrey Grahn committed an incomprehensible act when he took the life of his wife, Charlotte, and the life of Kathleen Hoffmeister, and the critical wounding of Victoria Schulmerich. On behalf of all CCPOA members I wanted to express my deepest sorrow for the family members of all victims’. I want the public to know that Jeff Grahn’s actions in no way are condoned by the members of CCPOA and the Sheriff’s Office.
As CCPOA President I worked to found the Clackamas County Peace Officer’s Benevolent Foundation. One of the core mission’s of the Benevolent Foundation is to assist at risk youth and victims of crimes. The Benevolent Foundation’s Board of Directors is comprised of police officer’s from several agencies as well as police administrators, and citizens from the public. The Benevolent Foundation has worked diligently to provide assistance to people and to other charitable organizations. Some of the projects we support have included; Orphan Relief, The Madonna Center, Special Olympics, The Children’s Center of Oregon City, The Lot Whitcomb Fields Project and many other charitable programs. The Benevolent Foundation has also reached out to help people including the support of Jake French who suffered a disabling injury to aid in his recovery. The Benevolent Foundation is also proud to fund a program known as Shop with a Cop where we provided financial support at Christmas time to assist children affected by poverty and crime.
Today, the Benevolent Foundations Board of Directors approved $10,000 to assist the families of all the victims affected by this incident. The Benevolent Foundation has established the Charlotte Grahn Memorial Fund and opened a bank account at Wells Fargo to collect donations which will help support all the victim’s families of this dread incident. You can make donations directly to the Clackamas County Peace Officer’s Benevolent Foundation, or at any branch of Wells Fargo.
For more information on the Benevolent Foundation, please visit our website at www.ccpobf.org.
As President of the Clackamas County Peace Officer’s Association, I assure you that we have sworn our lives to protect and serve you. CCPOA has been very proactive in working to help build positive relationships with the community where we live, and to whom we serve. Please do not let the actions of this one person, who was acting on his own, to negatively impact our valued and trusted relationship.
CCPO Benevolent Foundation President