Fleeing Man Shot by Police Had a High Level of Blood Alcohol

Not Available Elsewhere Online – July 23, 1993 | The Oregonian

Authorities revealed Thursday that the North Portland man shot in the back by police while running away had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit.

Sgt. Derrick Foxworth, spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau, said Gerald Frank Gratton had a blood alcohol level of 0.22 percent.

Gratton, 27, of 8802 N. Hartman St., remained in fair condition Thursday under police guard in a Portland hospital.

Police shot him in the back and elbow, and a bullet grazed his head late Monday when two policemen shot 27 times at him as he was fleeing a confrontation on a Tri-Met bus.

Gratton and his brother, Devon D. Simms, 24, were on the No. 4 Fessenden bus Monday night when the driver alerted police and told officers that the men were drinking.

Police took Simms off the bus and were preparing to search Gratton when they saw a gun in his waistband.

A scuffle ensued and Gratton ran off the bus with Officer Douglas Erickson in pursuit across North Lombard Street. Erickson shot at Gratton 23 times. Officer David Thoman shot at Gratton four times.

Gratton’s family is outraged that police shot a fleeing man in the back, especially since Gratton never pointed his gun at the officers or even had it in his hand.

Foxworth said it appeared Gratton didn’t pull his .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun out of his waistband, and that the gun fell onto the street as he ran.

“He was shot down like a dog; no crime was committed,” Simms said.

Gratton’s family is trying to enlist the support of local churches and black community groups, but Foxworth said he didn’t believe the incident was racially motivated.

Under Portland Police Bureau policy, officers may use deadly force to prevent the escape of a suspect they believe “poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”

Erickson told detectives he shot at Gratton because he thought the fleeing man might commandeer a car or go to a nearby convenience store and take a hostage.

Simms and relatives plan to paper Portland with fliers that question the shooting. “White police justice; black man’s grief,” they say, along with a picture of a gun and the question, “Why was Gerald Gratton shot at 27 times, all at the back?”