Grand jury clears officers who shot and killed Santiago Cisneros III

Santiago Cisneros III

Santiago Cisneros III

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, March 23, 2013

A Multnomah County grand jury has found no criminal wrongdoing by two Portland police officers who fatally shot 32-year-old Santiago Cisneros III on March 4.

The grand jury deliberated Friday morning after hearing testimony Wednesday from 13 witnesses, including the two officers involved, Cisneros’ brother Diego Cisneros and father Santiago Cisneros.

According to the police investigation, Cisneros confronted two North Precinct police officers atop a garage at Northeast Lloyd Boulevard and Seventh Avenue with a shotgun about 10:45 p.m.

The two officers, Bradley J. Kula, and Michele Boer, were parked car-to-car, when Cisneros drove up to the top of the garage in a dark BMW.

Cisneros did not get out of his car until Boer drove her patrol car around and shined a spotlight on the BMW.

When Cisneros did get out of his car, he went to his trunk and pulled out a shotgun, said Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Kirsten Snowden.

“Boer pulled forward to shine her spotlight and Cisneros fired a round at her,” Snowden said.

The shotgun round struck the front passenger side of Boer’s patrol car.

Boer jumped out of her car and ran behind it for cover.

Kula ran behind his car for cover and fired back.

Portland police recovered four spent shotgun rounds. Aside from the round that hit the patrol car, another hit a parking garage railing behind Kula’s car.

Police also recovered one live shotgun round on the ground.

Officers fired 22 rounds back at Cisneros. Kula fired 18 rounds from his 9mm handgun – all the rounds in his firearm, Snowden said. Boer fired back four rounds from her 9mm.

“Officer Boer is lucky to be alive,” Snowden said.

Cisneros sustained eight gunshot wounds. They struck his legs, and one hit under his chin, perforating his jugular vein. He died at a city hospital early the next morning, according to the district attorney’s office.

Just before gunshots erupted, Cisneros had talked to his mother on his cellphone and told her he’d be going to a better place. With the phone still connected, Cisneros’ mother heard the gunfire.

A friend of the family alerted police after the shooting to the cellphone conversation, Snowden said.

Cisneros was a U.S. Army veteran who struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after his military service. He had served in the army from May 2002 to May 2005 and worked as a track vehicle mechanic in Iraq. He had been living in Seattle, where he worked as a legal intern or runner for a Seattle law firm, and had been visiting with family in Portland.

Cisneros’ brother, Diego Cisneros, said he had a phone conversation with Santiago Cisneros earlier that night. During that call, Santiago Cisneros had told him he had been in downtown Portland earlier in the evening, Snowden said.

Snowden said Santiago’s mother was asked if she wanted to testify before the grand jury, but she declined, through her lawyer. Investigators did obtain the video of the mother’s statements to Seattle media in recent weeks, but did not play it for jurors as it was not sworn testimony, Snowden said.