A Multnomah County grand jury tonight voted to indict Portland Officer Dane Reister on third-degree assault and fourth-degree assault after he mistakenly loaded a beanbag shotgun with lethal shotgun rounds and seriously wounded a man in Southwest Portland on June 30.
READ – Everything about the shooting of William Monroe
READ – Grand jury indicts officer who accidentally shot man w/live ammo, KATU.com
READ – Officer charged in shotgun shooting, Portland Tribune
READ – Officer indicted in alleged bean bag-bullet mix-up, KPTV.com
READ – Portland officer to face charges for accidentally shooting man with live ammo, KOIN.com
READ – Portland Officer Dane Reister can’t subpoena Mayor Sam Adams, police brass in shotgun shooting, judge rules, The Oregonian, October 25, 2011
READ – Portland police adopt new safeguard for beanbag shotgun ammunition, The Oregonian, October 25, 2011
The indictment marked the first time in the county’s history of a grand jury bringing criminal charges against a Portland officer for the officer’s use of force in the line of duty. It also comes as the police bureau’s use of force is under federal review.
The grand jury heard testimony from 44 witnesses over the past month. To indict the officer, five of the 7-member jury had to agree to file criminal charges.
Jurors found Reister’s mistake constituted third-degree assault, a felony, ruling Reister “recklessly” caused serious physical injury by means of a dangerous weapon or with “extreme indifference” to the value of human life. Fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor, required a finding that Reister acted with “gross deviation” from a reasonable person’s standard of care.
The Multnomah County district attorney’s office plans to add a “negligent wounding” charge against Reister. While the grand jury was seated, Presiding Judge Jean Kerr Maurer had ruled that the charge should not be presented to the grand jury, as it was restricted to hunting offenses.
“While we respect the court’s ruling regarding what charges the grand jury could consider, after the grand jury’s decision to indict ….this office will be filing a charge of negligent wounding and moving to consolidate that charge with the grand jury’s indictment,” according to a release from District Attorney Michael Schrunk‘s office tonight.
Attorney Thane Tienson, who represents William Kyle Monroe, the man who was shot by Reister, said he was pleased.
“I’m gratified. I think the facts certainly supported the indictment, I’m pleased there will be criminal prosecution,” Tienson said. “I think it was the right thing to do.”
Monroe, now 21, is recovering. The injury to his sciatic nerve is expected to be permanent, Tienson said. “It looks like he will never be able to walk normally again.”
But Reister’s lawyer, Janet Hoffman, said she was confident her client would prevail at trial.
“We’re very sorry that the grand jury chose to indict, but we respect its function,” Hoffman said. “We look forward to the opportunity to have a trial where he has the ability to fully present his side of the story and to confront the witnesses and be represented by counsel. We’re confident that what took place was not criminal in nature.”
On June 30, Reister checked out a less-lethal shotgun from Central Precinct’s armory, left the precinct and walked across the street to the parking garage at Southwest Madison and Second Avenue, where some patrol cars and police gear is kept. There, he found his duty bag, walked to his patrol car in the garage, grabbed rounds from a plastic bag and was unaware he loaded the beanbag shotgun with lethal rounds.
He responded to a 9-1-1 call about an armed man threatening children at Lair Hill Park. A second caller said the man left the park, had a pocket knife concealed in his sleeve and was acting in a “peculiar manner.”
According to his lawyer, Reister spotted Monroe at the corner of Southwest Pennoyer Street and Naito Parkway and described him as “highly agitated,” with a knife he was trying to conceal in his hand. Reister told Monroe to show his hands, and Monroe refused, instead yelling at Reister. Reister got out his less-lethal shotgun and called for back-up. Reister, according to his lawyer, was concerned Monroe would attack a man and child standing near the corner.
Yet the man, Wally Jones, told The Oregonian this summer he was with his 1-year-old daughter and started talking to Monroe to be social, and didn’t feel in danger until Reister pulled out his shotgun.
When backup officers arrived, Reister said Monroe started to run, and Reister ran after him. Reister ordered Monroe to stop and get on the ground by the grassy knoll south of Caro Amico Italian Cafe. Reister decided “he needed to stop Monroe to prevent him from getting away and threatening other residents,” his lawyer wrote in court motions.
Reister, 40, a 15-year bureau veteran who in 2006 was a use-of-force instructor, fired four lethal shotgun rounds – a fifth ejected – from the beanbag shotgun. Only when he approached Monroe did Reister realize the man was bleeding and that he had fired lethal rounds.
Monroe suffered two entry wounds to his left thigh; one of the two was a “through and through” shot. Another hit his buttocks, shattering his pelvis, and puncturing his bladder, colon and injuring his rectum, his lawyer said.
A day after the shooting, Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese called the shooting a “tragic mistake.”
On Friday night, the Police Bureau issued this statement: “We continue to hope for Mr. Monroe’s full recovery , and we recognize that this incident has been extremely difficult for everyone involved.”
Portland Police Association president Officer Daryl Turner said the union is “obviously disappointed” by the indictment.
“We stand by Officer Reister during this difficult time and through the judicial process,” Turner said.
The bureau last month adopted a new executive order, requiring that beanbag ammunition be stored only in a carrier attached to the side or stock of the orange-painted, 12-gauge shotguns.
The new order came on the eve of a court hearing where Reister’s lawyer planned to argue that the bureau’s “gross negligence” in the handling of beanbag shotguns and ammunition contributed to Reister’s shooting. For example, the bureau has no policy that prohibits officers from mixing lethal and less-lethal ammunition in their duty bags. In the weeks after Reister’s shooting, the bureau faced criticism for not having taken immediate steps to prevent a similar mishap.
Reister had five years earlier mistakenly fired a loaded riot-suppression launcher during training, striking an officer posing as a protestor with a smoke round. Reister was a “grenadier” training as part of the Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team in October 2006 when he fired a less-lethal TL-1 launcher loaded with a smoke round at an officer posing as a rioter who threw a projectile at Reister’s unit. Reister pulled the trigger of his gun to simulate firing, but his firearm was loaded with a smoke round that struck Officer Zach Kenney in the leg, causing a minor bruise. Reister had forgotten he had loaded a live smoke round in the chamber and admitted he had made a mistake, court papers show. The bureau gave Reister a letter of reprimand for the 2006 error.
While the grand jury was seated, the prosecutor’s office had urged Presiding Judge Jean Kerr Maurer to allow jurors to consider whether Reister’s actions represented “negligent wounding,” an Oregon statute that is not part of the criminal code and would have brought a lower standard of proof than criminal negligence. Reister’s attorney argued that state lawmakers intended the negligent wounding charge for hunters, and not for police officers, and Maurer agreed.
Hoffman said tonight that she was disturbed the district attorney’s office added the negligent wounding charge when the presiding judge ruled it was legally inappropriate.
The district attorney’s office said it could not appeal Maurer’s ruling on the motion.
“Since the court’s ruling prior to the grand jury’s indictment was not appealable by the state, we feel it is necessary to file this charge in order to preserve the state’s ability to have a full hearing with the right to appeal, if necessary,” the district attorney’s office wrote in a statement released tonight.
Future court dates have not been set, and will be discussed with Reister’s attorney.
Reister may have to turn in his police-issued firearm because he faces a felony indictment. He’s been on paid leave since the shooting. The police bureau did not say whether or not Reister will remain on paid leave as he awaits trial. Command staff are expected to meet on the matter on Monday, Sgt. Pete Simpson said.