Grand jury: Silverton police officer justified in shooting death

From the Oregonian, July 24 2008

A Marion County grand jury ruled Thursday evening that a Silverton police officer was legally justified when he shot and killed Andrew “A.J.” Hanlon.

The 20-year-old Irish citizen died June 30 when he was shot by Officer Tony Gonzalez [pictured] during a confrontation on a residential street corner.

“They basically said that they interviewed a number of witnesses, and based on their testimony, the shooting was justified,” Steve Crew, a Portland lawyer representing the family, said of the grand jury members.

“It’s disappointing and a bit of a surprise for the family,” he said.

Crew said he and family members met with staff from the Marion County district attorney’s office for about an hour after the grand jury convened.

A total of 13 witnesses — four police and nine civilians — testified before the grand jury, said Matthew D. Kemmy and Douglas C. Hanson, deputy district attorneys. Gonzalez did not testify in person, but a videotape of his interview with detectives was shown.

Hanlon’s death has captured attention in Ireland, where news reports have focused on accusations of police brutality in small-town America.

Hanlon, whose family in earlier interviews with The Oregonian said he had a history of mental struggles, was shot multiple times by Officer Tony Gonzalez. Police and prosecutors have not said publicly why Gonzalez used deadly force.

In Oregon, police may use deadly physical force if their lives or the lives of others are in imminent danger.

Oregon grand juries rarely indict officers in deadly-force cases. According to a 2003 study by the Police Assessment Resource Center, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit agency hired by the City of Portland, the last police officer indicted for use of deadly force in the city was in 1969, when an on-duty officer shot and killed his girlfriend’s husband.

In recent years, critics have charged that investigations into police use of deadly force have been tainted. They highlight the 2003 shooting by Portland police of Kendra James, the 2004 shooting by Portland police of James Jahar Perez and the 2006 shooting by Washington County sheriff’s deputies of Lukus Glenn, an 18-year-old former Tigard High football player.

Washington County is the first jurisdiction in the Portland area to develop a plan for investigating police shootings under a law passed by the 2007 Oregon Legislature. Senate Bill 111 was passed by the 2007 Legislature at the request of Attorney General Hardy Myers. It directs counties to develop plans to bring uniformity and fairness to the processes set in motion by a police shooting.

Testifying before the Oregon Senate, Myers said more uniformity in post-shooting investigations would help allay fears by the public and ensure fairness to the police and victims.

Lane County was the first to adopt its plan and submit it to the attorney general’s office, as required by law.

Hanlon had stayed in Silverton — a city of 9,000 east of Salem — for about a year, according to his sister Melanie Heise, and brother-in-law Nathan Heise, who also live there.

Gonzalez shot Hanlon as the officer responded to a reported burglary.

Nathan Heise said Hanlon had a habit of banging on the family’s door when he wanted to come inside. Heise and his wife think that Hanlon mistakenly went to the wrong house on the night he was shot, startling the residents and prompting the police call.

Attorneys for the family said Hanlon suffered gunshot wounds to the abdomen, arm, thigh and back.

Before the shooting, Nathan Heise said, Silverton police had been aware of Hanlon’s mental struggles and had been helpful to the family. The Heises said they tried to get Hanlon into a counseling program, but he refused to acknowledge he had any problems.

Hanlon’s mother, Dorothea Carroll [pictured above], arrived in Oregon about 10 days after the shooting. She and other family members met July 12 with officials with the Marion County District Attorney’s office. That same day, the family referred all questions to the Portland law firm of O’Donnell Clark & Crew.

In an unrelated case, Gonzalez — a former Marine and cage fighter — who became a police officer last year, sits in a Polk County jail on first-degree sex abuse charges. A judge denied Gonzalez bail this week; he remains on paid administrative leave from his police job.

SEE BELOW – Grand jury: shooting of Irishman was justified, KATU.com, July 25 2008

SEE BELOW – Sister of man shot by police voices doubt over officer’s exoneration, KATU.com, July 25 2008

EXTRA – most articles about what happened to Andrew Hanlon are archived HERE.
EXTRA – Jury rules shooting of Irishman in US was justified, Belfast Telegraph, July 25 2008
EXTRA – Grand jury clears US officer who shot Irishman, Irish Times, July 25 2008
EXTRA – Family of slain Irishman questions grand jury decision, Oregonian, July 25 2008
EXTRA – Mentally ill pay with lives, Letter to the Oregonian, July 25 2008
EXTRA – Andrew did not have to die – family, Herald.ie (Ireland) July 25 2008
EXTRA – Heartbreak for family in US shooting, Editorial from Herald.ie (Ireland) July 25 2008
EXTRA – Funeral of Irishman shot dead by US police, Belfast Telegraph, July 21 2008
EXTRA – Slain Irishman’s family calls for changes, Oregonian, July 26 2008