A 61-year-old man who shot at half a dozen Portland officers — hitting two — is arguing that he shouldn’t face criminal consequences because he wasn’t thinking straight that March 2011 day.
In the opening day, Friday, of what could be a two-week trial, an attorney for Ralph Clyde Turner said Turner was seriously ill and had high levels of ammonia in his system, causing him to be confused and delirious. Defense attorney Bear Wilner-Nugent said his client, who is charged with attempted aggravated murder, had never been arrested before and had always lived a peaceful life.
“It doesn’t make any logical sense that a man would get to the age of 61 years old and throw everything away with violence,” Wilner-Nugent said.
Officers had responded to a duplex in Southeast Portland’s Brooklyn neighborhood about 9:30 a.m. March 6, 2011, to check on Turner because of a report that he was suicidal. As three officers approached the home’s entrance, Turner shot through the metal grates of an outer security door. Turner then used a rifle scope to fire at other officers who responded as back-up.
In all, two officers were hit. Sgt. Reed Hunt, who has since retired, was struck in the hand by shrapnel or metal fragments from the door. Officer Parik Singh was struck in the side of his lower abdomen.
“It’s the action he (Turner) regrets most in his life,” Wilner-Nugent said.
But prosecutor Chris Ramras told jurors that Turner was thinking clearly enough to know what he was doing, and he should be found guilty of the attempted aggravated murder of the six officers, among other charges. Ramras told jurors “guilty except for insanity” verdicts wouldn’t accurately reflect Turner’s actions that day.
Ramras said Turner was sick, depressed, upset and impulsive, “but Mr. Turner wasn’t insane.”
Ramras said witnesses will testify to Turner’s lucid state. Ramras described a 57-minute conversation between Turner and Sgt. Troy King, during which Turner said he was distressed because his ex-fiancee had told him to move out.
When King asked Turner if he was OK, “Mr. Turner replied ‘No, and neither are the officers I shot,” according to the prosecutor.
When King asked him “What’s going on?”, Turner replied “Have you ever heard of suicide by cop?”, according to the prosecutor.
The sergeant eventually convinced Turner to surrender peacefully by stepping out of the duplex with his hands up. Turner turned to the officers who’d assembled and said “If you guys were better shots, you would have taken me out,” according to the prosecutor.
Turner, who is now 62, spent many years of his life abusing alcohol and heroin. He has heart disease and liver problems — the latter which led to a build-up of ammonia in his system, Wilner-Nugent said.
So far today, several witnesses have taken the stand. Among them is Hunt, who said the shrapnel or door fragments that struck his hand felt like a bee sting. Residents who lived near the duplex at 3395 S.E. 10th Avenue described how the incident rocked their normally quiet neighborhood on what had started out as a peaceful Sunday morning.
One neighbor described hearing shots, then crouching behind her refrigerator in hopes that it would offer some protection.
A man who lived in an apartment complex nearby described seeing officer Singh crouching behind something for cover, then seeing him shot and fall to the ground. Juan Carlos Munoz, who is a surgeon’s assistant, told jurors that he felt a tremendous urge to run to Singh’s aid. Munoz said he saw Singh lay motionless on the ground for a few seconds, before moving his legs. Munoz said that gave him hope that Singh was still alive.
Singh is scheduled to testify, but not today. He has recovered to the point that he’s now back on the job.