Officer in James Chasse case won’t be prosecuted

Portland Police Officer Christopher Humphrey

Portland Police Officer Christopher Humphrey

From the, May 5 2009

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s office has decided to decline a case against a Portland Police officer involved with the in-custody death of James Chasse.

Officer Christopher Humphries (sic) helped pursue and tackle 42-year-old Chasse. Officers said he appeared to be urinating outdoors in Old Town on Sept. 17, 2006.

Officers later drove Chasse to jail, then a hospital, but he died on the way. An autopsy showed he had 26 rib fractures and a punctured lung, and concluded the death was caused by blunt force trauma to the chest.

Medics were called to the scene and Chasse showed normal vital signs, then officers took him to the Multnomah County Detention Center according to officers.

Man dies after pursuit

According to the autopsy report, a nurse at the jail advised officers to take Chasse to the hospital. Police said he died as they were transporting him there, according to the report.

Investigators in October 2008 started looking at video taken from the jail during the incident. (The video is below.)

The video of officers talking at the jail after they brought Chasse in captures Humphreys telling a sheriff’s deputy that “we tackled him” and Chasse landed “hard.” As Humphreys is heard telling jail staff that the officers tackled Chasse, his partner is seen showing a “bear-hug” stance.

‘The DA’s office has been reviewing new evidence that was made available in October 2008, involving Officer Christopher Humphreys and statements he made at the Multnomah County Detention Center shortly after Mr. Chasse was booked,” Chief Rosie Sizer said in a statement. “The enhancement of audio from a jail video in October 2008 had not been previously considered by the DA’s office. This case will now be assigned to the Bureau’s Internal Affairs Division for review.”

Sizer said the matter will still be addressed by police internal review.

Dr. Karen Gunson of the state medical examiner’s office said that from a medical examiner’s point of view, the officers involved did not know Chasse would die based on their actions.

The death led to new procedural training for officers.

Two officers and a sheriff’s deputy were cleared of wrongdoing in 2007.

A civil suit was also filed against the city by the Chasse family in the case.

EXTRA – just about everything that Happened to James Chasse
EXTRA – DA won’t bring charges in Chasse death, Chief Sizer says case will be referred to police bureau’s Internal Affairs Division – Portland Tribune
EXTRA – DA Declines Prosecution Of Chasse Cop – Portland Mercury
EXTRA – DA will not prosecute Portland officer in Chasse case – The Oregonian
EXTRA – Officers won’t face charges regarding Chasse’s death,
READ – Memo from Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk summarizing his rational for not prosecuting Portland police officer Christopher Humphrey (PDF)
READ – Memo from Rosie Sizer commenting on DA’s decision to not pursue Christopher Humphrey (PDF)

OUR COMMENT – District Attorney Mike Schrunk and Deputy DA Christine Mascal had an opportunity to amend their mistake of 2006 and failed to move justice forward again. Their failure – along with Police Chief Rosie Sizer’s 32 month silence – doesn’t compound doubt – it confirms doubt – in our justice system’s ability to be self-critical.

“James Chasse’s death was a direct result of an unwarranted attack by a police officer who is well known for his use of force – both before the death of James Chasse and afterward.”

“Impunity is a poison which careful practitioners of justice recognized at a sniff. It’s affect is instantaneous. It causes hesitation when a mother encounters her violent adult son, or when a clerk observes a troubled shoplifter. Who will come when I call 911? A Portland cop who’s trained, experienced and compassionate – which is 99% – or Christopher Humphreys?