Portland Officer Dane Reister, who mistakenly fired lethal rounds from a beanbag shotgun and wounded a man in June, had five years earlier mistakenly fired a loaded riot-suppression launcher during training, striking an officer posing as a protestor with a smoke round.
According to a motion filed in court Monday, Reister’s attorney Janet Hoffman argues that Reister’s prior training error, which bruised the other officer’s leg, should not be presented to the Multnomah County grand jury reviewing Reister’s June 30 shooting in Southwest Portland that injured William Kyle Monroe, now 21.
Hoffman argues that the officer’s prior mistake would unfairly bias the grand jury, and the two mistakes were not similar — one occurring during the heat of a chaotic training exercise when Reister forgot his weapon was loaded, and this summer’s shooting occurring after he misloaded his less-lethal shotgun in a “dimly lit parking lot.”
“The two incidents are not components of a ‘continuing course of negligent conduct.’ Rather they are distinct events, separated by five years’ time,” Hoffman argued. “Beyond the fact that both incidents involved a weapon and ammunition, the two accidents are not alike.”
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s office disagrees, saying the prior mistake is relevant for the jury to consider as it determines if Reister acted with negligence or recklessness in June.
“In both cases Officer Reister took action to discharge his weapon ignorant of the actual state of ammunition in the weapon,” wrote Norm Frink, a chief deputy district attorney.
The Portland Police Bureau has declined to release any details about Reister’s prior mistake, citing an ongoing investigation into Reister’s recent shooting. But according to court papers filed Monday, 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 a fellow officer during a riot-control training exercise.
When the officer posing as a rioter 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.
After the 2006 error, the Police Bureau gave Reister a letter of reprimand, putting Reister on “greater notice” of the risks involved in not checking the status of a firearm’s ammunition, Frink wrote in his response to Hoffman’s motion.
Reister’s lawyer also is contesting the district attorney’s intent to have the grand jury consider whether the Portland officer’s wounding of Monroe represented “negligent wounding,” an Oregon statute that is not part of the criminal code. It brings a lower standard of proof than a criminally negligent charge, which would require a showing of “gross deviation” from a reasonable person’s standard of care.
Under Oregon’s negligent wounding statute, “any person who, as a result of failure to use ordinary care under the circumstances, wounds any other person with a bullet or shot from any firearm, or with an arrow from any bow, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not to exceed six months, or by a fine not to exceed $500, or both.”
Reister’s lawyer argues that state lawmakers intended the negligent wounding charge for hunters, and not for police officers. “Such a holding would in fact diminish public safety by hampering the ability of officers to respond effectively to emergency situations,” Hoffman wrote.
But the district attorney’s office argues that the “negligent wounding” statute is not limited to hunters.
“The unambiguous text of the negligent wounding statute contains nothing to suggest a basis to interpret ‘any person’ to mean ‘any person who is not a police officer,’ ” Frink wrote.
A hearing on both matters is scheduled before Presiding Judge Jean Kerr Maurer on Thursday to decide what’s legally admissible to be presented to the grand jury, expected to start this week.
The grand jury will be reviewing the June 30 shooting. Reister was one of three officers responding to a 9-1-1 call about an armed man threatening children at Lair Hill Park, police said. A second caller said the man had left the park, had a pocket knife concealed in his sleeve and was acting in a “peculiar manner.”
His lawyer’s motion provides Reister’s first account of why he did what he did that day: 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 was concerned Monroe would attack a man and child standing near the corner, his attorney wrote.
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.” He said he warned Monroe he’d shoot if he did not stop and then fired several rounds. Reister said his first three rounds didn’t appear to pain Monroe, but Monroe fell after the last round. Only when he approached Monroe did Reister realize Monroe was bleeding and that he had fired lethal rounds.
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. Monroe suffered two entry wounds to his left thigh; one of the two was a “through and through” shot. Another hit his right gluteal muscle, or buttocks, shattering his pelvis, and puncturing his bladder, colon and injuring his rectum, his lawyer Thane Theisen said.
According to Monday’s motions, Reister admitted misloading his less-lethal shotgun, which he had checked out that morning from Central Precinct’s armory. He said he carried the shotgun across the street to the basement of the parking garage on Southwest Second Avenue, found his duty bag there – which contained both lethal and non-lethal ammunition in it — and then walked to his car and mistakenly loaded the beanbag shotgun with lethal rounds.