Family of Aloha man killed by deputies speaks of his struggle with alcoholism, depression

From the Oregonian, July 30, 2012

“Get off the property,” Jeffery David Anderson told his wife, Susan. Moments later, he fired his .22-caliber rifle toward the sky. Then again.

Susan Anderson was familiar with her husband’s erratic behavior. She had moved in with a friend for a few days after arguing with him, but, needing clothing, returned July 7 to the Aloha home the couple had shared for 30 years. Faced with another argument and the gun, she left.

An hour later, Jeffery David Anderson, 56, lay dying in the street, shot by Washington County sheriff”s deputies. Neighbors and deputies say Anderson had walked along Southwest 195th Avenue near his home, pointing his loaded rifle at passing vehicles, and ultimately at deputies.

His death, which came a few hours later at OHSU Hospital, is the latest chapter in a series of shootings by police agencies responding to mental health-related calls in the Portland metropolitan area.

For example, Washington County sheriff’s deputies in June fatally shot Robert Kimball Fox, 52, of Aloha, who authorities say was suicidal and had pointed a loaded rifle at deputies. Portland police officers in January fatally shot Brad Lee Morgan, 21, who officials said was threatening to jump off a downtown parking structure and eventually pointed a fake gun at officers.

Authorities responding to mental health-related calls — especially when weapons are introduced — must make split-second decisions in unpredictable scenarios, said Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett. Police can’t dodge bullets and de-escalate a situation simultaneously, he said.

“When you introduce a gun or weapon, that changes everything,” he said.

Jeffery Anderson was a severely depressed alcoholic who began pulling away from his wife and family during the past year. Susan Anderson described a pattern of unpredictable behavior. One moment, he apologized for his drinking. The next, he was angry.

His family struggled to deal with a husband, father, brother, who was spiraling into deeper depression and alcoholism. They loved him, but they didn’t know when or how to help. Now, his family says, they are stuck with a stark truth: It’s too late.

The night of the shooting, Susan Anderson sat in a detective’s car as she learned what happened to her husband.

“Never in my whole marriage would I have thought that…,” the 55-year-old later said, failing to complete the sentence as she started to cry. “Something in him snapped.”

For more than 15 years, Jeffery Anderson cleaned up spilled lunches and mopped floors as a custodian at Hillsboro’s Minter Bridge Elementary School. At his funeral, members of the school’s staff presented the family with a scrapbook of photographs and notes on colored paper about his helpfulness and warm personality.

The couple married 35 years ago, moving into their Aloha home five years later. They had two daughters, Sarah and Stephanie. Jeffery Anderson’s relationship with them, his wife said, could be rocky.

He loved to play with his five grandchildren, who knew him as “papa.” His sister, Kathy Milberger, 50, described her brother as a protector, and five years ago, she moved to Beaverton to be closer to him.

He enjoyed camping, trips to the coast and listening to music, especially Bob Marley. He wrote poetry.

He was a talker, but, at the same time, a loner. He pinched pennies and was a pack rat, stashing away belongings for years.

“It was hard for him to let go of things,” his wife said.

Sensitive and patriotic, Jeffery Anderson was deeply troubled by the state of America, what he saw as societal values in decline as banks and big business were on the rise. He sobbed when the first troops were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“He needed to push it away,” Susan Anderson said. “He didn’t like to hear about all the people dying all the time.”

He talked about the issues so much, she said, “It got to where I couldn’t listen anymore.”

In the past year, Jeffery Anderson’s drinking noticeably increased. He’d have beers at home in the evening, growing more and more depressed.

For at least a year, he was prescribed an anti-depressant, citalopram, but in the months before the shooting, he wasn’t taking it consistently.

“I always thought he’d snap out of it,” Susan Anderson said. “But he didn’t.”

She thinks her husband purchased the rifle about a year ago. Leading up to the shooting, Jeffery Anderson mentioned the weapon more frequently. He bragged about the gun, talked about how it worked and his need to protect his property.

Yet Susan Anderson never felt afraid. “I guess I should have been,” she said.

“He was dwelling on everything negative,” she said, growing emotional. “Instead of being grateful for how good our lives are.”

Milberger said her brother would sometimes mention suicide, but never talked specifically about hurting himself.

“He felt as if he was going to die young,” she said.

Two days before his death, Jeffery Anderson left work early and went home. When one of his daughters stopped by that day, he was intoxicated, his wife said. He behaved strangely, showing his firearm to his grandchildren.

“Something’s wrong with papa,” the children told their mother.

At home, his daughter reflected on her dad’s behavior, and called police to have deputies check on him. The sheriff’s office said deputies on July 5 responded to a report that Jeffery Anderson was suicidal.

Deputies talked with Anderson at his home and took him to a hospital for further treatment. Susan Anderson said she wasn’t aware of her husband making any suicidal statements.

Jeffery Anderson was taken to Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, where he was evaluated and released four hours later, his wife said. Federal privacy laws prohibit the hospital from releasing when he was admitted and discharged, or the reasons for his release, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

After his release, Anderson was angry that police were called and he had been hospitalized.

That anger bled into the next days. On July 6, Susan Anderson tried calling him; he didn’t answer the phone. Milberger stopped by to check on her brother. She knocked. Nothing. She called. No answer.

She tried the door, and it was unlocked, she said. She found Jeffery Anderson asleep in bed.

Susan Anderson went to her home the next day, July 7. She tried to calm him down. “I kept saying Jeff, honey, I didn’t call the police,” she said.

Later that night, when she learned her husband had been shot and wounded, Susan Anderson broke down inside the detective’s car. Initially, authorities told her they thought Jeffery Anderson would make it, then they told her he had died.

Milberger interprets her brother’s actions that day as suicide by cop.

His wife and sister aren’t mad or bitter toward deputies. They hurt because they know that day changed everyone involved. Jeffery Anderson is gone. Life won’t be the same for his survivors or for the deputies who shot him.

They wanted to help their brother and husband. They wish the hospital had kept him longer. They wish they could have forced him to get help.

They were planning an intervention, but the fear that he would become enraged kept them from reaching out.

“Never wait that long,” Milberger said. “You need to catch something, intervene way sooner than we did.”

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PSU grad student sent to psych hospital, then suspended after alleged threats

By Brian Denson, The Oregonian, April 26, 2012

This photo of Henry Liu was circulated to PSU students. (Photo: Portland State University)

Henry Liu was a promising graduate student in Portland State Universitys conflict resolution program. He had excellent grades, with law school on the horizon. But his academic career swiftly derailed last spring after he confided to a classmate that he was upset with a faculty member and mentioned guns in the same conversation.

Liu’s classmate told campus police that her friend felt a lot of hatred and said of one assistant professor, “He could get shot.” Liu, a gun enthusiast, denies making any such threat and says he never intended to harm anyone. Yet Portland State officials took swift and decisive action.

Less than 24 hours after Liu spoke to his classmate, campus police put him in handcuffs and he landed in a psychiatric ward. PSU officials barred him from school property and put out a public flier with his photo that included this line: “If you see Mr. Liu on campus, or if you have any significant concerns about your immediate personal safety, please notify law enforcement officials by calling 911.” Last month, PSU expelled him.

The 33-year-old Astoria resident hasn’t been charged with a crime and has no history of violence. A psychiatric report concluded that he poses no danger to himself or anyone else. At the time of his arrest, Liu’s interest in firearms had waned because owning guns seemed to conflict with his growing passion for conflict resolution.

He now finds himself considering legal action against the university, saying he was harmed by school officials who wildly overreacted to the allegations and profiled him — in his words — as a “crazy Asian shooter.”

Campus safety

The dorm-room rape and murder of Lehigh University freshman Jeanne Clery in 1986 prompted major safety reforms on college campuses across the United States.

Congress passed a law in 1990, known as the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities with federal financial aid programs to publicly disclose campus crime information — including timely warnings of incidents posing threats to students and staff. Schools can be fined for failing to abide by the law.

The 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech sent school administrators nationwide scrambling to review their policies. The massacre precipitated safety reforms on many college campuses, including Portland State University.

PSU in 2008 formed a team called CARE — Coordination, Assessment, Response and Education — to help the campus community feel safe and supported. The team assesses and coordinates responses to student issues and concerns that require intervention, according to university officials.

The CARE team handles a wide range of campus safety issues, from suicide prevention to family traumas to reports of threatening behavior, said PSU spokesman Scott Gallagher.

So what went wrong at PSU? Did anything go wrong?

Liu’s case shows how a student can get caught up in a post-Virginia Tech world and how universities find themselves in dicey territory as they balance student security with free speech rights.

The way U.S. colleges respond to any hint of a gun threat took a dramatic turn five years ago, when a mentally ill Virginia Tech senior, Seung-Hui Cho, went on a shooting rampage at the school, killing 32 people before committing suicide.

Since then, campus administrators across the United States have grown hypervigilant to the point where concerns about gun-related speech have spiked into a state of alarm, says William Creeley, director of legal and public advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Higher Education.

“We are seeing an increased sensitivity to any behavior that could possibly be construed as aberrant, threatening or evidence of some larger personality disorder,” Creeley says. “As a result of this broad focus on unusual behavior, we’re seeing lots of normal, protected speech swept into the dragnet and used as reason for investigation or even punishment.”

Here’s what led to Liu’s expulsion, based on The Oregonian’s interviews with Liu, his accuser, his lawyer and campus police, as well as police records, a psychiatric report and other documents.

Walking with a classmate

On the evening of April 19, Liu walked a classmate to her car after class. What happened next remains in dispute.

Liu’s classmate told police he vented loudly about the conflict resolution program and its chairman, Robert Gould, saying, “I’m about ready to stick a .45 in his ass.” She said that Liu had complained about his chronic back problem and sleeplessness, and that he was going target shooting that weekend, according to a campus police report.

Liu disputes his classmate’s characterizations of the conversation. He says he confided his deep disappointment in PSU’s conflict resolution program and his unhappiness with assistant professor Stan Sitnik, who had given him a B-plus instead of the A he thought he deserved. But Liu says he never raised his voice and never mentioned Gould.

(Although Liu’s 55-year-old classmate is named in public records and gave a brief interview for this story, The Oregonian is withholding her name at the request of PSU officials, who say that naming her might have a chilling effect on others taking safety concerns to campus authorities.)

About 3 a.m. the next day, Liu’s classmate encouraged him by email to seek counseling or mediation for his anger. Liu was asleep and didn’t reply.

At some point, she reported his comments to PSU authorities. At roughly 9 a.m., an official in the dean of student life’s office phoned campus police to report the comments attributed to Liu. The police report described the incident as “inappropriate behavior.”

At 1:38 p.m., two campus police officers, joined by a pair of Portland cops, walked into a brick building on Southwest Clay Street, one block from the PSU campus, and knocked on the door of Apartment 43. Liu answered, shocked to see a group of officers on his landing, and stepped outside to talk.

Portland Officer James Crooker asked Liu if he had any guns inside his one-bedroom apartment.

“No,” he said.

Liu, who had four firearms in the apartment, would later explain that he wasn’t truthful for a reason: He saw police ushering people out of the building, and he hoped to defuse the situation rather than scare his neighbors or the officers.

Police told Liu they wanted to talk about statements he had allegedly made about harming staff members at PSU. When Liu denied having made any threats, Crooker asked again if he had any guns inside. Liu looked at campus police Sgt. Joseph Schilling, who said, “Where are the guns, Henry?”

Liu invited police inside and told them they could find two semiautomatic handguns in a locked footlocker in his closet. Police found both guns — a .22-caliber Smith & Wesson and a .45-caliber Springfield — and handcuffed their suspect. Liu says he heard one officer, noting the .45, ask, “You didn’t say you were going to stick this up somebody’s ass?”

Liu denied making the comment, and he told them where to find two other firearms, including a Daniel Defense M4 carbine, a semiautomatic version of a combat rifle used by U.S. troops. None of the guns were illegal, and none were loaded. Liu had bought two of them — one equipped with pink grips — for his fiance.

Officers poking through Liu’s place found loaded magazines, boxes of cartridges, survival gear stuffed into packs, along with extra food and a QuikClot sponge designed to quickly stop bleeding. Liu also had shooting glasses and ear protection, a first aid kit, a flashlight, wet naps, and a Bear Grylls survival knife.

The gear looked suspicious to police, as if Liu were planning a hasty departure, and, according to Liu, they kept using terms such as “tactical” and “military.” But as Liu later explained, he’s an avid camper with an abundance of gear, including a huge stock of ramen noodles his mother bought him at Costco.

Liu recalls police asking about his state of mind, wondering if he intended to follow up on his threats. He says he kept telling them it was all a terrible misunderstanding, but he felt as if they were trying to coerce a confession.

The impasse ended this way: Liu voluntarily agreed to be evaluated at Oregon Health & Science University. Police walked him out to a patrol car in lounge pants, his hair a mess. “I had my head down in shame,” he recalls.

Liu says he didn’t realize he would have to spend six days in a psychiatric unit at OHSU before he was released with a clean bill of mental health.

Conduct evaluated

PSU’s Student Conduct Committee, composed of students and faculty, heard the complaint against Liu over two days last month.

The panel took testimony from Liu’s accuser and Sgt. Schilling. Liu didn’t appear in person because he wasn’t allowed on campus. He testified by speakerphone in the office of his attorney, Michael E. Rose.

Rose wasn’t permitted to speak during the proceeding. Students can have advisers at the hearings, says PSU spokesman Scott Gallagher, but only as consultants, not as participants in the proceedings, which aren’t intended to be judicial in nature.

“The fact that the two witnesses against (Liu) were sitting in the room with the committee, and Henry was only allowed to participate by telephone — invisible, and highly ignorable — really cuts at the root of any notion of a fair hearing,” Rose says.

On June 20, Liu got notice that he had been expelled for violating two provisions of the code of student conduct: “Furnishing false/misleading information,” and “Possible health/safety threat.”

Liu isn’t the first student expelled for making credible threats on campus, Gallagher says. School officials declined to cite the precise number of expulsions, saying the information could possibly violate the privacy of other students.

Liu has filed for an administrative review of PSU’s expulsion. He and his lawyer will wait for the outcome of that review before planning their next step, Rose says.

The circumstances confronting PSU officials last April were serious, says Public Safety Chief Phillip Zerzan. They had a heavily armed student — with survival gear and hundreds of rounds of ammo — who lived spitting distance from campus and was accused of threatening faculty members.

With all those factors in play, he says, PSU took reasonable and compassionate steps to keep Liu and the campus community safe.

Zerzan’s job is to keep the university safe, but he also recognizes that students and faculty have free-speech rights.

“It is a difficult balance, and I think we were responsible,” he says. “This was not a rush to judgment. … How defensible would it be if we didn’t put out the warning and he came back and shot up the school?”

Liu feels betrayed.

“My takeaway is that I was wrongly dismissed from the university based on hearsay and conclusions that weren’t supported by facts,” he says. “My name’s been smeared, and so much has been taken from me. My future is uncertain. And I miss school.”

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Cameron Whitten announces victory in hunger strike

From, July 25, 2012

Commemorating the birthday of social critic and award-winning author Aldous Huxley, Portland activist Cameron Whitten has declared a determined end date for his Hunger Strike at City Hall. The 24/7 camping demonstration was launched on June 2nd, and has been fairly reminiscent of last Fall’s Occupation of Downtown Public Squares. After 55 Days, Whitten’s weight has dropped to 159 of an initial 193.7 pounds: shedding 34.7 pounds in total.

Cameron Whitten + homeless cat

Cameron Whitten + homeless cat

Whitten, a former mayoral candidate, student, and active volunteer, said he felt the exponentially growing housing crisis was not receiving enough visibility, “There are less safe places for Portlanders to sleep, which contributes to crime, mental health issues, lower quality of living, and death.”
The statistics of homelessness in Multnomah County are staggering.

  • 2,727 people are experiencing homelessness
  • 1,928 are sleeping in transitional housing
  • 35% are unsheltered families with children
  • 46% are people of color
  • 12% are U.S. military veterans

Total 4,655 people as identified by the Portland/Multnomah County “Point-In Time Study,” 2011

Whitten launched his campaign with three resolutions: petitioning Bureau of Development Services to waive fines levied on the property owners of lot 323, where Right 2 Dream Too shelters over 80 houseless individuals per night without governmental aid, for County Sheriff to issue a one-year moratorium on foreclosure evictions for homeowners, and for City Council to add a housing levy measure to the November 2012 General Election ballot.

Many City Officials, including the Mayor, had conversations with Whitten during the 55 Day protest. Although they acknowledged the merit of the requests, each was denied as an immediate course of action. Tensions came to a boil when Whitten, surrounded by supporters at his 30 Day rally, announced he was switching to a more dangerous water-only fast, prompting a few City Commissioners to cease communications with him, save for Commissioner Fritz, who spent time outside the campaign trail to check his health and exchange ideas. He continued to organize within the community and build public support, gaining the attention of both Mayoral Candidates, Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales. For weeks, local media was in the air about how the end game would turn out.

Tuesday morning, Whitten tweeted that he was returning to the liquid diet he had adopted in the first 30 days of his protest, which was retweeted by Mayor Adams and received strong approval from supporters. Both parties were nothing more than ambiguous about claims of a negotiation being hammered out.

One of his most active, and inspired supporters has been Kate Lore of First Unitarian Church, which Whitten attends. “…I am profoundly moved by all that Cameron has managed to do…As a result, he brought together a powerful coalition of government, faith, and community leaders to collaboratively address this crisis. I am so impressed by his passion for justice and his resolve to make a difference.”

Whitten notes a number of groundbreaking victories for Housing Justice have occurred over the past 55 Days:

  • Renewed visibility to the housing crisis, promotion of “Housing First” policy.
  • Located services for various houseless individuals.
  • July 1 Slumber Party, where over 70 housing advocates slept outside City Hall.
  • July 20 Rally at Terry Schrunk Park, with over 200 attendees.
  • Initiation of legal procedures on behalf of Right 2 Dream Too.
  • New Dialogue on Housing Reform, such as Steve Novick’s Eminent Domain proposal (which Whitten promoted during his Primary campaign).
  • Public Letter from Mayor Sam Adams, announcing an Annual Regional Housing Summit, TBA.

Over the weeks, he has been visited by hundreds of well-wishers, provided interviews and background information to a diversity of news outlets, and attended classes at Portland Community College, Cascade Campus. When asked what his favorite experience over his 8 week journey was, he wittingly responded, “Not starving to death.”
Whitten states that he couldn’t have made this much progress on the Hunger Strike by himself. He gives credits and many thanks to supporters in a long list, including:

  • Israel Bayer, Street Roots
  • Amy Ruiz, Office of Mayor Sam Adams
  • Ibrahim Mubarak and Mark Kramer, R2D2 Advocates
  • Mayoral Candidates Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales
  • Commissioner Amanda Fritz
  • Midge Purcell, Urban League of Portland
  • Billy Scheibner, Co-Striker
  • Jobs With Justice, KBOO, KGW News, PQ Monthly, and the Portland Mercury
  • Kate Lore, First Unitarian Church of Portland
  • Jason Renaud, Mental Health Association of Portland
  • Jim Flanagan, Overseeing Physician
  • Phiamma Elias, RADIANTFLUXproductions
  • Gardner Mein, PCC Creative Writing Professor

And his list goes on at:

Whitten is planning an open Press Conference to declare his victory, on the steps of City Hall. Thursday, July 26th at 10AM, supporters will be able to observe him scarf down his first item of solid food in the past 55 Days. He hasn’t clued anyone in on what it will be, but you can be sure it will be vegan.

READ – Former Mayoral Candidate Announces Hunger Strike, Portland Mercury May 31, 2012
READ – Hunger Striker Cameron Whitten Accuses Media of Ignoring Him, Portland Mercury, June 6 2012
READ – Cameron Whitten camps, stages hunger strike at Portland City Hall, Oregonian June 10, 2012
READ – How’s Cameron Whitten Doing on His Hunger Strike?, June 11, 2012
READ – Cameron Whitten gets support for hunger strike in solidarity event, June 11, 2012
READ – Hunger Striker Cameron Whitten on Day 19: “I’m Out Here as Long as It Takes”, Portland Mercury, June 20, 2012
READ – Cameron Whitten organizes expected 50 protesters to sleep surrounding City Hall Sunday night, Oregonian July 1, 2012
READ – Homeless advocate Cameron Whitten on hunger strike outside City Hall, Oregonian July 3, 2012 (includes video)
READ – “Apathy and Distraction” A Q&A with Hunger Striker Cameron Whitten, Portland Mercury, July 5, 2012
READ – Cameron Whitten: Why I hunger for housing justice, guest column in the Oregonian, July 24, 2012
READ – Commissioner Nick Fish issues statement commending Cameron Whitten’s hunger strike, July 19, 2012
READ – Portland hunger-striker Cameron Whitten holds rally that attracts audience of 200, Oregonian, July 20, 2012
READ – Scenes from Cameron Whitten’s Epic Rally for Housing Justice, July 23, 2012
READ – Hungry For Justice, Portland Tribune, July 25, 2012
READ – The sideshow outside Portland City Hall, unsigned Oregonian editor’s opinion, July 26, 2012
READ – Homeless summit set as Whitten ends protest, Portland Business Journal, July 27, 2012
SEE – photos of Cameron Whitten’s hunger strike from The Oregonian

—————————- Original Message —————————-
Subject: RE: Revised statement
From: “Ruiz, Amy”
Date: Thu, July 26, 2012 9:17 am
Cc: “Cameron Whitten” “Fritz, Amanda” “Adams, Sam”

Statement from the Portland City Council regarding the Regional Summit on Homelessness and Housing

For nearly two months, Cameron Whitten has demonstrated outside City Hall to raise awareness of the plight of people experiencing homelessness in our community. We admire Cameron’s heart, tenacity and smarts. His advocacy reminds us there are always ways to learn more and continuously improve across jurisdictions.

Portland is recognized nationally as a local government innovator in preventing homelessness and providing affordable housing services. Our innovations are under threat with budget cuts to federal, state and local safety net services. And more budget cuts are possible at a time when safety net services are needed most.

We believe new solutions must be focused not only on shelter but also on strengthening all aspects of a person’s life. We know this now better than before: We just completed the Portland Plan — the official 25-year strategic plan for the City of Portland. At its core the Portland Plan focuses us on multi-faceted approaches to prosperity, education, health and equity.

Thus, we accept the constructive challenge offered by Cameron Whitten to renew our efforts to find local housing solutions for those suffering from homelessness. At Cameron’s request, Portland will enthusiastically participate in the proposed Regional Summit on Homelessness and Housing to be convened by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.

We believe solving our local housing challenges is best accomplished with a stronger regional partnership involving advocates, agencies, non-profit and faith communities, and people experiencing homelessness. After the November elections is an opportune time to take a new look at regional homeless and affordable housing issues, as we welcome newly-elected leaders to the table.

The scope of the Regional Summit on Homelessness and Housing should include but is not limited to:

* What is the state of homelessness in our community?
* How are government agencies throughout the region and organizations in the non profit, business, and faith sectors working together to address this crisis?
* How can we strengthen these partnerships?
* How will regional leaders support this work?

In addition to the Summit, the City is engaged in ongoing conversations about the futures of Right 2 Dream 2 and Dignity Village. When the time is right, we believe a future City Council will support a public vote on a new dedicated funding source for affordable housing. We are looking forward to working with Cameron Whitten and others in the region on homeless and housing issues, and we will continue our everyday work to support Portlanders experiencing homelessness.

What: Regional Summit on Homelessness and Housing.
Where: TBD
When: Fall 2012
Convener: Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
Participants: Regional Leaders

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What happened to Marius Asanachescu

Medical examiner: Inmate died while being restrained

From The Columbian, July 18, 2012

Five months after a Vancouver man with a history of mental illness died in the Clark County Jail, his death has been ruled a homicide from asphyxia while being restrained by custody officers.

Afrodita and Cristian Asanachescu talk about their son, Marius Asanachescu, at their home March 22 in Vancouver. Marius died while in custody in the Clark County Jail on Feb. 10.

Afrodita and Cristian Asanachescu talk about their son, Marius Asanachescu, at their home March 22 in Vancouver. Marius died while in custody in the Clark County Jail on Feb. 10.

The investigation into the circumstances of Marius Asanachescu’s Feb. 10 death continues, said Sgt. Scott Creager of the Vancouver Police Department. Creager said Wednesday that he and other members of the major crimes unit will meet next week with Clark County Medical Examiner Dr. Dennis Wickham to discuss Wickham’s findings.

On Wednesday, Asanachescu’s mother, Afrodita [Asanachescu], said she used to trust the justice system.

“What happened to my son is incredible,” she said. “They killed him.”

The internal affairs unit of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office has been conducting its own investigation, said sheriff’s Sgt. Fred Neiman. Neiman would not say how many custody officers were involved in restraining Asanachescu, but said they were put on routine administrative leave during the initial phases of the investigation and have returned to work.

Creager said finished reports will be forwarded to Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik for his review. Golik will determine whether to file criminal charges against any of the custody officers.

The ruling on Asanachescu’s death comes after inmate suicides on July 1 and July 7.

According to a June report from Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey, between 2007 and 2011 the jail has been “heavily impacted by special-needs inmates: the mentally ill, geriatric, physically or mentally challenged or violent.” Suicide attempts have more than doubled since 2007, the report said.

In an interview earlier this year, Jackie Webster, Clark County Jail chief, said the jail isn’t set up to be a hospital. Inmates are routinely double-bunked in the jail’s six-room medical unit, and other special-needs inmates have to be isolated.

In 2009, a mentally ill inmate died from an overdose of generic Prozac and his family sued the county and Wexford Health Sources Inc., the county’s medical contractor for the jail. The county and Wexford settled by each paying the family $175,000.

Clark County commissioners are already scheduled to have a work session this summer with the sheriff’s office to discuss policies and procedures for special-needs inmates.

Few details of Asanachescu’s death were released Wednesday.

According to Neiman, custody officers had been attempting to restrain Asanachescu from harming himself.

While the cause of death was homicide from asphyxia, Wickham determined that psychosis was an underlying cause of death and obesity was a “significant condition.”

Asanachescu, 28, was 5 foot 9 and weighed 260 pounds.

“Although homicide is sometimes used synonymously with the act of murder, homicide is broader in scope than murder and does not necessarily constitute a criminal act,” Neiman wrote in a press release.

Bipolar disorder

Asanachescu’s mother said her son wasn’t a bad person.

“Marius didn’t take his medication,” she said.

Afrodita and her husband, Cristian [Asanachescus], have retained Vancouver attorney Bill Nelson. Nelson said Wednesday that it’s too early to know anything “other than they feel very badly about the loss of their son.”

In an interview in March, the Asanachescus said their son started using drugs in 1997 to self-medicate for his bipolar disorder and received professional help at Columbia River Mental Health and Lifeline Connections. Their son also received Social Security disability payments.

When he was on his medication he would do well, but then he would stop taking it because he didn’t think he needed it anymore, Cristian said during the March 22 interview.

Their son was born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1983 and the family immigrated to the United States in 1990.

They first lived in Los Angeles, then moved to Portland in 1992 and to Vancouver in 1996.

They said their son didn’t cause any trouble until he was a teenager. He dropped out of Mountain View High School when he was 16.

Asanachescu’s criminal history includes juvenile convictions for taking a motor vehicle without permission and adult convictions for robbery and attempt to elude.

In 2009, former Superior Court Judge Robert Harris found Asanachescu mentally incompetent to stand trial on a charge of custodial assault. Asanachescu was civilly committed to Western State Hospital, where he stayed for six months.

Asanachescu had been living with his brother, Andrei, when Andrei called 911 on Jan. 30 to say that his brother had pulled a steak knife on him and threatened to kill him, according to court records. Asanachescu was arrested for second-degree domestic violence assault. Booking records noted that he was “bipolar in manic state, off meds,” but did not show any signs of suicidal behavior.

On Feb. 7, Superior Court Judge Scott Collier signed an order to transport Asanachescu to Western State Hospital for an evaluation.

Asanachescu was waiting for a bed to open up at the Tacoma-area hospital at the time of his death.

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Reversal of police suspension in James Chasse arbitration sends wrong message

Guest column by Jenny Westberg, published in The Oregonian, July 18, 2012

An arbitrator’s decision last week to overturn 80-hour suspensions against Portland police officers involved in the 2006 death of James Chasse will further erode community confidence in the police, particularly among those affected by mental illness.

Although the police union considers the ruling vindication, I believe most Portlanders are convinced that the police haven’t learned a thing.

When Christopher Humphreys, Kyle Nice and Bret Burton (who was working for the Multonomah County Sheriff’s office) chased, kicked, punched and used a Taser on Chasse, who was not committing any crime and who was crying out for mercy; when police leadership coolly justified their unconscionable, lethal acts; when city leadership continues to treat the involved officers like adorable but frisky pets; when every move to discipline any officer is defeated, our disbelief in justice expands.

Chasse did not go gently. He was not another unknown vagrant passing through. He was a loved member of a community — our community. His many friends stood vigil and waited for some truth to emerge. Nearly six years have passed, and we’re still waiting. And wasted time has a cost.

First the city and the county fought the civil suit — in the media, in court, in council hallways, in public meetings, in legal documents, on street corners and at cocktail parties — although both the city and county eventually settled the suit with Chasse’s family. Cops fought too; their lawyers fought; their apologists fought; their union fought; their public relations reps fought; all on behalf of those who made Chasse’s last moments a nightmare of pain and fear. And, as usual, they won.

They won in the courts. They won at City Hall. They won at the contract negotiating table. They won with government policy writers. They won with commanding officers. And now they have won with an employment law arbitrator.

But they lost a battle they don’t understand in the area between right and wrong. They kept their jobs, but they lost their honor, lost hearts and minds, lost respect and trust.

Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese reframed the problem. They acknowledged mistakes and made quick apologies. They invited the community to speak at City Council meetings and in the backrooms of City Hall. They listened attentively to their constituents. They met with community leaders. They promised things would change.

And they have changed. Only one person, Brad Lee Morgan, shot dead while pondering suicide, has been killed by the Portland police so far this year. The statistical turnaround deserves acknowledgement. But how do we heap laurels so long as any of these men are Portland police officers?

Of course, Chasse’s death in custody was not due to his mental illness, nor were his ribs broken by the state and county mental health system. However, part of Chasse’s ongoing legacy is an improved system of care for people with mental illness who live in our community. But the changes — some of which were forced by court judgments — are an insufficient patchwork. Moreover, they are not changes to the police union contract with the city. This has given us neither transparency nor justice.

Yes: Changes were made, positive changes that better protect citizens with mental illness. But changes aren’t justice. And if one can measure the success of a community by how it communicates with its most vulnerable people, then the changes that have been made don’t go far enough.

Jenny Westberg is a board member of the Mental Health Association of Portland.

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Police Bureau and City Hall should heed community on police reforms

By Pastor Mark Knutson and Dan Handelman of the Albinia Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform

In late May, consultants from the Los Angeles-Based OIR Group released a study on Portland Police Bureau shootings and deaths in custody. The Oregonian has supported the consultants’ call for the Bureau to learn more from its mistakes and to take simple steps like ensuring officers using assault rifles wear earpieces. What’s been lost in the discussion is that many of the recommendations– both formal and informal– have previously been made, over the course of a decade or longer, by community members.

READ – Report to the City of Portland Concerning the In-Custody Death of James Chasse (PDF)

The Albina Ministerial Alliance (AMA) Coalition for Justice and Police Reform compiled 49 community demands dating back to the death of Jose Mejia Poot in 2001, which it forwarded to the Chief and Police Commissioner in October 2010–19 months before the consultants’ report. While a letter from the Chief and Mayor made an attempt to show progress with some demands last November, many remain unaddressed. The AMA Coalition is made up of volunteer citizens concerned for the good of their own community, yet came up with many of the same ideas for change as the consultants.

For example: The AMA Coalition urged: “Reconcile the Bureau’s training on use of force with the de-escalation taught to all officers in Crisis Intervention Team [CIT] Training.” The consultants, in their first recommendation, tell the Bureau to “integrate [CIT] training into patrol tactics… [and incorporate CIT training] into its evaluation of shooting and force incidents and hold its officers accountable.”

The consultants’ analysis of the Raymond Gwerder, (Lesley) Paul Stewart and Aaron Campbell shootings indicates that the Bureau has far to go in ensuring communication among crisis negotiators, Special Emergency Response and other officers. They pointed to the issue of earpieces, saying that the Bureau instituted such a policy after the Gwerder shooting, though officers in both subsequent shootings were not wearing earpieces. AMA Coalition called for “Communication between negotiators and other ‘teams’ must be established,” and that “proper equipment must be bought, distributed and trained with to ensure communication, such as earpieces which allow two-way dialogue.”

AMA Coalition demanded, related to Kendra James‘ shooting in 2003, that “the initial interview with officers involved in cases of serious injuries or deaths should take place within 24 hours.” The consultants recommended, and the Oregonian and the Chief both support, the removal of the so-called “48 hour rule” in the police union contracts.

The consultants fall short by failing to call for more independent oversight of these serious cases. They indicate that since the Independent Police Review Division (IPR) has been more involved in shootings cases, both during investigations and at the Police Review Board level, investigations have improved. They fail to acknowledge the community’s distrust of police investigating other police. PARC, the previous consulting group, called for more independent oversight. The OIR Group’s consultants merely repeat a PARC recommendation to stop relying on other local law enforcement agencies to assist in criminal investigations. In contrast, the AMA Coalition has called both for an independent prosecutor to conduct such investigations and a fully independent review board that can “engage in administrative (non-criminal) investigations of these incidents.”

Clearly, the community has made and can make further common-sense proposals for change without waiting for another expert report to bolster its demands. The consultants’ ability to examine confidential material is helpful, but can also be done by the community invoking the public interest exceptions to Oregon’s public records laws.

The consultants’ contract ends in 2014, but they will only examine 11 other shootings up until early 2011. The community has and can make recommendations for change as any new shootings occur. The Bureau should be much, much quicker to respond.

Mark Knutson of Augustana Lutheran Church and Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch are co-chairs of the AMA Coalition for Justice and Police Reform’s Training and Policy Committee.

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Chasse arbitration a win for two officers, but a loss for all

unsigned opinion by the editors of The Oregonian, July 17, 2012

No doubt, Chris Humphreys and Kyle Nice were pleased with an arbitrator’s decision this month related to the 2006 death of James Chasse. At least someone is. Portland residents have every reason to be disgusted, and the rest of Portland’s police force should be uneasy. Whether they like it or not, the resolution of this incident reflects on them.

James Chasse

James Chasse

READ – What happened to James Chasse

One afternoon nearly six years ago, Officer Humphreys was patrolling with his then-partner, Deputy Bret Burton, who was working for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. They spotted Chasse standing “hunched” near a tree, where Humphreys thought he might be urinating or using narcotics, according to the arbitrator’s report. Chasse ran when he spotted the officers, and they gave chase. Humphreys employed what the arbitrator’s report calls a “takedown technique,” and Sgt. Nice — who arrived at the scene separately — estimated that it took two to three minutes for the three officers to take Chasse into custody.

It was quite a struggle. Chasse bit Nice on the calf, then tried to bite Humphreys and Nice again, according to the report. Humphreys punched Chasse in the face, and Burton shot him with a Taser.

The officers’ actions to this point seem to have been justified. But then the real trouble started.

Shortly after Chasse was placed in custody, he passed out, at which point Nice, the ranking officer on the scene, requested an ambulance. The primary paramedic soon cleared Chasse for transport to jail, where he passed out again. At a nurse’s insistence, Humphreys and Burton tried to drive Chasse to a hospital. Chasse died in transit of blunt force trauma to the chest, which likely happened while he was being apprehended.

Both Humphreys and Nice were suspended for two weeks without pay for violating the department’s Taser directive. Among other things, it required that people who exhibit “hyper stimulation” or “agitated delirium” before being stunned be taken to the hospital by EMS.

The arbitrator last week tossed the suspension and ordered the bureau to restore the two officers’ back pay.

Chasse, a schizophrenic, was certainly acting strangely. But Nice — who was in charge at the scene — did not violate the policy, the arbitrator ruled, because there is “significant evidence” that Chasse “did not at any time suffer from hyper stimulation and/or agitated delirium.” As for Humphreys, the arbitrator wrote, he wasn’t in charge, either at the scene or at the jail. And in any case, the paramedic at the scene told the officers Chasse was well enough to head to jail rather than the hospital. And the paramedic’s the expert, right?

In other words, unless an officer clearly violates a very explicit policy, there’s a good chance his union will, if so inclined, saw away at technicalities in arbitration until his penalty topples. No matter that his behavior might strike people outside of the union cocoon as shockingly callous. Most people understand that it might be difficult for a police officer with limited medical training to discern whether a suspect is suffering from hyper stimulation or agitated delirium. But in a similar situation, most people probably would approach the paramedic in charge immediately and say, “Hey. You might want to know that we just Tased that guy.”

Both officers should have done exactly this, but didn’t, the city argued in defense of the suspensions. Even the arbitrator acknowledged that there is “no dispute between the Parties that Sergeant Nice and Officer Humphreys could have provided substantially more information to the paramedics” about what had happened. The fact that such information would not have changed the paramedic’s assessment of Chasse’s condition is irrelevant. Chasse was tackled, Tased and lost consciousness, yet neither Nice nor Humphreys provided a full account of the struggle to the chief paramedic. There is simply no excuse for such behavior.

But that didn’t prevent their union from offering a couple. According to the arbitrator’s report, the union argued the following: “at the time of the Chasse incident, the Bureau had no policy around exactly what kind of information officers were obliged to tell paramedics. Second, the Bureau did not provide training to its officers on how to communicate with medical personnel.”

How much training does it take to say, “we just Tased him”?

If the department did, in fact, have such communication policies in place, we suppose the union would have argued that the bureau hadn’t trained officers to identify paramedics.

Few would dispute that police officers have a tough job, and most do it conscientiously and well. But the consequences when they fail can be terrible, which is why those who oversee them need the authority to impose reasonable discipline. This case and others noted this month by The Oregonian’s Maxine Bernstein indicate how difficult this authority is to exercise in the face of union opposition. The result, inevitably, is an erosion in the entire department’s credibility. That’s a high price to pay for lifting the suspensions of two officers whose performance even the arbitrator who ruled for them found lacking.

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Tim Murphy: Cutting access key to addiction fight

From the Salem Statesman Journal, July 7, 2012 – guest opinion by Tim Murphy.

Addiction stole my friend.

Addiction steals parents from children, daughters from mothers and loved ones from their lovers. Addiction robs you of your present and disintegrates your dreams. Addiction can steal your life.

Tim Murphy, CEO at Bridgeway Recovery Services

Tim Murphy, CEO at Bridgeway Recovery Services

It is often said that Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that robs you of your memory and in doing so destroys your past. Addiction too is a brain disease that, instead of your past, destroys your future.

No one wants to develop Alzheimer’s and no one sets out to become addicted to substances such as alcohol, amphetamines or opiates. Once you begin using any of these substances, your brain becomes affected and, in most cases, desires more. Those desires evolve into cravings and those cravings can become unbearable pains that require relief.

Currently in our community we are witness to a surge in opiate addiction and, as a result, heroin use. Recently the Statesman Journal brought this “epidemic” into focus with a series of articles regarding the growing use of heroin in Salem and throughout Oregon.

The hydraulics that work together to create this epidemic are both complicated and controversial. For the past decade there has been an unprecedented demand for pain management medication. Nationally there began a laser-like focus on identifying and relieving pain.

Nurses are trained and required to assess hospital patients’ pain several times a day. Every outpatient physician visit often involves a question regarding a patient’s experience of pain. Once identified, the pain must be attacked with an intervention meant to reduce that pain. Too frequently that intervention is an opiate-based medication that can lead to dependence, cravings and outright addiction.

How does heroin fit into this discussion? Simple. As the availability of prescribed opiate-based pain relievers decreases, the demand for street drugs like heroin increases.

Heroin acts on the brain in a similar way to how opiate-based medicine acts. It can relieve pain and, at the same time, develop a craving for more. That craving can become a force so powerful that you will do anything to address it. Anything.

Once you are addicted, all you want is relief, and the bridge from oxycodone to heroin is an easy one to cross.

At Bridgeway Recovery Services, we see the aftermath of this cycle of addiction every day. The good news is is that we can treat opiate addiction effectively, and an important part of that treatment is reducing access to the drugs.

Salem Hospital recently held a press conference indicating that they recognized the issue and are committed to reducing the prescription of addictive opiate pain relievers in the emergency room. Our colleagues in private practice need to join the effort. In the coming months, Bridgeway will be participating in a community-wide conversation meant to educate the public on the dangers of opiate addiction and heroin use.

We need to attack addiction but refrain from attacking addicts. Addicts need treatment, and we know how to treat them. When we provide treatment, people find relief from the pain and relief from addiction, and they recover their lost lives. We invite all of you to join us in this effort.

Tim Murphy of Salem is chief executive officer of Bridgeway Recovery Services. He can be reached at tmurphy @

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