Chasse case cited in critical jail report

from – Thursday, November 2, 2006

The death of a mentally ill man has raised questions about procedures in Multnomah County’s Correctional system, according to a new District Attorney’s report.

42-year-old James Chasse died in police custody in September. According to officers, Chasse got in a fight with them during an arrest attempt. Officers tackled him, and used a taser to subdue him. He died after broken ribs punctured a lung, according to autopsy results.

Before Chasse died, he was taken to the county’s downtown Portland jail. Jail deputies placed him in an isolation cell.

A jail nurse, Patricia Gayman, decided he should be sent to the hospital, but according to the county audit, she was not aware of the extent of Chasse’s injuries.

“She did not know they had used a taser to some degree,” said Deputy District Attorney John Bradley.

Chasse died while officers were transporting him to Portland Adventist Hospital in Southeast Portland on 102nd Avenue.

“That’s a long ways, especially for a life threatening injury,” said Bradley.

The county report said once the officers realized Chasse might be dying, they should have taken him to Providence Hospital, which is closer to the jail.

The nurse says she would have called for an ambulance if she knew the extent of the fight. Gayman told county investigators Chasse’s death has made her want to be better informed about an inmate’s condition when they are booked.

“Would that have made a difference,” said Bradley, “I don’t know. But I think it’s a real important thing.”

Grand jurors cleared the officers involved in Chasse’s death of any wrongdoing. Chasse’s family has said the officers used excessive force.