Grand Jury Faults Officer for Firing 23 Shots at Man

Not Available Elsewhere Online – July 29, 1993 | The Oregonian

A Multnomah County grand jury Wednesday harshly criticized a Portland police officer who fired 23 shots at a fleeing man — and indicted the man.

A grand jury indicted Gerald F. Gratton, 27, on charges of unlawful possession of a weapon and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Gratton probably will enter a plea on the charges next week, his attorney said.

The officers who fired at Gratton, David Thoman and Douglas Erickson, were relieved of duty Wednesday and remain on paid administrative leave until the Police Bureau’s Internal Investigations Division completes its review.

Erickson fired 23 times and Thoman fired four times at Gratton July 19 as he ran from officers following a scuffle on a Tri-Met bus. He was hit in the back and elbow.

The grand jury considered charges against Thoman and Erickson but did not indict them. The grand jury concluded that Thoman “acted responsibly and professionally.”

Grand jurors took the highly unusual step of asking District Attorney Michael Schrunk to contact Portland Police Chief Charles Moose and convey the jurors’ concerns.

The jurors felt Erickson’s conduct “was not consistent with the high standards we expect the Portland Police Bureau to maintain,” Schrunk wrote in a one-page letter to Moose.

“The grand jurors were concerned about the number of shots fired, the reckless manner in which they were fired and the officer’s inability to justify or explain why he fired when he did,” Schrunk stated.

Erickson told detectives he shot at Gratton because he thought the fleeing man might commandeer a car or go to a nearby convenience store and take a hostage.

Schrunk and Moose could not be reached by telephone to comment Wednesday.

While rare, such grand jury requests are not unprecedented and occur perhaps once a year, said Norm Frink, chief deputy district attorney.

Gratton, who was hospitalized after the shooting, is home now.

“I’m surviving, let’s put it like that,” Gratton said. “I took a lot of bullets and it’s gonna take a little time to get over with. Other than that, I’m just taking it one step at a time.”

He declined comment on the indictment and referred questions to his attorney, Ed Strand.

Strand said Wednesday afternoon that he had not been notified of the indictment.

Strand said he expects Gratton will enter a plea on the charges next week although a court date has not been set.

Gratton and his brother, Devon D. Simms, 24, were on a No. 4 Fessenden bus when the driver alerted police and told officers that the men were drinking and acting in a threatening manner.

Police took Simms off the bus at North Lombard Street and Interstate Avenue. As they prepared to search Gratton, they saw a gun in his waistband. Gratton ran off the bus with Erickson in pursuit. Gratton bolted across Lombard and the officers shot him, according to a police spokesman. Authorities haven’t determined which officer’s shots struck Gratton.

Simms was not involved in the shooting and was not indicted.

A third officer on the scene, Cheryl Swenson, did not fire any shots and the grand jury did not consider any charges against her.