Supporters of the Mental Health Association of Portland are deeply disappointed in a Multnomah County Grand Jury’s failure to indict Portland police officer Zachary DeLong, who shot and killed Robert Delgado when he was in a mental health crisis on April 16.
This decision shows that our community remains unable to hold Portland’s police officers accountable for use of lethal force against people in a mental health crisis. Oregonians in crisis and their friends and family members are continually denied safe support and service at the federal, state, county, or city level.
Delgado was the 29th person killed by Portland police officers since the opening of a “pattern and practice” investigation by the United States Department of Justice in 2012. Two more men have been killed by Portland police since April, and two others shot – all showed signs of being in a mental health crisis.
Injustices like this will continue unabated if changes are not made at all levels. In this case, the district attorney was disarmed by leaders of the state legislature who failed to provide legal measures to hold officers accountable or protect people with mental illness from officers who show up in tactical gear for a welfare check. The Oregon Attorney General, who advised the county district attorney in this prosecution, brought no additional abilities to the case.
Before he ever encountered a police officer, Delgado was also undone by state legislators who failed to prohibit the sale of replica guns, and failed to provide funding for sufficient mental health and addiction services. Multnomah County public health officials and public insurance companies are also responsible for the death of Robert Delgado: their jumbled and inaccessible service system has left thousands of people with addiction and mental illness homeless and bereft.
Equally at fault are a generation of Portland’s mayors and city councilors, who after decades of promises and pledges, failed to amend police bureau policy or labor agreements, or to find alternatives to police to provide protection for those in crisis. Police administrators who trained and supervised Zachary DeLong, who shot and killed Robert Delgado from sixty feet away within seconds of exiting his police car, also carry responsibility for Delgado’s death.
We know. Our records show more than 120 people have been killed by Portland Police or died in their custody since 1970 and most were people in a mental health crisis. None of these people got justice from Oregon courts, or from any level of state or local government.
Our condolences go to the family of Robert Delgado, to his friends, to the people who cared for his life and welfare, and to those who remain on the streets of Portland.
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