A petition began circulating on the Internet today, pushing for the release of the Portland Police Bureau’s internal investigation and the chief’s ruling on potential discipline following the September 2006 death of James P. Chasse Jr. in police custody.
“Read and sign our online petition to Sam Adams, Dan Saltzman and Rosie Sizer asking to release the James Chasse police investigation before the third anniversary of James’ death,” wrote Jason Renaud, a volunteer with the Mental Health Association of Portland, on his Facebook page.
Chasse, 42, who suffered from schizophrenia, died in police custody Sept. 17, 2006. Two Portland officers, Officer Christopher Humphreys and Sgt. Kyle Nice, and then-Multnomah County sheriff’s Deputy Bret Burton struggled to arrest Chasse after one of the officers said he appeared to be urinating in the street. Police said he ran when they approached. They chased him, knocked him to the ground and struggled to handcuff him.
Ambulance paramedics called to the scene did not transport Chasse to a hospital, saying his vital signs were normal. But jail staff refused to book him because of his physical condition. He died in police custody on the way to a hospital from broad-based blunt-force trauma to the chest.
A federal lawsuit is pending against the city and American Medical Response paramedics, accusing Portland officers of excessive force, denial of medical attention and discriminating against Chasse because of his mental illness. A trial has been set for March 16. In July, Multnomah County settled its part of the lawsuit, paying out $925,000 to the Chasse family.
The petition signers http://www.petitiononline.com/Chasse/petition.html say they’re “alarmed by the lengthy and unwarranted delay in creating and distributing the internal police investigation, a public finding of facts, from a police action over three years ago which resulted in the death of an innocent man at the hands of city employees.”
The petition urges the city to complete the internal findings, and release them, along with its internal investigative report. It also urges the city to suspend from duty the officers who were involved in the case, pending the release of the internal investigation.
Detective Mary Wheat, spokeswoman for the Portland Police Bureau, said this afternoon she had no new information on the internal inquiry, and that the chief had not made a ruling on it yet.
Police union president, Sgt. Scott Westerman, said he’s disappointed as well that the chief’s findings haven’t been made public, and called it “sad” that the internal review remains unresolved nearly three years after Chasse’s death.
In depositions in preparation for the federal trial, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Chasse said he suffered 46 separate abrasions or contusions on his body, including six to the head and 19 strikes to the torso. Fractures to his back ribs also probably did not result from Chasse getting knocked to the ground or someone falling on top of him, but more likely resulted from a kick or knee-drop, state medical examiner Dr. Karen Gunson said. Had he received proper medical attention at the scene or been taken to a hospital right away, Gunson concluded, Chasse probably would still be alive.
EXTRA – Read and sign the James Chasse petition