Salem officer cleared in shooting death of Chase Hammer, 27

Candlelight vigil for Chase Hammer

Candlelight vigil for Chase Hammer

By Emily Gillespie, Statesman Journal, Dec. 6, 2012

A grand jury unanimously cleared a Salem police officer of any wrongdoing in the Oct. 21 fatal shooting of a Salem man.

Chase Hammer, 27, was under the influence of alcohol and other drugs when he threatened to kill himself and left a southeast Salem residence with a revolver, Deputy District Attorney Matt Kemmy said.

Fifteen people, including Hammer’s family members and neighbors who witnessed the shooting, testified before the grand jurors all day Wednesday before deciding that Salem Police Officer Ryan Demmer was justified in his use of deadly force.

Kemmy offered this detailed account of the events that led up to Hammer’s death:

The mother of one of Hammer’s children called 911 at about 6:30 p.m. that Sunday evening to report Hammer as being despondent and armed with a gun.

Chase Hammer

Chase Hammer

Officers arrived at 3734 Scenic View Drive SE, where they learned Hammer might still be inside the residence. Police set up a perimeter and began calling for a SWAT team negotiator and canine unit.

While additional officers were arriving, police heard what sounded like a gunshot from north of the residence. Police then saw Hammer walking toward the residence and yelled at him to stop as he passed a marked patrol car.

Hammer ignored police commands to stop and show his hands. He then reached behind his back, pulled out a gun and began to raise the gun at officers.

At that point, Salem Police Cpl. Ryan Demmer, who was standing 10 to 15 feet away, fired two shots at Hammer, hitting him both times. Hammer was pronounced dead at the scene.

Aside from testimony, other evidence provided to jurors included photographs, the medical examiner’s report for Hammer and the results of Demmer’s toxicology reports, which were clean.

Kemmy said that in Marion County it is standard practice to require a toxicology report of an officer after a deadly shooting.

Hammer had a blood alcohol content of .23 percent and his blood tested positive for Cannabinoid and Alprazolam, both illegal substances, according to his toxicology report.

Demmer, who was placed on administrative leave after the incident, is back on duty after Wednesday’s decision.

“Our family is very disappointed in this decision,” said Hammer’s sister, Maria Hammer. Although she didn’t elaborate, she said her family is seeking legal counsel from Portland civil rights firm Creighton and Rose.

“Our goal is to bring light to the events of that night and to seek justice for my brother, Chase Hammer,” Maria Hammer said. “This is a heartache for our family and a very emotional day for us.”

Hammer is survived by his mother, father, sister, nephews, 9-year-old daughter Miah and 3-year-old daughter Lily.