Where Did All The Bullets Go?

Not Available Elsewhere Online – July 23, 1993 | The Oregonian

Opinion Editorial

A key question raised by Monday night’s incident in which Portland police shot 27 times at an armed man fleeing from possible arrest is where all the bullets went.

Stray police bullets can kill people just as stray gang bullets do.

So investigators must make every effort to determine not only whether it was necessary for officers to shoot that many times, but whether it was necessary to shoot at all and whether any of their shots could have endangered innocent lives.

Sgt. Derrick Foxworth, Police Bureau spokesman, says those questions will be answered as best they can be. Portlanders should expect no less.

Thankfully, this incident happened late at night on North Lombard Street near Interstate Avenue — not a densely populated residential neighborhood but an area of businesses, open lots and an elementary school.

However, a service station was still open, there were bus-stop kiosks on either side of Lombard Street that could have held people, and the intersection is a busy one for auto traffic.

The man who was wounded three times by police gunfire, Gerald Frank Gratton Jr., 27, reportedly had a .45-caliber pistol stuck in his belt when two officers searched him on a Tri-Met bus. After a brief scuffle, he broke away and ran.

Gratton didn’t use his gun, nor is there any indication so far that he drew it or threatened anyone. He ran apparently because he was an ex-convict in possession of a firearm. He was fleeing toward Kenton Elementary School when the shooting started.

Officer David Thoman fired four times. Officer Douglas Erickson fired 23 times, pausing to snap a new magazine into his 9mm pistol after emptying it at Gratton, then firing again.

That was a lot of shooting, and The Oregonian continues to be concerned about the fusillades that have become all too common when Portland police unholster their weapons.

Ex-convicts clearly have no business carrying guns, but we wonder whether there was any reason for the officers to shoot. Thoman and Erickson couldn’t have known immediately that Gratton was an ex-convict, Gratton’s companion (his brother) was in custody, and Gratton was running away, not threatening anyone.

Such questions need to be answered fully, quickly and publicly — not just in the secrecy of a grand jury room.