None of six civilian witnesses to the police takedown of James Chasse Jr. agreed with the Portland Police Bureau’s official story that the mentally ill man was pushed—rather than tackled—to the ground during his fatal encounter with cops on Sept. 17.
Police issued a “fact sheet” a month after Chasse’s death, which a coroner ruled was caused by blunt-force trauma suffered in Chasse’s tangle with several officers. The “fact sheet” reads: “Did officers tackle Mr. Chasse?” It then provides an answer: “One officer used his forearm to push Mr. Chasse to the ground to end the foot pursuit, which is consistent with Bureau training.”
But not a single civilian witness describes such a push in the newly released documents.
Additional accounts of the events leading up to Chasse’s death have emerged in hundreds of new pages released to the public for the first time Thursday, and may step up pressure on Police Chief Rosie Sizer and Mayor Tom Potter for explanations of that discrepancy.
The medical examiner ruled Chasse’s fatal injuries most likely occurred when Officer Christopher Humphreys fell on top of him. Police came under fire when other statements made by the three officers involved, which came out before the more recently released witnesses’ statements, didn’t match the bureau’s “fact sheet.”
At that time, police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz said the “fact sheet” was assembled from the totality of the evidence, including the then-confidential witness accounts.
Of the nine people who saw the initial takedown or its immediate aftermath, including the three officers involved, only one person (Humphreys) described something similar to the “fact sheet”—a version that just happens to conform to police procedures.