Witnesses shocked by force police used in encounter

From The Oregonian

At least two witnesses have filed complaints with the city regarding officers’ use of force against a 42-year-old man who later died in Portland police custody Sunday night.

The witnesses said they watched three officers of solid stature run and tackle the slim man to the pavement on the northeast corner of Northwest 13th Avenue and Everett Street, across the street from the Blue Hour Restaurant.

The Rev. Randall Stuart, who is directing the season opener at Artists Repertory Theater, was walking with his friend Constance Doolan, an elementary-school music teacher visiting from Oakland, Calif., when they watched the violent encounter.

Both said they were disturbed by the force used and what they considered inadequate medical attention given the man. They said they were appalled to learn the man taken into custody later died.

“The incident smacked of over-the-top-arrest and, sorry to say, undue force,” Stuart wrote, in a complaint he filed online Wednesday morning with the city’s Independent Police Review Division, the agency that accepts complaints against officers.

Portland homicide detectives are investigating James Philip Chasse Jr.’s death and have asked witnesses to call them. They are continuing to interview the officers involved, said Detective Paul Dolbey, a police spokesman.

Portland police said Chasse was “extremely combative” but have not said what led to the officers’ contact with him at 5:20 p.m. Sunday.

Stuart and Doolan, who were at the scene and spoke to an officer afterward, said they were told Chasse was being arrested for possessing crack cocaine.

The two friends said three officers chased the man downhill, from Northwest 14th Avenue and Everett, and then tackled him, knocking him to the ground.

“They grabbed him and crashed really hard to the pavement,” Doolan said. “They were yelling at him to get on his stomach.”

The man was yelling, “I won’t, I won’t. I won’t get on my stomach,” and kept struggling with the officers, the witnesses said.

At some point, they said, the man tried to bite an officer, and an officer repeatedly kicked the man somewhere in the upper midsection of his body and struck him with his hand. One officer drew a Taser gun and placed it against one of the man’s limbs, the witnesses said. Stuart and Doolan said they thought they heard the Taser cycle four times. Police said an officer attempted to use the Taser in a drive-stun mode –placing the stun gun directly against the man’s body –but it had no effect, Dolbey said.

Yet the witnesses said there was an eerie silence for four to five minutes in which it appeared the man was knocked out. He didn’t move and suddenly stopped screaming, they said. According to police, a paramedic arrived at 5:23 p.m.

Stuart said the man was unconscious for several minutes. He said he was lying on his right side but apparently still breathing. “He was out cold, and there was just waiting going on. That seemed odd,” Stuart said.

The paramedic was kneeling beside him and said out loud that the man was bleeding from the mouth, Stuart and Doolan said. Stuart said the man “slowly came back.” When the paramedic left, the man started yelling, ” Please, please, don’t go, don’t go.”

Stuart said officers had the man handcuffed and his feet bound together and carried him “like a deer” to a patrol car on Northwest 14th.

“All of us were horrified he wasn’t going with the medics,” Stuart said. “He was in no physical condition to be booked.”

Doolan, who submitted a complaint Tuesday night, said, “I’ve never witnessed anything like that. It was really hard to watch. I felt police crossed the line.”

Police said officers drove the man to the Justice Center jail by 5:46 p.m., taking him into custody for resisting arrest, assault on an officer and interfering with police. But the jail called the police by 6:23 p.m. to have Chasse taken to Adventist Medical Center. Chasse slumped in the police car on the way to the hospital and died near Northeast 33rd Avenue and Clackamas Street, Dolbey said.

Portland detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the arrest to call Detective Lynn Courtney at 503-823-0451 or Detective Jon Rhodes at 503-823-0459.