PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — He was the target of a false arrest and investigation by West Linn police and ultimately won a lawsuit against the city. But today, Michael Fesser is turning his experience into something positive.
Fesser, a Black man living in Portland, was the victim of a conspiracy involving former West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus and Fesser’s employer. Timeus and Fesser’s boss at A&B Towing made up allegations that Fesser stole from the company. The false accusation led to Fesser’s arrest and detainment by Portland police officers.
Fesser filed a federal lawsuit in 2017 against the City of West Linn. The city agreed in February to settle the suit but said the decision “is not an admission of liability.” Also last month, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a federal civil rights investigation into the allegations of criminal wrongdoing by West Linn police.
After winning his lawsuit earlier this year, the community of West Linn rallied around Fesser and demanded change. He and his longtime friend, Portland pastor Herman Greene, are now being called upon by leaders and people who live in this predominately white city to help make it a place where every person feels accepted.
The city of West Linn held a town hall meeting with Fesser and Pastor Greene on Wednesday titled “Building Bridges.” Community members joined in discussions about how to make the city more inclusive.
“I am the mother of one of the only black kids in West Linn High School,” said Linda Dayton — one of several people who joined the meeting.
Fesser never expected — or wanted — to make headlines for his experience but his name is now known across the country. But he’s using his position to spearhead real change in his city.
“I won’t put stuff on the air and do stuff like that. I just like talking to people personally and we try to iron it out and move forward,” Fesser said. “I know that God has put me in a place where I guess my shoulders and the people I have around me can walk with me and we can carry this burden for others and myself.”
And the wheels of change are already in motion in West Linn. Last month, the West Linn Police Department fired Tony Reeves, the West Linn police sergeant who was the lead investigator in Fesser’s wrongful arrest. Most everyone agreed during Wednesday’s town hall that a police review board should be created.