D.A. drops 12 use-of-force cases against Portland cops

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Mike Schmidt said investigators found no evidence of unlawful activity, and some alleged victims wouldn't participate

FILE – In this Sept. 5, 2020, file photo, police use chemical irritants and crowd control munitions to disperse protesters during a demonstration in Portland, Ore. Authorities said Tuesday, June 15, 2021, a grand jury returned an indictment against a Portland police officer, accusing him of hitting a protester in the head with a baton in 2020. The city saw widespread, often violent protests following the police killing of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt has shut the book on 12 use of force investigations against Portland Police Bureau officers responding to protests.

The most high-profile case — captured on video and extensively reported on by Oregon Public Broadcasting — shows Officer Thomas Clark charging into an unruly crowd before tackling OHSU nurse Tyler Cox and punching him in the head three or four times.

In a July 9 memo to the D.A., prosecutor Nicole Hermann found that Clark was initially pursuing a man holding a skateboard when he noticed Cox, clad all in black, “running alongside… in a parallel motion that caught Officer Clark’s attention.”

Per the memo, Clark then prepared to arrest Cox for interfering, but Cox failed to comply and instead began to run away.

“The video shows Mr. Cox struggle with Officer Clark, kneeing him, and putting his hands up into Officer Clark’s face knocking Officer Clark’s helmet off of his head,” the memo says. “Officer Clark was vulnerable without head protection and needed to get Mr. Cox under control as quickly as possible.”

Hermann says Cox’s claims that Clark was wearing “plastic reinforced knuckles” are not true, and refuted by crime scene photos and medical records.

The arrest occurred during a riot on Aug. 31 near Northwest 12th Avenue and Glisan Street where crowds set fire to a dental office and burglarized the business.

In a statement, D.A. Schmidt noted that he has indicted Officer Corey Budworth on a single count of fourth-degree assault for striking a woman with a baton at a protest, calling the case a “first” in “recent county history.” “I became aware of several claims of excessive force by law enforcement against civilians during the protests last year,” he said. “These claims are disturbing and further rupture the trust between our community and the criminal justice system.”

Other incidents

Of the other 11 dropped cases, eight were closed after the person alleging the use of force or their attorney told investigators they no longer wished to participate in the case, or because investigators simply received no response at all.

The names and allegations in the dropped cases are: Mason Lake, who said he was hit by impact munitions on May 31 of last year; Philip Elias, pushed and hit by a baton on June 2; Julia Leggett, injured by a flash bang on June 5; Dominique Bouchard, shot by a rubber bullet on June 5 or 6; Daniel Michaels, hit by projectiles on June 6; Lydia Fuller, hit and pushed on June 7; Alexandra Montgomery, hit by a rubber bullet on June 13; and Michael Weisdorf, knocked to the ground by officers July 18.

The other three dropped cases were referred to the D.A. by Portland Police Bureau’s Detective Division for criminal investigation.

• Authorities say officer Brent Taylor fired less-lethal munitions at protester Erica Christiansen, but the use of force was justified because Christiansen “threw a lit cigarette,” striking Officer Lino Pavon underneath his helmet, and that she continued to advance after being pushed back. Christiansen has filed a civil suit.

• Protest attendee Thomas Dreier alleged that his guitar was stolen from him, but authorities say it was merely confiscated due to safety concerns and that it was returned to him later.

• Evan Henshaw-Plath similarly alleged theft after his speaker system was confiscated, but authorities say the seizure was lawful “pursuant to a noise violation.” Four other use of force cases are still pending “further investigation and prosecutorial review,” according to the memo. Another four cases are pending at the Oregon Department of Justice, all of which pertain to “Officer 67,” who Willamette Week has identified as Portland Police Detective Erik Kammerer.

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