663-page transcript in John Elifritz case released

Multnomah County

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In two-to-three seconds, inside the Cityteam Ministries in Southeast Portland, five Portland Police officers and one Multnomah County deputy made the decision to shoot a combined 17 bullets at John Elifritz. Nine hit Elifritz, killing him — hours after his interaction with police began on April 7. 

On Monday, weeks after the Portland Police Bureau released detailed internal documents and videos related to the shooting at the Southeast Portland shelter, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office released a 663-page grand jury transcript on the case. The transcript, encompassing four days, gave a look inside the testimony that led a grand jury to decide police were justified in their use of lethal force. 

All six of the individuals that fired at Elifritz, whom a medical examiner discovered had 0.33 milligrams per liter of meth in his blood, testified that lethal force was not only the right decision, but at the point, the only decision. 

“I’ve thought about this a million times,” testified Multnomah County deputy Aaron Sieczkowski, “And there’s no other way that we could have been able to do it.”

Officers shot and killed Elifritz at approximately 8 p.m., but law enforcement first interacted with him about six hours before. First, Elifritz reported to police that his family was murdered.  He gave an address in the 4400 block of Southeast 79th Avenue and police responded. When police arrived, they found a duplex under construction. No one was inside and police later confirmed that the family — previously reported by Elifritz as murdered — was safe.

A contractor on scene told officers Elifritz was acting strange. The contractor also provided a description. 

Officers eventually located Elifritz and asked to talk with him. Elfritz then pulled out a knife and put it to his neck and started backing away from officers. Sgt. Gary Britt with Portland Police testified that Elfritz said he didn’t want to hurt himself or anyone else. “He just wanted us to leave him alone,” Britt said. 

Officers decided to disengage in the hopes it would diffuse the situation.

Elifritz then, according to police, went on a crime spree. He carjacked a Honda CRV after jumping in the passenger side, wrestling it away from the second grade teacher inside. She testified that she screamed and told him to get out before she got paralyzed and froze up. Eventually, after she became tangled, Elifritz opened the door, cut her seatbelt and got her out of the vehicle. 

Then, Elifritz reportedly crashed the vehicle and abandoned it before he went to the Jackson’s on Southeast Grand. There, he told a worker that police officers were searching for him. He told her to call the police because “he wanted to kill them all,” the witness testified. He showed a knife before eventually he left the store. 

After that, a man testified that Elifritz approached him, put his arm around the man and put a knife to his neck. Elifritz, according to the man, told him that he was hiding from the police and that he wanted to hijack an ambulance that was in the area on an unrelated call. Elifritz balked from that plan shortly after and dislodged with the man, according to the testimony. 

Then, Elifritz made his way to Cityteam Ministries. Officers were alerted that Elifritz, armed with a knife, was inside. They swarmed the area. 

The next few minutes, according to Sieczkowski, was crazy.

“It was screaming,” he said. “It was pandemonium.”

Officers and witnesses testified that officers commanded nonstop for Elifritz to drop the knife, something he failed to do. Other officers warned that they would fire a less lethal foam-impact round. 

Portland Police Officer Richard Bailey, one of two officers who used the less-lethal-round launcher, said his training would suggest the shots should’ve been enough to subdue Elifritz. 

“If a Major League Baseball player threw a baseball at your thigh, I mean, whatever you had in your hand — I would drop something,” Bailey testified. “It would capture my attention. That’s the velocity this thing’s moving.”

But the multiple less-lethal rounds that struck Elifritz below the waist didn’t stop him, officers and witnesses testified.

“I’m thinking to myself, like, this is terrible, like, dude oh, my goodness,” Bailey testified. “He just got shot with a less-lethal round and he’s not responding. Like oh my goodness.”

Instead, Elifritz started advancing toward officers. Seconds later, six officers — armed with two handguns, three AR-15 semiautomatic rifles and one shotgun — shot and killed Elifritz. 

“I heard somebody yell, ‘No, no, no,” towards him,'” said Portland Police Officer Alexandru Martiniuc. “And I could hear the lethal rounds starting to go off on my left side.”

“Your ballistic vest counts for nothing against a knife,” Sieczkowski testified. “Your throat counts for nothing against a knife. And I took the shot.” 

Since the Grand Jury ruling, the widow of John Elifritz filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Portland and the officers involved on May 23. The suit claims Elifritz was experiencing a mental health crisis at the time he was shot to death.

Here are the full list of officers who shot Elifritz:

– Officer Kameron Fender, an eight-year-veteran of the Bureau
– Officer Alexandru Martiniuc, a six-year-veteran of the Bureau
– Officer Bradley Nutting, an 11-year-veteran of the Bureau
– Officer Chad Phifer, a 10-year-veteran of the Bureau
– Officer Andrew Polas, a 14-year-veteran of the Bureau
– Deputy Aaron Sieczkowski, a six-year-veteran of the Sheriff’s Office

John Elifritz in an undated driver's license photo released by Portland police, April 9, 2018

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