Grand jury: PSU officers justified in fatal shooting

Multnomah County

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A grand jury has ruled no criminal prosecution is warranted in the fatal shooting of Jason Washington by Portland State University police officers.

Police investigate a fatal shooting near the PSU campus involing two armed PSU officers on June 29, 2018. (Courtesy of Brian Reynolds) 

Officer James Dewey and Officer Shawn McKenzie shot Washington at SW 6th Avenue and College Street near the PSU campus on June 29, 2018.

According to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, the grand jury ruled the use of deadly force was a lawful act of self-defense and/or defense of a third person. 

Washington, 45, died at the scene after witnesses said he was trying to break up a fight outside the Cheerful Tortoise bar around 1:30 a.m. He was carrying a gun and had a concealed weapon permit. At one point, he lost his balance and fell — causing his gun to fall out of its holster, according to some witnesses.

Cell phone video of the incident shows Dewey and McKenzie firing multiple shots. Portland State will be releasing the video from the officers’ body cameras now that the police investigation is complete.

More about PSU’s armed police force

The medical examiner’s report said Washington died of a gunshot wound to the torso, but it’s unclear how many times he was shot.

The medical examiner confirmed that the 45-year-old man died of a gunshot wound to his torso, however, it's still unclear how many times he was shot.

Washington was a married father of three, Navy veteran and longtime letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. 

Portland State University plans to conduct an independent investigation into the shooting itself, as well as to evaluate its armed police force. President Rahmat Shoureshi said he looks forward to getting expert recommendations after the investigations are finished. 

Dewey and McKenzie have been on administrative leave during the police investigation, but will return to work in an administrative capacity. They will still be armed. 

This shooting has renewed the debate among students who believe the campus police force should not be armed. Shoureshi said part of the independent investigation will be a review and reconsideration of armed campus police. 

The PSU Student Union is planning to hold a rally on Sept. 24 to protest the decision and to call for the disarming of campus police. 

“Our main concern is that something like this will happen again,” student Kaitlyn Dey told KOIN 6 News. “It’s time to start listening to the students. It’s time to start listening to the family and to get rid of police on campus and to find other means of creating a safe campus.”

Shoureshi said his main goal going forward is to learn from this and keep the campus community safe.

“Our goal is to have a safe campus and what we would like to do is learn from this unfortunate and tragic accident and bring the experts in safety and security area and see what they recommend,” he said. 

The Washington family intends to pursue legal action against the officers involved. 

Washington’s widow, Michelle Washington, released the following statement in response to the grand jury’s decision:

“Although my family and I are disappointed the PSU officers will not face criminal charges, we appreciate the hard work of those serving on the grand jury. I will be looking to my attorney, Christopher Larsen, to guide us through the next steps in this process. We want those responsible for the death of my husband to be held accountable. We will always remember and love Jason and know he was needlessly killed while attempting to keep the peace.”

The family’s attorney, Christopher Larsen, released the following statement:

“I respect the decision of the grand jury. I, along with our team of lawyers and experts, will now have an opportunity to review all the evidence that has been obtained and developed by law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office. We intend to vigorously pursue legal action against those who are responsible for this tragic death.”

WATCH: PSU President responds to decision:

Portland State University President Rahmat Shoureshi released the following statement:

Dear campus community,

Today’s no-indictment decision by the Multnomah County Grand Jury closes the Portland Police Bureau’s investigation of the June 29 fatal officer-involved shooting on our campus. However, Mr. Jason Washington’s death continues to weigh heavily on my mind, as does the safety of our students, staff and faculty.

Mr. Washington’s death has deeply shaken all those involved as well as the greater campus community, and we are determined to learn from it.

With completion of the Portland Police Bureau investigation, we are now moving forward with separate reviews of the shooting and campus security by independent experts. The security review will result in recommendations to enhance safety policies and procedures, including the issues around an armed campus police force. 

The review process will be transparent. A 15-member oversight committee of students, faculty, staff and members of the greater Portland community has advised me in choosing the outside consulting firm that PSU is engaging for this work.

One independent review will conduct a thorough examination of the shooting, including all the information from the Portland Police Bureau investigation that was presented to the grand jury. 

A separate broader review will serve as a road map for updating and modifying campus safety policies and procedures, such as Campus Public Safety Office staffing and resources, officer training, and our relationship with local law enforcement, considering what may have changed over time since PSU’s trustees approved a sworn, armed police force in December 2014.

I have selected the nationally recognized consulting firm Margolis Healy to do this work. I made the selection after we posted a publicRequest for Qualifications seeking consultants with experience and expertise in campus safety. The oversight committee reviewed six firms and unanimously recommended Margolis Healy. The committee will work with Margolis Healy and provide a review of the safety report once it is completed. The report and recommendations will be public once it is submitted to our Board of Trustees. 

The committee also recommended that PSU engage a separate firm to examine the shooting incident, and I have chosen the OIRGroup based on the committee recommendation and my conversation with this firm. OIR is a national expert in independent police oversight and review.

Both of these firms are highly qualified with years of experience in this area. We are confident that their independence and expertise will lead to recommendations that will help guide our decisions on campus safety and security.

In the past weeks, I have read all the letters, messages, emails and comments from faculty, students, staff and community members. Thank you. All those will be forwarded to Margolis Healy. At its next meeting Oct. 4, the PSU Board of Trustees will discuss our response, and there will be an opportunity to comment at that meeting. In addition, Margolis Healy will hold a series of campus and public forums this fall as part of its review, and details will be announced soon.

Our goal is to move as rapidly as possible without compromising opportunities for fact finding, campus input and evidence-based outcomes. I believe these two rigorous independent reviews are the best way to achieve this.

In closing, I know that today’s decision will rekindle the pain and sadness from the loss of Mr. Washington, and our thoughts are with his family and friends. Recent weeks also have been difficult for all of our CPSO officers. The Office of the Dean of Student Life and Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) and Human Resources offer support and resources for students, faculty and staff.

My hope is that our actions following this tragedy will help make our campus and community a safer place for years to come.

Rahmat Shoureshi

PSU Board of Trustees’ statement: 

The Board of Trustees has been and continues to be deeply affected by the June 29th death of Mr. Jason Washington. While the Portland Police Bureau’s investigation has been closed, ours is still very much open. The tragedy of Mr. Washington’s death is a moment in PSU’s history that has to be recognized. Mr. Washington’s family, the PSU community and the entire community all deserve as much information as possible.

In 2014, in considering the proposal to arm our Campus Public Safety officers, the Board mandated an oversight committee and an annual report to the Board by that committee. The committee, made up of faculty, staff and students, recommended extensive specialized training for a campus environment.

The Board endorses President Shoureshi’s decision to conduct a thorough and independent review of PSU’s campus safety, as well as the related policies and implementation of those policies. Once completed by external campus security experts, the Board will make the report public and carefully consider its findings.

The Board wrestled with the decision to arm campus police in 2014, and we are prepared to wrestle with it again — with open minds — to determine whether the current policy should be continued or changed.


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