Wife of man killed by Portland police files federal lawsuit

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The wife of a man fatally shot by police inside a Portland homeless shelter has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the officers who fired.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday night in federal court seeks damages, but does not specify an amount.

A screen grab of a video taken moments before John Elifritz was shot to death by police inside the Portland CityTeam Ministries Shelter, April 7, 2018 (Courtesy: Morgan Pickering)

“There is nothing, nothing that I can do that’s going to bring him back,” John Elifritz’s wife Barbara said Wednesday. “But if we all stand together, maybe another family won’t have to go through this.”

Elifritz died April 7 from multiple gunshot wounds. Authorities said he had prompted 911 calls with menacing behavior earlier that day and carjacked a vehicle that he crashed outside the shelter.

After he entered the shelter, officers ordered him to drop a knife and then fired from across a room.

A Multnomah County grand jury said the shooting was justified and declined to indict the officers. However, the Elifritz family and their attorneys see it differently — calling the incident a military-style action that police escalated in seconds.

Andrew M. Stroth is a civil rights attorney from Chicago representing the family. He called Elifritz’s death an unjustified and unconstitutional shooting. He also cited a 2012 U.S. Department of Justice ruling that says the Portland Police Bureau was systematically using excessive force. 

“The Portland Police Department has a pattern and practice of unjustifiably shooting and killing individuals, especially those in mental distress,” Stroth said.

The lawsuit said Elifritz was experiencing a mental health crisis and allege he wasn’t posing a threat. It also states that the officers would have not behaved the way they did without knowing the city and their fellow officers would protect them from consequences.

City attorney Tracy Reeve declined comment on the lawsuit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report 

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