It’s been nearly a month since a grand jury returned a “not true” bill in the death investigation of 30-year-old Clark-Johnson – meaning jurors found the use of deadly force by officer Chris Sathof was not criminal under Oregon law.
Now, at the request of the DA’s office, a three-day transcript was released to the public on Friday featuring witnesses who had heard the shots. One witness, Tanya, told KOIN 6 that at the time, she figured officers had a reason to pull the trigger.
“I was more startled by the gunshots,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking about the shots that they made. I figured it was for a reason.”
But the details are a bit more complicated. According to the death investigation, Portland police officers responded to a reported armed robbery at the Super Deluxe off Southeast Powell Boulevard around 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 19, 2022.
Officials say an initial description of the robbery suspects described a small gray vehicle carrying four people, one of whom was reportedly armed and wearing a dark shirt or jacket, dark pants and white shoes.
After a sergeant in the area spotted a vehicle matching that description driving recklessly in the area, officers on the ground and in the air followed the vehicle to a church parking lot off Southeast Steel Street.
That’s when officers – who say they believed they had found the armed robbery suspects – performed a high-risk stop as the occupants fled on foot.
According to a memorandum released Friday: “Officer Sathoff saw Mr. Clark-Johnson as he ran from the vehicle and believed he was witnessing Mr. Clark-Johnson attempting to access a firearm and that he and his fellow law enforcement officers were about to be shot. In that moment, officer Sathoff fired three rounds from his rifle. One round struck Mr. Clark-Johnson in the lower back.”
Officials say Clark-Johnson received medical attention, but died from his injuries two days later. Investigators who were tasked with connecting the robbery call to the deadly shooting found that the car and suspects were not a match.
“Subsequent investigations determined that Mr. Clark-Johnson was not in possession of a firearm and after several hours on scene, investigators obtained video from the Super Deluxe, which confirmed that the suspect vehicle was not involved in the robbery,” the new transcripts read.
It’s still unclear why the suspects ran, but authorities say Clark-Johnson had several warrants for his arrest and the vehicle was reported stolen.
The new grand jury transcripts also offer a clearer picture of Officer Sathoff’s mindset and perceived threat as he watched Clark-Johnson reportedly run with a hand in his pocket.
“He’s still got his hands in his pockets, and I don’t know why. I believed that he was going for a gun at this time, because I know that, from my training and my experience, that’s typically where subjects or suspects keep guns,” he said in his testimony. “It’s the right front jacket pocket, waistband or a rear holster. It’s for quick access. It’s so they can get to it and engage with us. It was at that point that I realized the risks…”
The full grand jury transcripts can be found below:
Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.