PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The deadly shooting of Jason Washington on Friday occurred nearly three years after Portland State University first introduced sworn officers to its campus security department.
It was the first officer-involved shooting for the department. And while some of PSU’s police officers have spent many years working in a similar capacity for other law enforcement agencies, others — including Officers Shawn McKenzie and Patrick Dewey, who were involved in Friday’s shooting — had relatively little experience carrying a gun as a sworn officer.
The Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, or DPSST, which certifies sworn officers, keeps training and certification records for law enforcement officers in the state. The agency’s public records show that McKenzie joined PSU’s Department of Public Safety in 2008 as a campus public safety officer. Campus public safety officers are not allowed to be armed on the job. McKenzie was then reclassified as a sworn officer in 2016, which enabled him to carry a gun for police work.
Records show that Dewey was employed at the Beaverton Police Department in a reserve capacity for two years; in 2016, he was hired as an officer at PSU.
PSU published a campus public safety report in late 2017 that announced that Dewey had graduated from basic academy earlier in the year. He and two other officers were said to be working independently of their training officers, the report continued, “working toward competing [sic] their probationary status by the middle of next year.”
KOIN 6 News asked PSU whether Dewey was still on probationary status at the time of the shooting on Friday. A spokesperson said the university could not comment on personnel matters.
At least one witness, Mohammed Tuffa, told KOIN 6 News that Washington appeared to be running away from the scuffle in the moments before he was shot and killed. Cellphone video suggests that Washington, a Navy veteran, was trying to break up a bar fight that occurred at the Cheerful Tortoise. The video shows that Washington was openly carrying a gun on his hip; the gun fell from his shorts when he was knocked to the ground during the fight.
PSU’s Campus Public Safety Office manual states that use of deadly force can be justified in order to stop a fleeing subject when an officer has probable cause to believe the subject intends to commit “a felony involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious bodily injury or death,” or if the officer has reason to believe there is an “imminent risk” if the subject is not immediately apprehended.
The manual explains that “imminent does not mean immediate or instantaneous,” and does not imply that the subject in question is pointing a weapon at someone. In this case, imminent could mean that the person has a weapon or attempting to access one, and that officers have reason to believe the subject will use the weapon against an officer or another person.
Neither PSU nor Portland Police Bureau, which is investigating the officer-involved shooting, would answer questions about the shooting, given the ongoing nature of the investigation. Public records show that both Dewey and McKenzie completed three hours apiece of verbal de-escalation training in 2017, as well as three hours of Taser-related training, as part of the annual re-certification process to carry the electroshock weapon.
A page of frequently asked questions published by PSU around the time at which the university introduced sworn officers to its campus safety department acknowledges the concerns community members had raised regarding the necessity of armed officers on campus.
According to the university’s website, “Police officers are armed as a deterrent to those who might choose to use violence against officers or community members. Officers are armed because there is no way to accurately predict what subjects or situations might threaten life.”
The site also published the results of a poll showing that a majority of students — 58 percent — opposed the creation of a sworn police force, though less than 6 percent of the student body participated in the survey.
An investigation into an officer-involved shooting in Portland can take weeks or months to complete. After Portland Police Bureau finishes its investigation, a grand jury will decide whether the officers had a legal justification to use deadly force in the situation.