PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two years ago, Jason Washington was shot and killed by Portland State University police outside the Cheerful Tortoise near campus. That event led to a movement to disarm PSU campus officers.
That initial effort failed, but campus activists have renewed their efforts to disarm the campus police in the wake of major Black Lives Matter protests across the country.
At Monday’s vigil and march in Washington’s name on the PSU campus, his widow Michelle read a moving poem describing her heartbreak since her husband was shot and killed.
“A weight sits upon my chest, pressing down so hard I feel as if I can’t breathe, but it lets up just enough to still allow me to live and feel the immense pain of you not being here with me,” she said.
Michelle Washington, who met Jason when she was 15 years old, shared how devastated she was when she lost the father of her three daughters.
“If anyone could imagine what it’s like to have your soulmate ripped away from you, someone you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with,” she said.
Meanwhile, a petition calling for Portland State to disarm its campus police officers is circulating again. The campaign, supported by PDX Black Excellence, also has a write-in component encouraging participants to email university officials.
In a statement Monday afternoon, PSU President Stephen Percy said the university is
“working with the Washington family to establish the Jason Washington Memorial Scholarship to honor Mr. Washington, and we will be commissioning an art piece on campus as a memorial to this tragic loss of life. These are critical steps on our collective healing journey and provide lasting reminders that from grief and tragedy we must learn and we must change.
“Our path to healing, learning and changing will include significant work at PSU, including considering our approaches to campus safety and taking a bold look at the ways systemic racism and anti-blackness show up on our campus.”
Percy also attended the march on Monday evening, and told KOIN 6 News he was “in a very major listening period, listening clearly and carefully to people who have a position.”
“It was a real tragedy,” he said. “People felt very badly about the loss of life here.”
Washington was killed outside the Cheerful Tortoise on June 29, 2018. He had a concealed weapon permit and had a gun when he was shot. But documents show he took the gun from his friend earlier in the evening to keep his friend from getting into trouble.
A grand jury ruled no criminal prosecution of Officer James Dewey and Officer Shawn McKenzie was warranted in the shooting, which occurred near the PSU campus at SW 6th Avenue and College Street.