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December 01, 2005
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Ore. chief clears officers in disputed death

MAXINE BERNSTEIN, The Oregonian
 
Copyright 2005 The Oregonian
All Rights Reserved

Portland Police Chief Derrick Foxworth concluded that former Officer Jason Sery's use of deadly force in the March 2004 fatal shooting of James Jahar Perez fell within Portland Police Bureau policy, according to a report issued Monday.

The chief also found that Officer Sean Macomber's use of a Taser during the same encounter with Perez also met police policy.

Although the chief approved of each officers' actions following an internal review, he's pushed through changes in training, tactics and police policies that stemmed from the Perez shooting and other controversial shootings.

The chief described the changes in a 27-page report to the community that comes 20 months after the shooting. He said the report was drafted to respond to community concerns and had to be reviewed by city attorneys and the police union before its release.

"Given the seriousness of this incident, and the concern that many citizens had, I felt we needed to prepare a report to the community," Foxworth said.

The report comes out exactly a week before the Perez family is expected to ask a federal judge to rule that the Police Bureau's policy on deadly force is unconstitutional. The motion, to be heard at 2 p.m. Monday before U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman, is part of a $10 million civil rights suit the Perez family filed against the city.

"The bottom line is that Judge Mosman is being asked by the Perez family to rule that the Portland deadly force policy violates the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and is unconstitutional," said Elden Rosenthal, the attorney for the Perez family.

Rosenthal said he could not comment on the chief's report on the shooting because he had not read it.

Officers, under the bureau's policy, may use deadly force to protect themselves or others from what they reasonably believe to be an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury.

Rosenthal will argue that the Police Bureau's policy is unconstitutional and Perez's civil rights were violated because Sery needed, under federal law, probable cause to believe Perez posed an immediate threat to him or his fellow officer before shooting him.

The Perez shooting caused a public uproar. After the shooting, Sery and Macomber gave their versions of the traffic stop in a televised public inquest. They stopped Perez, 28, for failing to signal at least 100 feet before making a turn. They had been following the car, a white 1997 Mitsubishi with tinted windows and chrome wheels, because it "stood out" as a luxury sedan in the North Portland working-class neighborhood, Macomber testified.

Perez was shot after officers were unable to remove him from the car and take him into custody for not having a driver's license. Sery shot him three times when he saw Perez pull a clenched fist from his right pocket, thinking he was pulling a gun out. Macomber then fired his Taser gun at Perez.

Perez, who was not armed, died of a gunshot to the heart. An autopsy showed he had cocaine in his blood and bags of drugs in his mouth and left pants pocket.

A Multnomah County grand jury holding a public inquest into the Perez shooting in 2004 urged the bureau to rethink its training.

Foxworth said officers now are taught to use control holds to get an uncooperative occupant out of a vehicle, or a Taser or pepper spray. They're also taught to try to get the driver to hand over the keys and are reminded never to reach or lean into a vehicle.

Sery resigned in August 2004 from the Police Bureau, saying he had decided to become a teacher at a Beaverton Christian school and work toward becoming a pastor. 
 
November 30, 2005

Full story: Ore. chief clears officers in disputed death






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