OPB's Think Out Loud is taking on the fatal police shooting of homeless man Jackie Collins this morning. Before this point, the public has mostly weighed in via protests and blog comments.
I'll be liveblogging the show, so weigh in on the comments with your thoughts or opinions on the questions and dialogue.
Emily Harris kicks off the show noting that this is the second police shooting in two months, "What is similar and what is different about these two shootings? How do they affect your view of the police?"
Question for the medical examiner: Had Collins been drinking or doing any drugs?
Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson replied that she could not smell alcohol on the man and her on the scene investigators did not find any bottles or drug paraphernalia, but the tests aren't done. "I can't tell you yet because we have to do toxicology test and those take a couple weeks," says Gunson. This is relevant because the person who called 911 initially described Collins as a "drunk transient." As his later wounds appear self-inflicted, it's possible that Collins was not drunk but in severe emotional distress.
Collins also had lung disease, says the examiner. Definitely signs of a hard life.
Harris asked Dr. Gunson is she had seen the knife Collins was waving at Officer James Walters, but I wish the doctor would elaborate on what the knife actually looked like. The police have described the knife as a "razor knife with a six-inch handle" which makes me ask... what the hell is a razor knife? And why would the cops emphasize the handle length rather than, you know, the length of the part that actually does the cutting. That description makes it sound like Collins was wielding a box cutter. Those have about six-inch handles, but "razor knife" sounds much more fearsome than "box cutter."
That's it — Dr. Gunson just described a photo of the scene as Collins' body lying crumpled on the ground next to a box cutter. Should we scrap this "razor knife" description?
Police union President Scott Westerman just joined the show. He has a tendency to shoot his mouth off a bit, so this could get interesting.
Why didn't the officer use a Taser, asks Harris. "Officer Walters was by himself at this time and Taser success rate is not 100 percent, especially with multiple layers of closing, so what happens when the Taser fails?" replies Westerman.
I'm going to jump below the cut now, keep tuning in.
Westerman admits that he has not actually spoken with the officer involved in the shooting, Officer James Walters, just the officer's lawyer. That does not stop him, though, from leaping the justify why the officer brought his gun to a knife fight.
"Why didn't the officer use a Taser?" asks a caller.
"This man wasn't reacting when he had a live firearm pointed at him and the officer screaming 'Drop the knife! Drop the knife! Drop the knife!'" says Westerman.
April Baer is describing the protest last night, which met up in Colonel Summers Park. There were about 100 people there, says Baer, but it "wasn't a formal protest." She notes that there was a drum circle, but that the people she spoke with were angry about the police and there was a good deal of will to do something right then. Like a march. Which took two hours to start.
As for how media got kicked out of the meeting, Baer says she didn't see what happened there. "My impression was it was a group of people who had had less than ideal interactions with the media before," says Baer.
A good point from Baer: "There's no Jesse Jackson figure here. It could be that this man has no one to speak for him."
Will Portlanders get more angry about police shooting a black man than shooting a homeless man? Will we see homeless groups like Sisters of the Road or Street Roots take an activist position on this shooting, like Albina Ministerial Alliance did for Aaron Campbell?
Portland Mental Health Association lawyer and public defender Chris O'Connor makes an important distinction that a lot of reports (including mine) have overlooked before: Officer James Walters was not sent out to the scene by a police dispatcher. He was self-dispatched. When the 911 call came in complaining of a "drunk transient" harassing people in the park, the caller noted he was "not physically violent." Minutes later, he was shot.
Wow, another startling fact from Chris O'Connor: Portland is one of the only cities in the country were cops involved in shootings give VOLUNTARY statements to investigators. In other cities, they have to tell investigators their version of events, often on the same day the incident goes down. Officer Walters has still not been officially interviewed about the shooting.
Doesn't that seem like a problem? It has now been almost two days since Officer Walters shot Jackie Collins. His memory has to be shifting and fading and, frankly, it looks suspicious not to interview the officer right after the incident. The time lapse could give the officer time to get a story together that makes him not look bad.
Word fight! Razor knife vs. box cutter, razor knife vs. box cutter... and now police description of Collins as "charging" from the bathroom versus other accounts saying Collins "emerged" from the bathroom. That makes a big difference. Was the guy CHARGING Officer Walters with a razor knife or merely wandering around, confused and bleeding with a box cutter?
Westerman denies he ever used the word "charged" to describe the incident, despite media reports that report that's exactly the word he used.
Westerman is defending Officer Walter's choice to use force, "Officer Walters is a compassionate person, this is a vegan bicycle-riding police officer."
Harris jumped in, "Do being vegan and riding a bike make you compassionate?"
"No, but he's very Portland," replied Westerman.
WTF?! So if an officer shoots someone, don't worry, it's probably justified if he's Portland.
I missed a couple important points of this discussion, hopefully I can wrap up some of the questions Harris and listeners asked in posts later today. If you've got an extra hour in your life, listen to the entire broadcast here.