The police officer who shot and killed Aaron Campbell with an assault rifle during a standoff in late January has been placed on unpaid leave, police officials confirmed this afternoon.
But Portland Police Bureau spokeswoman Lt. Kelli Sheffer wouldn't say whether Chief Mike Reese's decision to suspend Officer Ron Frashour last week was related to Campbell's death.
Sheffer did say, however, that the bureau's internal review of the case is ongoing and that Reese has received a report by the bureau's Use of Force Review Board. Frashour fired the shot that killed Campbell, although and he and three other officers involved in the incident were never charged criminally in Campbell's death.
- Jon Sperry
Sheffer also said there's no timetable for Reese to make a final decision on the fate of the four officers—Frashour along with Officer Ryan Lewton and Sgts. John Birkinbine and Liani Reyna. But while Sheffer declined to detail the board's recommendations, to "protect the integrity of the process," a Willamette Week report citing unnamed sources said the board recommended Frashour be fired. That story also said the board recommended 80 hours of unpaid leave for Lewton, 40 hours for Reyna, who was in charge of the scene initially, and 20 hours for Birkinbine.
Police arrived at Campbell’s house on the afternoon of January 29 after his girlfriend’s aunt called 911, alarmed that she was unable to reach her niece and telling police that Campbell was suicidal and had a gun. A hostage negotiator, Officer James Quackenbush, reached Campbell on his cell phone and talked with him about the pain he over the recent death of his brother. Campbell, complying with the negotiator, came out of the house walking backwards with his hands over his head when Officer Lewton shot him six times in the back with a beanbag gun. As Campbell reached down toward his lower back, Officer Frashour opened fire with his AR-15 rifle.
More on the review process and thoughts from Portland Cop Watch's Dan Handelman below the cut.
A Multnomah County grand jury raised serious questions about the shooting and asked Lewton why he decided to fire a beanbag round at Campbell. Lewton could not answer why he fired, despite evidence Campbell was mentally ill. Advocates and others believe that if Lewton had not fired first, then neither would have Frashour.
While glad the board is reportedly proposing to discipline Lewton, Portland Cop Watch's Dan Handelman said "he should be fired" for his role in the shooting.
Jo Ann Bowman, of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, seconds that call. "No question he should be fired. The commander on the scene should be suspended for not managing the scene appropriately as well," says Bowman.
When an officer fatally shoots someone in Portland, they first face a criminal investigation which is presented before a grand jury. The grand jury in the case of Campbell decided it could not indict Frashour, but noted in a letter to the district attorney that they were “outraged” at the incident, writing, "Portland deserves better. Aaron Campbell deserved better."
After the grand jury decision, the police begin an internal review of the death, with multiple departments reporting to the police review board whether proper protocol was followed. The names of the people who serve on the review board are not public but it includes one citizen along with a peer officer, training personnel and an assistant chief.
Starting Wednesday, September 1, a controversial change to the review board goes into effect, allowing a supervising officer to sit on the committee while it reviews the investigation into their subordinate. A newly selected panel of citizens also will handle force complaints.
Handelman said the reported discipline is a good sign, given that the board overseeing the Campbell case is made up mostly of law enforcement personnel. But even if Reese decides to fire Frashour, it’s unclear whether he’ll be let go. He can appeal the decision to an arbitrator and possibly be reinstated. Handelman recalls two other cases in which cops were fired but ultimately allowed to keep working.
The arbitrator's rationale in keeping the fired cops on the force, Handelman said, was that no other police had previously been fired over use of force complaints.
Asks Handelman: "Then how do they ever start if they keep saying no one's ever fired them for this before?"