One of the more eyebrow-raising angles in Saturday morning's shooting at Club 915 came—reportedly—from Portland's police commissioner, Mayor Sam Adams. According to KATU, the mayor, citing preliminary findings, suggested the traffic division sergeant who fired his gun amid the chaos outside the club may have done so accidentally.
It's no surprise why that statement is so alarming. Of all the reasons why an officer might fire a weapon, the inability to control it would be among the most troubling—even more so than an intentional shooting that winds up violating bureau policy. And given the mob scene in the wake of Mata's shooting, with hundreds of people rushing about, the consequences of that kind of lapse—if true—could easily have been fatal.
But is that really what investigators have found so far? Acknowledging the sensitivity involving any such finding, Lt. Kelli Sheffer, a police spokeswoman, told me a few minutes ago that the report is "not accurate." As such, police officials are blaming "miscommunication."
"We don't have any information that indicates that," she said, acknowledging she hadn't talked with Adams but taking pains to praise him for being a regular and sympathetic face at shooting scene after shooting scene. Still, "I don't know where that's coming from.... We would not say that unless the conclusion of the investigation revealed that. We're just starting, and we haven't made any conclusions."
For several reasons—especially with a grand jury hearing pending and after a run of recent, high-profile police shootings—it's clear this is an angle the police bureau desperately is hoping to shut down.
If in fact that is one of the unfolding investigation's working theories, the bureau would want to control how that information is released. (Citing the investigation, police have so far declined to identify the officer who fired his weapon or give details about how and why he did so.) And even if it really was a flub, either on the mayor's part or the media outlets that ran with the angle, then there's the concern it might take root in public perception nonetheless.
There's one person who knows for sure whether he was misquoted—or not. And I've left two messages for the mayor this afternoon, asking if he can help set the record straight. I'll even tweet this after it posts. I will update if and when I hear back from him.
Below the cut, Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman responds to the most recent shooting—a letter that was supposed to be about another officer-involved shooting on December 27.
For those hoping the upward trend of Portland Police shootings was over,
here's a happy new year: An unnamed officer shot into a crowd outside a
nightclub following a melee in which a civilian shot and killed a bouncer
at the club. The Oregonian on-line story (below) indicates that nobody was
hit, that the officer wasn't named, and that the police don't know whether
it was an accidental discharge.
My original intent was just to send out the information about Marcus
Lagozzino, the 34 year old who was in mental health crisis, and was shot
on December 27 that we noted in an earlier email.
Aside from the truly disturbing implications that this was yet another
person who needed mental health help but ended up shot by the police, I
want to be sure people notice this was the third shooting of 2010 by an
officer with an AR-15 assault rifle. Why is this quasi military weapon,
which has a range of 300 yards, being used so often by our local police
As for the incident, why didn't the police make a plan that included
the probability that Lagozzino would come at them with his machete? Did
they use their Crisis Intervention Team training that yelling commands at
someone in crisis will not be effective because they won't hear you?
Why did they find it necessary to mention the size of the machete (22") in
the same way they mentioned the length of the handle of the X-acto knife
carried by Jack Collins in March (6" handle, but 1" blade)?
I hope we can keep the pressure up to demand an end to this reckless use
of firearms in Portland. As much attention that has been on the Bureau in
the last year, they seem to be moving in the wrong direction.