THERE IS NO DOUBT Paul Stewart is a bad and dangerous man.
"The evidence that the defendant is a predictable source of violence is overwhelming," said Judge Michael Marcus, sentencing Stewart to 10 years in jail on Monday, June 16, after Stewart pled guilty to coercion, being a felon in possession of a firearm, unlawful use of a weapon, two counts of fourth degree assault, harassment, and strangulation.
The question is, whether a police officer was justified in shooting the unarmed man, in the back of the head, and why Stewart—who was lucky to survive—had the book thrown at him following the incident, meanwhile, the officer involved continues to patrol the streets 10 months later, with an investigation into her actions still incomplete.
Stewart was violating the terms of his probation for attempted murder by having contact with his girlfriend, Tracy Wilkie, when Wilkie called police to Stewart's apartment near SE 125th and Stark at 6:30 am on August 20, 2007. Wilkie told the police Stewart had threatened to kill her. Half an hour later, officers from the cops' Special Emergency Response Team reported seeing Stewart inside the apartment with a gun—although they turned out to be mistaken, and Stewart was unarmed. Wilkie and her son, James, left the apartment at 7:50 am, then four minutes later Officer Stephanie Rabey shot Stewart in the head, behind his right ear, through the apartment's window.
Under Oregon law, Rabey would have to believe Stewart was an imminent threat to himself or others to be justified in pulling the trigger. District Attorney Mike Schrunk is supposed to carry out a grand jury hearing when officers use deadly force to find out if they met that standard, but in this case, he told the Oregonian he had chosen not to do so because "nobody was hurt," even though medical records show Stewart was treated at OHSU for a gunshot wound, and had to undergo two CAT scans over an eight-hour period to rule out a brain hemorrhage.
The cops' public information officer, Brian Schmautz, also told the Oregonian at the time he thought Stewart's injuries were the result of flying glass, and that they were no more serious than a "Band-Aid wound."
"He had just a very little cut," Schmautz told the Oregonian. "I have a hard time believing you'd get such a superficial wound from a bullet."
"They lied," says Stewart, who has been at Inverness Jail since the shooting. "I think they were trying to protect their officers."
Schmautz told the Mercury on Monday, June 16, that he was relying on information from investigators in making his statement.
"If at some point there is something I say that's inaccurate, it's inaccurate, that doesn't mean it's untruthful," he said.
Yet no matter how serious Stewart's injuries actually were, the relative pace and vigor of investigation into his conduct compared to that of Officer Rabey is striking.
"I feel like the district attorney is biased," said Stewart, at his sentencing on Monday. "You'll convict me, whether I'm guilty or not, but won't let an officer who did a wrongful shooting go before a grand jury. That's biased."
"I think the system is looking for a way to keep him quiet because as Judge Marcus said at least twice in open court, [Stewart] was shot for no reason," says Portland Copwatch activist Dan Handelman. "So the best way to keep him quiet is to keep him locked up."
"Regardless of whether he's innocent or guilty, in order for him to persue a complaint about excessive force he needs to be free," Handelman continues. "And now they're going to see to it that he's locked up for 10 years."
District Attorney Schrunk did not return a call for comment.
"I understand why people would say [10 months] is a long time," said Schmautz, referring to the police bureau's ongoing investigation into the shooting. Schmautz is unsure when the investigation will be completed.