Jack Pollock
In early June, four Reed College students, hanging out in Portland over summer break, headed downtown to smoke, drink, talk loud, and play pool. The air was still and they were giddy--a perfect summer evening. That is, until two Portland patrol officers slammed them against a brick wall and shook them down.The students parked their SUV on the far side of Fourth Avenue and began walking across the road to the Rialto, a local pool hall. Not five seconds later, two police officers--one male, one female--came running down the street toward them. The male officer had his weapon drawn and pointed at the ground as he dashed toward the group. A third cop on a motorcycle pulled into the intersection.

As the two officers reached the group of students, they began yelling, "Stop where you are! Put your hands in the air!" Then they began shouting, "Who's got the gun?" repeating this phrase over and over. The students, who just left a movie at the Clinton Street Theater, were confused.

Two more patrol cars pulled up. The officers began to frisk each of the students. One of them, a 24-year-old with buzzed hair and a goatee, was pushed spread-eagle against a building. With the man's hands placed behind his head, the cop pulled back his fingers--it is classic procedure for subduing a rowdy perpetrator, even though the man hadn't resisted.

Another officer demanded the keys to their parked truck so they could search for a firearm. At first, the driver refused. He didn't want the cops going through his laundry. Finally, he acquiesced, and the cops searched through a sack of dirty underwear in his backseat.

"Were you playing rap music in your car?" "Yes," answered the driver. "What's that got to do with anything?" "Were there gunshots discharged in the music?" "No."

One of the officers explained that someone reported shots fired. They claimed that the description of the shooter was a man in his early 20's with buzzed hair. He was reported to be wearing blue jeans and a white t-shirt. The students looked at their friend who was still pushed against the wall. "But," noticed one of the students, "he's not wearing blue jeans." The cops paused. They conferred. And moments later, they released the students.

Inside the Rialto, the students asked around. No one had heard gunshots.