LAWYERS FOR the family of James Chasse released a video to the media last week suggesting Portland Police Officer Christopher Humphreys may have lied to internal affairs detectives about how he took Chasse to the ground two years ago. Chasse died in police custody.
The video, taken in the booking area of the Multnomah County Detention Center on SW 3rd—where Chasse was taken briefly on September 17, 2006, before he died—clearly shows Humphreys saying, "We tackled him." His colleague, Sheriff's Deputy Bret Burton, responds by saying "oof," imitating the noise Chasse made when he hit the ground at the corner of NW 13th and Everett.
Chasse's lawyer, Tom Steenson, employed a consultant to enhance the audio on the tape. Humphreys' statement on the tape appears to contradict what Humphreys told Internal Affairs Detective Lynn Courtney in an interview on September 20, 2006.
"I gave him a really hard shove with my forearms on his back," said Humphreys. "I mean, it tripped up his rhythm, uh, I think maybe he took one step after I hit him and he went down and I went right past him about one step."
Humphreys also told Courtney he hit the pavement, instead of landing on Chasse. However, Chasse's autopsy indicated the man suffered 17 broken ribs. Police Chief Rosie Sizer issued a joint statement with the city attorney's office last Thursday, October 30, after the story broke in the Portland Tribune.
"Our system of justice depends on a careful and complete presentation of the evidence before an unbiased jury," read the statement. "We believe that the selective release of potential evidence before trial is not consistent with this principle."
Sizer, who has yet to conclude the internal affairs investigation into the incident, also told the Oregonian she wanted internal affairs detectives to go back and review Humphreys' statements to see if it would be appropriate to open a new investigation in light of the release of the video.
"Good cops and good deputies don't want to work with bad apples," says Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland, who has been calling for Humphreys' job since the incident. "It's embarrassing, for the sake of good cops and good deputies, to see this film emerge."