THE PORTLAND POLICE OFFICER who shot Aaron Campbell in the back with an assault rifle—killing the distraught, unarmed man outside his home in January—has been fired, Police Chief Mike Reese announced on Tuesday, November 16.
In a scathing discipline letter that accompanied the announcement, Reese told Officer Ron Frashour that his use of deadly force in the shooting "was outside bureau policy, training, and expectations."
Frashour, the letter says, fired at Campbell without any evidence he was armed—and was so fixated on Campbell as a threat that he "never considered" the possibility he might not be.
Reese on Tuesday also handed down unpaid, two-week suspensions to three other officers who contributed to Campbell's death.
Officer Ryan Lewton was reprimanded for firing a series of beanbag rounds that sent Campbell running for cover—leading Frashour to fire—all because Campbell had refused to move his hands from behind his head to above his head.
Sergeants Liani Reyna and John Birkinbine were disciplined for failing to take charge or widely share critical information about Campbell's "positive" communications with a hostage negotiator, oversights that allowed a tense situation to turn deadly.
"There are 400,000 interactions with citizens a year, the vast majority of them positive," Mayor Sam Adams, who signed off on Reese's decisions, told the Mercury. "But on the occasion where somebody acts outside of policy, and someone dies because of it, discipline is warranted."
The police bureau also released the Use of Force Review Board's report on the shooting, and the bureau's internal affairs investigation—an attempt to explain the discipline to fellow officers as much as to members of the public.
Taken together, they paint a picture of a chaotic standoff, but one on the verge of being defused, if only everyone had done their jobs properly. Instead, the lapses compounded—leaving a 25-year-old man who wasn't accused of any crime to die outside his Northeast Portland apartment.
Campbell's family had called 911 because he was distraught over his brother's death and threatened suicide, and he had willingly emerged from his apartment when he was shot.
Earlier this year, a grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing, but took the unusual step of ripping into the bureau. The city and the four officers disciplined on Tuesday have also been named in a federal lawsuit filed by Campbell's family. Speaking through their attorney, Tom Steenson, the family declined to talk, other than to thank the public and say, "Justice will run its course."
In its own withering response to Tuesday's announcement, the Portland Police Association cited that pending fight. The union accused Adams and Reese of deciding to "sacrifice" the careers of the four officers in a bid to "minimize political and civil liability."
"Today we can say that the rank and file of the Portland Police Bureau have lost faith in their leaders," the statement also said. Neither city officials nor Union President Daryl Turner responded to questions from the Mercury asking how or whether the discipline announcement might affect ongoing talks toward a new union contract.
Community members and police reform activists, meanwhile, had long been urging Adams and Reese to fire Frashour. Tuesday, they applauded the decision as a sign their voices had been heard. The Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform is planning a vigil outside the police bureau's North Precinct Wednesday, November 17, at 6 pm.
"We've always wanted disciplinary action to be taken," Rev. Dr. T. Allen Bethel told the Mercury. "We applaud the chief and the mayor for supporting and standing with the recommendation that's come from the performance review board."
But many also said they were disappointed the other officers didn't receive harsher discipline. Advocates wanted Lewton fired, too. They also fret that an arbitrator might overturn Frashour's dismissal—which is precisely what's happened every other time a Portland cop has been fired.
Frashour, however, has been reprimanded twice before for questionable judgment surrounding use of force. In 2008, he joined a pursuit for a reckless driver but wound up ramming a car that didn't match the one he was supposed to be looking for. Last year, he Tasered a man without warning, sparking a case that wound up costing the city money.
That the city's police review board also has signed off on the discipline is a good omen, advocates say.
"Given this particular guy's history, I can't see any way an arbitrator would overturn" the discipline, said Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch. "It's not like it's his first offense."
Of course, Frashour might land on his feet even if the firing does stick.
“Frashour will receive a job offer from another bureau in the morning,” says Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland. “Police departments all over the country are hiring.”