IT WAS LESS than a minute since Portland cops Michele Boer and Bradley Kula had driven their cruisers to the top of a parking garage on NE 7th and Lloyd late March 4 in search of some quiet time filling out reports and chatting.
A BMW—black, with Washington plates, and its headlights off—coasted off the same ramp the officers had taken and parked several feet away. It didn't look right.
"There's really no reason for him to be up there with us," Kula said later.
Boer and Kula quickly split their cars up and headed in for a closer look. Seconds later, the BMW trunk was flung open, a man had pulled out a Benelli Nova 12-gauge shotgun, and Kula and Boer were diving from their cars in the tense beginning of a short and fatal "gun battle."
Maybe no more than 45 seconds later, Iraq war vet Santiago A. Cisneros III, 32, was prone on the floor of the garage, bleeding out from nine shots—one piercing his jugular—that struck him as he calmly, methodically stalked Boer with his weapon.
Both cops were rattled but unharmed. Cisneros died an hour later at nearby Legacy Emanuel hospital—marking the coda to Portland's second police shooting this year. The story of the shooting emerged in grand jury transcripts and in police audio released last week—answering some questions, but not all, about why a beloved vet with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder had shot at two cops in a confrontation his mother could hear from the cell phone he left in his car.
"It was just like he was attacking us, and he wanted us dead," Boer testified.
Boer, in fact, never even put her car in park. She jumped out when Cisneros fired at her, hiding behind it as he kept stalking her—still pumping out rounds. Kula had done the same, crouching behind his own cruiser, and both were looking through the slim window of air between their cars and the pavement for Cisneros' feet.
Police radio audio, released during a news conference last Thursday, April 4, captured the terror in the cops' voices as they called for backup.
"We need more cars here right now," a tearful Boer shouts between blasts.
Kula drew at least one shot from Cisneros, who noticed the cop firing at him from down low. But both said Cisneros focused mostly on Boer, who'd been closer to the BMW.
"If he gets a shot off at Michele with that rifle, she's going to die," Kula said.
She almost did. Boer says she lost sight of Cisneros while looking for his feet—and turned around to find him a few feet away.
"I saw his face, I saw his stance, I saw his whole body, I saw the barrel of the gun," she testified. "And that's when my mind started, almost like a Rolodex, and I just started thinking of my family and that this was it."
But Cisneros had run out of ammo, having fired four shots and already racked out a live round before the firefight started. Boer fled behind Cisneros' car while Kula kept firing—emptying his 9mm of all 18 bullets.
Finally, a few seconds later, Cisneros set his gun on the ground and laid down beside it. The two cops held fire, but Kula was wary because he could still see Cisneros moving.
"The fucking gun is right there. Don't let that fucker move. He's still got his gun out," Kula was shouting, according to another officer, Ney Phothivongsa, who'd arrived in response to the distress call.
Cisneros eventually went still, and other cops rushed in, pulling the gun away and searching and handcuffing him until paramedics showed up a few seconds behind. He was "gurgling," one cop said, blood leaking from his legs and neck, his eyes rolling to the back of his head.
Boer said, afterward, that she felt like she couldn't breathe and that her "gun started shaking all over the place."
"She was just hysterical, scared, I mean, it just happened," Phothivongsa said of Boer. "She was crying and yelling. She started as we were walking out."
Kula also needed some calming down, Sergeant Jeff McDaniel testified. "'He fucking ambushed us. He fucking shot right at me," McDaniel said Kula told him. "And I said, 'It's okay, Brad, we got him now. I got a whole bunch of cops back there. We're okay. Go ahead and holster up."
Detectives said music was still blaring from Cisneros' empty car. His cell phone was still plugged in.