ADALBERTO FLORES-HARO'S nightmare began just before 10 pm on March 13, 2012. His wife, according to court documents, saw a man in black dart through their backyard in North Portland's New Columbia.
Flores-Haro went out the front door with his handgun to confront what he assumed were burglars. But those "burglars" were Washington County cops clad in tactical gear. They were out helping Portland officers serve a warrant a couple of doors down.
And Flores-Haro, standing in the doorway of his own home, his children cowering inside, was almost immediately shot seven times. (Police initially said Flores-Haro fired, too.) He lived, but barely—eventually filing a federal civil rights lawsuit that September. His nightmare has been in a slow burn ever since.
Until this winter, the Mercury has learned.
On February 11—almost 23 months after Flores-Haro was shot, and almost 21 months after the three cops who fired at him were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing—a Multnomah County grand jury indicted the 33-year-old on six criminal counts in connection with the shooting.
The threat of charges had already held up Flores-Haro's civil rights case—and now that delay will continue until his criminal case is settled.
The timing of the indictment, meanwhile, has activists—and even one of Flores-Haro's attorneys—up in arms.
"It seems like retaliation," says Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch—an accountability advocate who's been closely tracking police shootings and their aftermath for the past 22 years. "Either they charged them right away or there never were charges filed."
Just one of Flores-Haro's charges is a felony, according to court documents: possession of methamphetamine. The rest are misdemeanors: one count of menacing, one count of second-degree disorderly conduct, and three counts of recklessly endangering another person—one for each cop. Flores-Haro pleaded not guilty on February 14 and was allowed to remain with his family.
Meanwhile, one very serious accusation, mentioned in federal court, is notably absent: assaulting, or firing a gun at, a police officer.
"I have never heard of it taking almost two years to charge a person alleged to have shot at the police, especially where, within a few weeks of the incident, the investigation was sufficient to conclude the officers didn't do anything wrong," says J. Ashlee Albies, Flores-Haro's attorney in federal court. "You have to wonder what took them so long. He's been indicted now because he has pursued his rights by filing a civil rights suit for being the victim of an unjustified police shooting."
The decision was made with little fanfare, either by the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office or the Portland Police Bureau, whose detectives were called way back in 2012 to investigate.
It also comes with no real public accounting—not yet—of why Flores-Haro was charged. Prosecutor Christopher Ramras has declined to release potentially illuminating police reports associated with the case, citing concerns about tainting witness testimony.
"They've released police reports before, and they've released them with redactions," Albies says. "And that tells the story. There are ways to deal with those concerns that involve more public oversight."
Ramras also says a probable cause affidavit—traditionally a road map to the prosecution's legal argument—wasn't produced in this case. Those affidavits, Ramras said, generally are used to hold someone in jail longer while a grand jury deliberates. Flores-Haro was never in custody.
"We don't make the decision to charge someone to be retaliatory," Ramras says. "We make the decision on what we think the evidence can support."
Ramras said he couldn't comment specifically on why the grand jury in Flores-Haro's case was kept active for nearly two years. And Flores-Haro's criminal attorney, Lynne Dickison, didn't return repeated messages seeking comment.
But the answer seems to involve whether Flores-Haro fired at officers or not.
In Flores-Haro's federal case, lawyers for the cops he's suing—John Egg and Brian McLeod of Washington County, and Steven Slade of Hillsboro—have filed paperwork explicitly claiming he fired his weapon. But claims in civil court don't have to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, like they would in a criminal case. Flores-Haro also has claimed he wasn't warned he was confronting cops—until they shot him. The officers he's sued have disputed that.
In taking so long to charge, it could be that prosecutors and Portland detectives were turning over every stone possible to see if they could charge Flores-Haro with the most serious crimes possible. Until they decided it was impossible.
"We take it pretty seriously that we not overcharge something," Ramras says. "And we want to make sure we have something that the evidence will support."
Flores-Haro still hasn't been back to work, Albies says, and remains traumatized by what happened, along with his entire family.
"They walked his kids out of the house, over their father who was bleeding," Albies says, "with their guns pointed at them. It's outrageous."