OFFICER CHRIS HUMPHREYS looked a little sheepish outside Room 356 at the Multnomah County Courthouse on Friday, February 26.
Humphreys was served with a subpoena to testify for the defense in the case against a 13-year-old girl whom he had shot with a beanbag shotgun on November 14, 2009. The girl, whom the Mercury is not naming because of her age, was just 12 at the time, but the district attorney's office has continued to pursue charges against her for assaulting a public safety officer, interfering with public transportation, and resisting arrest.
Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman suspended Humphreys over the incident last year and released TriMet video of it to the public. Humphreys' suspension prompted 650 police union members to rally at city hall in his defense wearing T-shirts reading: "I am Chris Humphreys" ["A Line in the Sand," News, Nov 26, 2009]. Saltzman subsequently revoked the suspension, but Humphreys has been off work on a stress disability claim ever since.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Riedel opened arguments for the prosecution saying the case was about the girl "attacking Officer Aaron Dauchy," Humphreys' partner that night.
"But it's also important that we discuss what this case is not about," Riedel continued. "It's not about a beanbag. It's not about other officers. It's not about ad hoc opinions and Monday morning quarterbacking."
Officer Dauchy told the court that he grabbed hold of the girl's hair as he was trying to arrest her for violating an earlier exclusion from MAX—after she struggled when he removed her purse, saying, "You don't have to touch me."
"She pulled away," he said. "She could have fallen forward and gone into traffic on Burnside. I reached out to gain control of her; trying to get on anything I could get a hold of, to gain control of. I was reaching out for anything I could to get a hold of her. I got hold of her hair briefly.
"I had her left arm, the hair," Dauchy continued. "I told her to stop resisting, and as I tried to pull her around, she turned round and punches me in the mouth with a closed fist. It surprised me. I hit her a couple of times, or several times with a closed fist." It was only then, that Humphreys shot the girl with his beanbag gun.
Defense Attorney Steven West served Humphreys with a subpoena in the case after learning that the prosecution was not going to call him as a witness. In the end, West decided he didn't need to call Humphreys in the case, and Humphreys quickly disappeared from the courtroom, shortly before a second defense attorney showed up with another subpoena for him in a different case.
"I've been trying to subpoena him for weeks now," said Lawrence Taylor, who is representing Lisa Coppock in her drawn-out criminal case relating to her alleged beating by Humphreys at a MAX stop last year ["Bad Apple Reputation," News, Jan 29, 2009].
Meanwhile, use-of-force expert Stephen Yerger said he had watched the video, and saw no reason for Officer Dauchy to reach out to grab the defendant's hair.
"If someone simply turns their head and says, 'Hey, don't touch me like that,' at that point we're going to have the officer go ahead and exert a little more pressure on the arm," Yerger said. "Because there's no other threat present that justifies the next level of force."
The hair grab was "unnecessary," said Yerger. "All I saw on the video was a slight shoulder turn and head turn," he continued. "There was no assault, no active resistance, there was no threat."
West also drew Judge Paula Kurshner's repeated attention to the defendant's age.
"What's most important is this involved a 12-year-old girl with mental health issues," he said. "And a girl that both of these officers knew in advance was a 12-year-old-girl. They knew they were dealing with a 12-year-old-girl."
West said that the officers were "on a mission," and criticized their escalation of the incident by driving alongside the MAX train on Burnside for several blocks before cutting it off at SE 148th. He also drew the judge's attention to discrepancies between Dauchy's report and the TriMet video—Dauchy said he boarded the train because he saw "numerous people running off the train" when it stopped.
"I'm going to play the video for you," said West. "And I want you to yell 'stop' when you see that happen."
Nobody on the video could be seen running from the train, and Dauchy, who remained deadpan throughout, never said "stop."
The case was set to continue this Wednesday, March 3, at 10 am in juvenile court.