The Wrong Guy 

Man Tasered on Belmont after Dialing 911


CLIFTON BROOKS wishes he'd never set his bag down on the sidewalk.

On June 7, Brooks was on SE Belmont and 34th at around 9:30 pm, boarding the #15 bus to work, and he needed both hands free to put his bike on the rack. As he turned his back for a second, three men walked past, and one of them kicked his bag into the street, he says.

"I asked him what he thought he was doing," says Brooks. "And then he just charged straight at me."

Brooks says one of the two guys punched and kicked him, pushing him through the front window of the Anansi Beat percussion store, breaking it, before running off. Furious about what had happened, Brooks admits he lashed out, breaking an outside window at Hoda's restaurant next door.

"Then I asked the bus driver to call 911," says Brooks, "and he told me he already had."

Just to be sure, Brooks says he pulled out his own phone and dialed the emergency number. He stayed on the phone with the operator, responding to questions about his injuries and describing his two assailants, until the police pulled up.

"I approached them, but within seconds they were arresting me, and I didn't have a chance to tell them anything," says Brooks, who says he was pushed to the ground by Officers Joe Goodrich and Jerami McKinlay before he could even tell them which direction his attackers had fled. Officer Caralyne Sweeney arrived on the scene to find Brooks struggling with Goodrich, according to her arrest report.

"I ran toward the officers and heard the male screaming, 'You have the wrong guy,' and telling us to go find the subjects that assaulted him," wrote Sweeney, who then Tasered Brooks for seven seconds on the right shoulder to subdue him, before taking him into custody, she wrote, for breaking the restaurant window and resisting arrest.

Sweeney then gathered statements from witnesses of the fight. The bus driver, Ron Barker, said it was possible that Brooks had taunted his assailants first, Sweeney wrote. Meanwhile another witness, Dustin Lee, corroborated Brooks' version of events leading up to his breaking the window, saying that the other two men were the aggressors, according to Sweeney's report.

Officer McKinlay's report says he looked for the assault suspects without any success before encountering Brooks, having received an update "that the assault victim was acting crazy and had punched out a window."

Charges against Brooks—Resisting Arrest and Criminal Mischief I—were dismissed in court on the morning of June 9, prompting him to ask the police bureau for records relating to his arrest, so that he could better understand his treatment. Having lost his job at Union Pacific because he didn't show up for work on the night of the incident, Brooks also started going to the Multnomah County Courthouse on SW 4th each week to ask for information from the district attorney's office about his case.

"I just didn't understand why they had Tasered me without asking me for any information first," says Brooks. "And why I was the one who got arrested after I'd been assaulted and dialed 911, when the other two guys got away with no consequences?"

Then, on September 4—when Brooks again stopped by the courthouse to inquire about his case—sheriff's deputies told Brooks he had been re-charged and that there was a warrant out. They arrested him on the spot, Brooks says.

"It was a complete shock," says Brooks, who now faces a trial for Resisting Arrest and Criminal Mischief II, on October 22. "I had never been notified about the charges being re-filed or why a warrant would have been put out on me. And what have the district attorney or the cops done to apprehend the two thugs who attacked me to begin with?"

The district attorney's office says it is common for cases to be dismissed and then later recharged. In this case, Deputy District Attorney Jeff Howes, who supervises misdemeanor prosecutions, says the case was dismissed as a Criminal Mischief I because the value of the window was not certain. It was then reissued as a Criminal Mischief II, Howes says, after further investigation showed the cost of a replacement window to be $500.

Howes can't comment on the specifics of the criminal case against Brooks, but did supply the Mercury with a copy of a letter to Brooks dated August 25, detailing the new charges. Brooks denies ever receiving such a letter.

"He was the wrong guy and the right guy," says police spokesman Brian Schmautz. "He wasn't Tasered because he was the victim of an assault, but because he was the suspect in a criminal mischief investigation who punched a window and was aggressive toward the officers. In an ideal world all three men would have been arrested."

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