City Hall is ringing in the new year with a $3 million lawsuit over a police shooting.
Randy Morgan has filed a wrongful death suit against the city of Portland over the death of his son, Brad Morgan, on January 25, 2012. Morgan, distraught and suicidal, was atop a downtown parking garage by officers who thought the 21-year-old was reaching for a gun. Morgan had been reaching for a fake handgun instead.
Filed on New Year's Eve, the lawsuit (pdf) alleges that officers mishandled the situation and failed to follow bureau policy, allowing themselves to become the police in a suicide-by-police scenario.
The night before he died, Morgan repeatedly called Korena Bartley, his longtime girlfriend and the mother of his 8-year-old son. The two had broken up, and Morgan was deeply upset over it. After failing to get through to Bartley, Morgan posted to Facebook in the early morning hours asking, “what's the best way to die? get shot or jump to my death.” He then called 911.
Morgan told the dispatcher during their 22-minute conversation that he was on top of a parking structure in downtown Portland and was going to jump. He claimed to have robbed someone at knife point earlier that evening. He made comments suggesting he was seeking to commit “suicide by police.” When asked by the dispatcher if he had a gun, he replied that he “possibly” did.
Sergeant John Holbrook and Officer David Scott found Morgan and spoke with him atop the parking garage. The standoff ended when Morgan made a sudden motion, pulling his right hand out from underneath his jacket, exposing the toy gun he had purchased the day before. The police responded with gunfire, killing Morgan with a bullet to his head.
According to the lawsuit, the officers' first mistake was not engaging Morgan from a position of cover. By exposing themselves to the potential danger that Morgan was armed with a handgun, according to the suit, the officers made themselves vulnerable to being drawn into a suicide-by-police scenario. The officers, the suit says, should have used the “step-back” technique when Morgan signaled his desire to be shot by police and should have engaged him via cell phone from a safe position.
The suit contends that officers didn't just make a mistake placing themselves in harm's way, but that they also violated bureau policy. The suit says officers should have called the police bureau's Hostage Negotiation Team.
In February 2012, a grand jury cleared the the two cops involved in the incident of any criminal wrongdoing, a typical outcome for police shooting cases.
Randy Morgan is asking for $3 million, more than the record $2.3 million settlement paid out in the non-fatal 2011 police shooting of William Kyle Monroe.