Portland police have released the names of the seven police officers and one Multnomah County Sheriff's Deputy involved in fatally shooting John Elifritz at a Southeast homeless shelter. Based on video of the Saturday, April 7 incident and witness testimony, it appears Elifritz was in the midst of a mental crisis when he was shot. PPB have yet to verify this claim. PPB initially refused to release the names, after claiming to have received threats on the officers' lives.
"Investigators from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Portland Police Bureau worked to verify if any actual threats existed, but ultimately could not locate any credible information," writes PPB spokesperson Sgt. Christopher Burley in a Tuesday press statement
The Portland police officers involved: Richard Bailey, Justin Damerville, Kameron Fender, Alexandru Martiniuc, Bradley Nutting, Chad Phifer, and Andrew Polas. Officers' history with the bureau range from 14 to two years. Deputy Aaron Sieczkowski is the lone member of county law enforcement involved in the shooting. He's been with the Sheriff'f Office for six years.
At least three officers already have a history with using excessive force against people with mental illness.
Let's start with Officer Phifer. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice pointed to five instances to illustrate Portland police officers' "pattern of excessive force." This report was part of the investigation that led to a federal lawsuit being filed against Portland for the Police Bureau's poor track record regarding use of force against people with a mental illness.
One of the DOJ's examples is a 2010 incident with Officer Phifer involving a man in a mental health crisis in an Old Town apartment— summarized in an Oregonian article. While the man had no weapons on him and was making "incoherent statements," Phifer chose to physically detain him. When the man rolled away from him, Phifer fired a Taser into the man's back several times. Phifer then punched the man in the ribs at least six times. According to the federal report, Phifer and another officer Tased the man six more times before handcuffing him and then taking him to a mental health hospital.
Then there's Officer Nutting. You may remember when, in September 2014, Nutting Tased Portland bicyclist Matthew Klug six times for resisting arrest after Klug yelled at a driver he said hit his bike. Witnesses to the arrest said Klug, who has epilepsy and a traumatic brain injury, was clearly in the midst of a mental health crisis during the incident.
Officer Polas was involved in what may be the most recognizable case of the three: The 2010 shooting death of 25-year-old Keaton Otis, a man whose parents say struggled with mood disorders. Three officers shot Otis 23 times after pulling him over for looking "suspicious" (that, and not signaling before changing lanes). Polas was one of those officers.
According to Burley, the seven officers and deputy will remain on paid administrative leave until the completion of the investigation and Grand Jury.