A Multnomah County grand jury has cleared a Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officer from facing criminal charges for fatally shooting a mentally ill man on October 10 at a SE 82nd motel.
PPB Officer Kelly VanBlokland shot 30-year-old Samuel Rice at the Del Rancho Motel after Rice threatened to kill a woman he had been holding hostage in a motel room.
The grand jury decided that VanBlokland, a member of the bureau's Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT), had acted lawfully when he fired at Rice, because he was defending the hostage.
Rice had a long history of interacting with PPB officers before his death. According to police reports and mental health workers, Rice had a severe mental illness that left him drifting in and out of psychosis. PPB was regularly called to respond to his often violent outbursts.
"What police didn't know was [that Rice was] living completely outside of reality," said Ken Hansen, director of SL Start Oregon, a state contractor that assists people with developmental disabilities. Rice had been a SL Start Oregon client during a five-month period earlier this year.
"He had no idea what was going on or who he was talking to," Hansen told the Mercury in October.
Rice is the fourth person to die at the hands of local law enforcement this year, joining John Elifritz and Patrick Kimmons, who were both fatally shot by PPB officers, and Jason Washington, who was fatally shot by Portland State University campus police. All officers involved in the shootings have been cleared of misconduct by Multnomah County grand juries.
Both Rice and Elifritz were perceived to be experiencing a mental health crisis when they were killed.