Portland City Council approved a $975,000 settlement deal Wednesday with the family of Lane Martin, a man fatally shot by Portland police during a mental health crisis.
Martin, a 31-year-old art student at Portland State University (PSU), was killed by Gary Doran, an officer with the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), after a chase through East Portland on July 30, 2019.
The incident began when Martin brandished a knife at a security guard during an attempted car break-in, prompting a police response. PPB officers called to the scene followed Martin as he walked away from the the parking lot where the incident took place, and ordered Martin to drop a hatchet he was swinging. When Martin didn't follow officers' demands, two officers fired rubber bullets at Martin's legs. He dropped the hatchet and ran—only to be cornered by police outside an apartment complex at SE 120th and Ash. When Martin reached for his waistband, Doran fired at least 11 bullets at him. Martin died at the scene.
Officer reports filed after the incident show that PPB officers knew Martin was facing some type of mental health crisis (or, in their words, acting "crazy") when they shot him with less-lethal and lethal rounds.
That's why, in October 2019, Martin's family filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Portland for allowing its officers to fatally discriminate against someone with a mental illness.
"Defendant Gary Doran, a police officer with the City of Portland, shot and killed Lane Martin because Lane was exhibiting symptoms of his mental illness," reads the lawsuit, which sites PPB's past record of disproportionately killing people who have a mental illness.
A grand jury investigation and a review by PPB's internal Portland Review Board both found Doran's conduct to be consistent with PPB's use-of-force policy. This came as no surprise—no police officers responsible for killing people with a mental illness over the past 20 years have faced criminal charges for their actions.
But, in the city attorney's internal review of the Martins' lawsuit, staff concluded that, "there is risk the City may be found liable"—and recommended settling the case instead of going to trial.
Wednesday's city council vote settles that lawsuit with its hefty $975,000 payout. According to Portland Copwatch, an organization that tracks PPB misconduct cases, it's the fourth costliest settlement related to PPB conduct in Portland history. The top three payouts: A $2.3 million settlement to William Kyle Monroe, a man left permanently disabled after a PPB officer mistakenly fired deadly rounds at him instead of "less-lethal" bullets; A $1.6 million settlement to the family of James Chasse, a man who died in police custody after being beaten by police; and $1.2 million to the family of Aaron Campbell, a man fatally shot in the back by police. Like Martin, all three men in these cases were in a mental health crisis when they were injured by PPB.
The trend continues: In 2019, four of the five people who died at the hands of PPB were in need of critical mental health treatment the day they were killed.
In testimony before the Wednesday vote, Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman urged city commissioners to acknowledge this sobering record of disproportionate fatalities.
"We're not asking City Council to say anything to jeopardize the settlement," said Handelman. "We want to hear promises that policy, trainings, and tactics will change to end the parade of deadly force. I would also like to hear the word 'tragedy' mentioned when we talk about what happened to Mr. Martin."
All four commissioners voted to approve the settlement. Only two commented on its significance.
City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said that her "heart goes out to the family," before casting her vote. City Commissioner Amanda Fritz agreed that Martin's death was a "tragedy," but said the solution was in funding mental health treatment, along with police reform.
"We do need to continue to put pressure on the legislature to adequately fund mental health resources in the community," Fritz said.
It's a familiar argument. In December, after a PPB officer shot and killed Koben Henriksen by Mall 205, then-police chief Danielle Outlaw and Mayor Ted Wheeler placed the blame on the mental health system. Yet the mental health community pushed back on this accusation.
“Even with a robust mental health system in place, there are still going to be moments of crisis that require a police officer response," said Sarah Radcliffe, an attorney with Disability Rights Oregon, in a December interview with the Mercury. “And it’s absolutely unacceptable to respond with deadly force."
According to reporting by OPB, Martin's family intends to donate a portion of the settlement to a scholarship fund at the College of the Arts at PSU.