Detective Erik Kammerer, right, during a 2020 protest.
Detective Erik Kammerer, right, during a 2020 protest. Doug Brown

Portland police detective Erik Kammerer is being sued, again, for the way he treated members of the public during 2020's racial justice protests. A lawsuit filed Wednesday accuses Kammerer of using violence to retaliate against individuals who protested against the police, suggesting that this is in alignment with the police bureau's operating procedures.

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The lawsuit was filed by Tyler Vontillius, an Oregonian who participated in a protest in downtown Portland on the night of June 27, 2020. At some point in the evening, Vontillius and several others were approached by a group of officers with the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) dressed in riot gear. The officers allegedly greeted Vontillius with pepper spray and beat some of his fellow protesters with truncheons.

"Then, without warning or reasonable justification," the lawsuit reads, "Kammerer emerges from behind the police line to intentionally knock over several protesters, including [Vontillius]."

This encounter is captured on a video clip, which is included in the lawsuit.

The suit continues: "[Kammerer] never attempted to arrest anyone, including [Vontillius], or de-escalate. He just chose violence. By information and belief, Defendant Kammerer knocked Plaintiff to the ground in retaliation for protesting against police violence that evening."

Vontillius' attorneys say that their client never engaged in “physical resistance” or “active aggression” against the officers.

The lawsuit explains that Vontillius suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was shoved to the ground by Kammerer, and that Vontillius still experiences symptoms of that injury today.

Vontillius' attorneys also name the city of Portland and "John Does 1-10" (representing any other city employee responsible for this conduct) in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit accuses Kammerer and the other parties of violating several of their client's constitutional rights—including the right to be "free from unlawful seizures" and the right to free speech. For these violations, Vontillius is requesting both economic and non-economic relief from the court.

Vontillius is being represented by a trio of lawyers with the civil rights organization Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC). This isn't the first lawsuit OJRC has filed against Kammerer for his treatment of Portland protesters. In 2021, a woman named Hannah Ahern sued Kammerer for fabricating evidence to support her arrest during a 2019 protest. Her OJRC lawyers alleged Kammerer used the arrest as a way to retaliate against her for expressing her disgust in police.

Kammerer is also being sued by a Portlander named Elijah Warren. Warren and his son were impacted by tear gas deployed outside their home by PPB on September 5. When Warren exited his house to talk with police about their use of tear gas, Kammerer allegedly struck him on the side of his head with a baton. Warren, who is represented by local civil rights attorney Jason Kafoury, filed a complaint against Kammerer and the city of Portland in May 2021.

Kammerer has dodged scrutiny from other criminal justice agencies. In February, the Oregon Department of Justice announced that they had insufficient evidence to charge Kammerer with crimes connected to his conduct during the 2020 protests. Kammerer worked closely during the protests with former PPB officer Corey Budworth, the only Portland cop who has faced criminal charges for his treatment of protesters in 2020.

OJRC attorney Juan Chavez expressed frustration that lawsuits appear to be the only remedy for Kammerer's actions.

"Frankly, it just pisses me off that it's left to the public to build cases against problem officers," Chavez said. "That is a responsibility that should be on the city or on prosecutors. We shouldn't be the last line of defense on these issues."

Kammerer is still employed as a detective with PPB, and currently involved in investigating several open homicides.

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