The police officer who killed a Portland teen in an early morning manhunt last month won’t face criminal charges in the incident.
A Multnomah County grand jury has declined charges against Portland Officer Andrew Hearst in the February 9 killing of Quanice Hayes, 17.
News of the outcome emerged in Facebook posts earlier this afternoon, as a press conference including Hayes’ family was announced for tomorrow morning. It was confirmed to the Mercury by Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill this evening.
While the details of the morning Hayes died are still fuzzy, news of the grand jury's decision is sure to spark anger amongst community and family members who’d called for Hearst’s badge in the wake of the shooting.
Police say they were responding to a report of a man being robbed at gunpoint in his car the morning of February 9, near NE Hancock and 82nd. The suspect, the PPB said, "was described to police as a black male in his 20s, wearing a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt and jeans..." As officers were investigating that case, dispatchers received a report of a car prowler nearby, the Portland Police Bureau said.
Cops set up a perimeter and began searching the neighborhood. At some point Hearst came upon Hayes, who was Black, and shot him. Police have said the teen had a replica firearm on his person.
Since grand jury hearings are conducted in private, the police bureau’s skeletal version of events is all that’s known, but the picture will almost certainly be filled in somewhat in coming weeks.
Update: Portland police have issued a news release about the grand jury's finding, and it offers new detail about the incident.
According to the PPB, the armed robbery suspect on February 9 held the victim "hostage for approximately 30 minutes in the car then stole his Oregon Trail EBT card and an item of clothing." The victim told cops his assailant had a handgun with a camouflage exterior, which is roughly consistent with a gun the PPB circulated photos of after Hayes was killed.
After responding to reports of a car prowler and a report of an "unwanted person" in a yard on Northeast Tillamook, cops say they located Hayes in a side yard. He told officers he lived there, then ran, the release says.
Cops say they tracked Hayes to a home on Northeast Hancock that appeared to have been broken into.
Officers "encountered Hayes crouching" in an alcove at the home, the release says. "Officers believed he was armed with a handgun, as reported by the robbery victim, and was involved in the car prowl and burglary."
Here's the PPB's description of what happened next:
Officers ordered Hayes to crawl out of the alcove, which he started to do, but then stopped and got upright on his knees. Hayes was ordered multiple times by officers to keep his hands up, but made repeated and deliberate motions with his hands to the area of his waistband and pockets. During this encounter, Officer Hearst fired three shots from his patrol rifle at Hayes, striking and killing him. After the shooting, officers approached Hayes to take him into custody and render immediate medical aid. Medical personnel arrived and determined that Hayes was deceased.
A desert tan-colored handgun was found next to Hayes on the ground. It was later determined that the handgun was a realistic-looking replica firearm (photo released).
Cops say they found the stolen EBT card in Hayes' possession. The teen was struck twice in the torso and once in the head.
"Toxicology results on Hayes' blood showed numerous drugs including cocaine, benzodiazepine and hydrocodone," the release says. "An examination of the replica firearm by the Oregon State Police Crime Lab showed Hayes' DNA on the gun."
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office has a practice of releasing the transcripts of grand jury hearings for officer-involved shootings, and the office says it will do so when those become available.
Outcry over Hayes death has reverberated since the shooting, with demonstrators repeatedly shutting down Portland City Council meetings with calls for justice. Wheeler has repeatedly answered those calls by saying he’s reserving judgment about the incident until more facts emerge.
At tomorrow morning’s press conference, Hayes family will call for “immediate access” to grand jury transcripts and any other documentary materials, according to a Facebook event created by the group Don’t Shoot Portland.
Hayes was the first African American to be fatally shot by Portland police in nearly seven years, but the death immediately stirred old resentments in a community with its share of racial ugliness in its past. As Wheeler put it in a press conference after Hayes' death: "...when the person who is killed is a black teenager, it touches on deep historical wounds. We can’t sit here today and ignore what’s happened across our country.”
Mercury reporter Doug Brown contributed to this report.