In days to come, the family of Quanice Hayes will sue the city for their 17-year-old relative's February 2017 death at the hands of police. They will name the officer who killed Hayes, Andrew Hearst, in a claim of excessive force. They will name the City of Portland as a defendant in a claim of wrongful death.
That's the plan, at least. Today was more about symbolism.
At noon, a group of family members including Hayes' mother, Venus, and cousin Terrence ascended to the third floor of City Hall to formally present Mayor Ted Wheeler with a notice they intend to file a lawsuit. They'd announced their plans to do this yesterday—around the same time their attorney, Jesse Merrithew, had actually filed the formal notice to sue. But the family wanted something more visible than that.
The mayor wasn't around, though. He was at a meeting in East Portland, his office said, so the Hayes family met Chief of Staff Maurice Henderson and Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Cox instead.
It was a short affair. The family handed Henderson an envelope. The TV cameras rolled. The family spoke.
"It’s not a secret what the intentions of our family was today," said Terrence Hayes. "Instead of the mayor prioritizing something like this or at least show[ing] some type of faith that he understands, that he’s sympathetic, and that he has a sense of what my family’s going through…they’re not really concerned."
Hayes was killed almost exactly a year ago, on February 9, 2017. According to police and the grand jury investigation that wound up clearing Hearst of wrongdoing, the teen had robbed a homeless man using a fake gun in the early morning hours. Responding officers eventually found Hayes in the alcove of an East Portland home, and ordered him, at gunpoint, to crawl toward them on his knees. While cops had been informed Hayes could be armed, none of them testified to seeing a gun on the teen, who was shot three times when he reached behind his back. A replica gun was found near his body.
Following the shooting, the Hayes family made repeated requests for all records involving the incident. Family members also convinced Portland City Council to give them their own hearing to air their grievances about the shooting—a possibly unprecedented occurrence.
Terrence Hayes said today his family can't wait for 2020, when there will be another mayoral election. He also hinted to having a preferred candidate in that race. Teressa Raiford, the Don't Shoot Portland leader who has said she'll run for mayor in 2020, was on hand.
Meanwhile, Merrithew, the family's attorney, says the city has a lot more to answer for.
"If you look at the broad picture here, you have a 17-year-old kid thats killed by police," he told the Mercury this afternoon. " The only process that's happened is a grand jury proceeding that, if you look at the transcripts, it's a joke. We say give us the records. Let us see what happened."
Among records he's seeking: photos from the scene and from Hayes' autopsy, as well as dispatch recordings.
Even without that, Merrithew says his clients have a case.
"There’s enough there that we can make a good faith claim that the shooting wasn’t justified," he said. "It’s clear that none of the police officers saw a gun and they shot him anyway."
Merrithew has agreed not to take attorney's fees unless a lawsuit is settled or shakes out in the Hayes' family's favor, he says. The family is hoping to crowdfund other costs associated with the suit.