Lane Martin at his PCC graduation.
Lane Martin at his PCC graduation. Martin family

Lane Martin was experiencing a mental health crisis when he was shot and killed by a Portland police officer on July 30, 2019.

According to recently released records from the Portland Police Bureaus's (PPB) investigation into the incident, Martin had experienced a "mental breakdown" triggered by a break-up in the months leading up to his death.

That might have been why witnesses said Martin, a 31-year-old art student at Portland State University, was acting "crazy" when he was first approached by a security guard that July afternoon.

And, according to Martin's family members, that's the primary reason why Portland Police Officer Gary Doran decided to shoot Martin. On Monday, 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. The lawsuit was filed the same afternoon that a Multnomah County grand jury cleared Doran of any criminal charges linked to the shooting.

Martin was shot in East Portland on July 30 after a series of escalating events.

Martin was first noticed by Will Rosenbalm, a security guard for Sally Beauty, a store that shares a parking lot with an abandoned Safeway on NE 122nd and Glisan. Rosenbalm said he saw Martin trying to break into a Jeep parked in the lot. When Rosenbalm attempted to intervene, Martin allegedly brandished a knife and told Rosenbalm that he was a federal police officer. Rosenbalm called 911.

When police arrived at the scene, according to PPB reports, Martin began walking south on NE 122nd, yelling and swinging a hatchet. When Martin didn't follow officers' demands to drop the hatchet, two officers—Nicholas Bianchini and David Kemple—fired rubber bullets at Martin's legs, causing him to drop the weapon. He began running down SE 122nd.

After shooting at Martin, Kemple said he "felt the suspect was reaching into his waistband to retrieve another weapon," so instructed officers to chase Martin down the street. Officers eventually cornered Martin in an apartment complex at SE 120th and Ash, where Kemple said he yelled at Martin, "Get on the ground or you may be shot."

"He still had that... crazed look in his eye. He didn't respond audibly. He just kind of was starting at us and... he looked very amped up," Kemple said. "He looked like somebody that just wasn't gonna give up."

Officer Shanley Bianca was one of six cops surrounding Martin. In an interview with a PPB detective, Bianca said she saw Martin "raise his arms up so his elbows were bent, and hands in front of his chest, similar to a boxing stance," and take two steps toward the officers. She said she saw a black knife in his right hand. Other officers just saw Martin grabbing for something at his waistband.

"I had the impression he had something and he was trying to get it out," said Officer Mark Piombo in a PPB interview. "I was convinced he was coming out with a knife or something."

That's when Officer Doran fired 11 rounds at Martin, shooting him in each arm.

After Martin collapsed to the ground, officers continued yelling at him to put his hands up to prove he wasn't holding a weapon. Officers handcuffed him before administering first aid. He died on the scene.

Late Monday afternoon, a Multnomah County grand jury ruled that Doran was acting in self-defense when he shot Martin, clearing him of any potential criminal charges.

Cristi Martin and her son, Lane.
Lane Martin and his mother, Cristi. Martin family

Around the same time, lawyers representing Martin's brother Evan filed a lawsuit against the City of Portland, accusing its law enforcement of using excessive, deadly force against someone with a disability.

In PPB's investigative interviews, Evan told a detective that his brother had addiction and mental health issues. Martin's mother, Cristi, told the same detective that she had visited her son within the past month and helped him make an appointment at Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare. Cristi noted that Martin was also going through a break-up.

"At the time he was killed by Officer Doran, Lane Martin was in the midst of a mental health crisis," the lawsuit reads. "He was delusional and paranoid. PPB’s response to these mental health symptoms exacerbated his paranoia and precipitated his flight."

The lawsuit notes that it's been seven years since a US Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation found that PPB officers engaged in "a pattern and practice of unnecessary or unreasonable force during interactions with people who have or are perceived to have mental illness." Following that investigation, Portland entered a settlement agreement with the DOJ, agreeing to overhaul its tactics.

But, as the lawsuit points out, this intervention hasn't kept PPB officers from killing people in crisis.

"In the three years immediately preceding this lawsuit, PPB officers have used deadly force 18 times," the suit states. "At least six of those people were people affected by mental illness."

That includes Terrell Johnson, a 24-year-old man who was shot and killed by a PPB officer in 2017 while he was in a mental health crisis. In May, Johnson's mother filed a lawsuit against the City of Portland for her son's wrongful death. The case is still pending.

The Martin family's lawsuit blames PPB for not effectively disciplining officers who use excessive force, signaling that it's an appropriate response.

"The city wants us to believe that it has addressed police violence against the mentally ill with its training and data reporting," said Jesse Merrithew, one of the attorneys representing the Martin family. "The data shows those efforts to be ineffective. The central failing remains a lack of accountability and enforcement of the city's written policies, and that's what led to Lane’s tragic death."

One of the new programs that came out of the DOJ settlement was the formation of the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team (ECIT), a group of PPB officers specifically trained to respond to people in mental health crises.

At least two ECIT officers responded to the 911 call regarding Martin, including Kemple. In an interview with a PPB detective, Kemple says that despite his training, he had no option but to shoot Martin with rubber bullets.

"This was a person that was actively aggressive... he was in an area with a lot of people out... and there was no time to do anything but just immediately engage," Kemple said. "Talking to him was... he was yelling so much that there wasn't gonna be much of a conversation."

Another ECIT member on the scene, Officer Nikolay Hristov, said that when he arrived at the Safeway parking lot and saw Martin carrying a hatchet, he tried to de-escalate the situation.

"I said, hey... you can drop the axe," Hristov said. "He just kind looked at me and the wouldn't pay attention to me anymore... I couldn't communicate with him."

Martin's family has requested a trial by jury.

"Our family is heartbroken by Lane's unnecessary death," said Martin's mother Cristi in a press release sent Monday afternoon. "And our personal tragedy is further proof that the city has not changed the pattern of police conduct since it was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice. We don't want another family to suffer like this. The DA won't charge the officer and the city won't discipline him. How will we stop this from happening again?"