MULTNOMAH COUNTY commissioners are expected to vote this week to approve a record $925,000 settlement over the county's role in the death of James Chasse in 2006.
An autopsy found that Chasse, who suffered from schizophrenia, had 26 broken ribs and a punctured lung when he died of "blunt force trauma to the chest." The proposed settlement only covers Chasse's treatment at the Multnomah County Detention Center, where Portland Police Bureau Officers Christopher Humphreys and Kyle Nice took Chasse after beating him in the street. Patricia Gayman, a jail nurse, refused to admit Chasse to the main jail after looking through his holding cell window. Chasse was taken to hospital in a patrol car driven by Nice and Humphreys but died en route.
The city and American Medical Response are yet to settle their portions in the case, covering the conduct of both the police officers and the ambulance company who initially failed to transport Chasse to the hospital, respectively. Multnomah County is also responsible for the behavior of former Sheriff's Deputy Bret Burton, who has since been hired by the Portland Police Bureau and joined Nice and Humphreys in Chasse's initial beating.
"The family of James Philip Chasse will have no comment until after the county board of commissioners votes on the matter next Thursday, July 2, 2009," said the Chasse family's attorney, Tom Steenson, late last week.
"I'm not surprised the county is looking to settle," says Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland. "The case looked very strong against them. I expect the city and the other parties in the case to settle quickly, in light of this latest development."
The police bureau instituted new training for police officers after Chasse's death. Meanwhile, County Chair Ted Wheeler says he hopes the settlement will provide an opportunity for the community to "move on."
"This issue has been somewhat divisive to the community of advocates for mental health issues," he says. "It's important to me that we can now move forward."
Wheeler now wants to build a mental health crisis center so cops have somewhere other than jail to take people like Chasse for emergency evaluation and specialized care.