Police fire lethal shotgun rounds instead of beanbag

Credit: Kyle Iboshi

Police fire lethal shotgun rounds instead of beanbag


by kgw.com Staff


Posted on June 30, 2011 at 11:17 AM

Updated Friday, Jul 1 at 1:00 PM

PORTLAND -- Portland police announced late Thursday afternoon that an officer had mistakenly fired lethal shotgun rounds at a suspect instead of the intended, less-lethal beanbag rounds earlier in the day.

A man was taken to Oregon Health & Sciences University with pellet wounds to the hip. He was expected to survive.

The shooting was in the 3600 block of Southwest Barbur Boulevard. There was a massive response that included dozens of officers, detectives, lawyers, police union reps, the police chief and even the mayor.

Dispatchers said the first 9-1-1 call came in around 9:55 a.m. about an intoxicated man harassing children at a summer camp in Lair Hill Park. Other calls said the man had a knife concealed up a sleeve, and that he had left the park.

Officers encountered a man several blocks away at Naito and Curry and one officer fired what was thought to be beanbag rounds.

"The Police Bureau began carrying less lethal beanbag shotguns in the mid-1990s," bureau spokesman Lt. Robert King said in a prepared statement. "An incident like this has never occurred prior to today. Training protocols require the officers who are certified in this weapon to visually inspect each round. Lethal rounds are red and blue and less lethal rounds are yellow and clear in color. Officers are required to also do a safety check and load the weapon at the beginning of their shift."

The shooting drew both Chief Michael Reese and Mayor Sam Adams to the scene, as well as, for the first time, a representative of the city's Independent Police Review Division, part of a revised ordinance on officer-involved shootings.

"We are just at the beginning stages of this investigation," Chief Michael Reese said in the same prepared statement "Our training protocols are designed to prevent this from happening. I have instructed supervisors to immediately remind every less lethal beanbag shotgun operator to visually inspect each round as they are loaded into the weapon and review less lethal beanbag shotgun training protocols."

The officer who fired the rounds is a 15-year bureau veteran and was placed on paid administrative leave. He was not identified by the bureau.

On Friday, the Portland Police Association union issued a statement that read "We stand in support of Officer Reister as he goes through this difficult process in regards to yesterday's incident. As the PPA, we look forward to a positive resolutioni to this unfortunate occurence."

Police declined further comment but King said more would coming Friday.

Dan Handelman of activist group Portland Cop Watch called the error "absolutely horrifying." Even though this was the only mistake since 1995, he said it's one time too many.

The bureau uses two types of shotguns, one with a stock that's colorized to show it's for beanbag use. Handelman thinks police should have a shotgun that shoots only beanbag rounds, in a different size from lethal rounds used in a regular shotgun.

Detectives spent all afternoon collecting evidence at the scene and interviewing several witnesses.

"You know, (it sounded like) bam, bam, bam. It didn't sound like fireworks, thinking back at it," witness Michael Irvine told KGW.

In 2008, Reister was videotaped while interviewing some men on the street. He took the camera and cited the person shooting the video for illegally taping him. According to a story in the Oregonian, the district attorney's office declined to prosecute the case.

Here is the videotape: