PORTLAND, Ore. — A West Linn police officer who led a bogus investigation that resulted in the wrongful arrest of a Portland black man has been fired.
In a statement on Tuesday, West Linn Acting Police Chief Peter Mahuna said there were several reasons for firing Sgt. Tony Reeves including “the irreparable loss of public trust and confidence in his ability to be a fair and unbiased police officer.”
Reeves pursued an investigation in 2017 that led to the arrest of Michael Fesser. According to court documents, Fesser was working at A&B Towing in Southeast Portland when he raised concerns with his boss of racial discrimination in the workplace. The owner of the towing company, Eric Benson, turned to his buddy, then-West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus, to fix the problem.
According to court documents, Timeus ordered some of his officers, including Reeves, to investigate Fesser for theft, ultimately building a case that alleged Fesser was stealing from the company he worked for. Fesser was eventually arrested, with the help of Portland police officers, and jailed, but the case was later dropped. Court papers show Fesser was not stealing from the company and his boss was afraid of a possible racial discrimination lawsuit.
Fesser later sued West Linn and was awarded a $600,000 payout.
News of the targeted racist arrest, first reported by The Oregonian in February, prompted several agencies to launch investigations into the incident. Last month, the Clackamas District Attorney’s Office ruled Reeves would never be allowed to testify in any county criminal court case and should lose his police certification.
That was one of the reasons acting chief Mahuna cited for firing Reeves. Mahuna also said Reeves told Benson, the owner of the towing company, about what was found in Fesser’s car when he was arrested. Reeves also deleted homophobic, racist and misogynistic text messages he’d had with Benson, Mahuna said.
Reeves was the officer involved in the Fesser investigation that was still employed with the West Linn Police Department.
More investigations are being done into West Linn police’s handling of the case.