Grand Jury To Decide If Portland Police Will Face Charges Over Man's
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 3, 2006
PORTLAND, OREGON--A Multnomah County grand jury began hearing testimony Tuesday to decide whether criminal charges should be brought against officers involved in a fatal encounter with James Philip Chasse, Jr.'s.
Chasse, 42, who reportedly had schizophrenia, died on September 17 as officers were taking him from jail to a hospital, less than two hours after they arrested him.
According to the Oregonian, police reports document that three officers saw Chasse acting "oddly", as if he were "either on drugs or had a mental disorder" and then "possibly urinating in the street." Chasse ran from the approaching officers. When they chased after him, one officer pushed Chasse in the back, "which caused him to stumble to the ground".
Two witnesses who have filed complaints with the department over what they said was an "over-the-top-arrest", said the large framed officers chased the slim man downhill, shoved him to the ground from behind, then tumbled on top of him.
The officers reported that Chasse was "highly combative", refused to follow their instructions to turn onto his stomach, and tried to bite them. One of the officers applied a Taser stun gun to the man's skin and fired, but it had no affect.
The witnesses reported that they saw officers kick Chasse several times while he was on the ground. They said they heard the Taser cycle through and be fired four times, and that Chasse then stopped struggling and screaming.
When Chasse stopped moving, officers checked his vital signs and said they were normal. Then they transported him to jail to be booked. But, jail personnel said Chasse needed more medical attention before being jailed. When officers went to transport him to the hospital, Chasse lost consciousness. They were not able to resuscitate him.
On September 22, medical examiner Dr. Karen Gunson ruled that Chasse died from "broad-based" blunt force trauma to his chest that took place early in the encounter, but that she could not determine whether the injuries took place when Chasse fell to the ground or when the officers fell onto him. Gunson added that no drugs were found in Chasse's system.
Gunson said she ruled the cause of death "accidental" because "there was no hint they were actually intending to kill" Chasse.
Chasse's family released his autopsy report Tuesday, showing that 16 of his ribs were broken -- nine of them in both the front and the back of his ribcage. Some of the broken ribs punctured a lung and caused "intense" internal bleeding.
"He was probably the gentlest person I've ever known," said younger brother Mark Chasse, in a news conference last week.
Related articles from The Oregonian:
"Witnesses shocked by force police used in encounter"
"Odd actions led officers to man who died in custody, police say"
"Trauma killed man in custody, report says"
"Relatives say man was severely mentally ill and gentle"
"Man who died in police custody suffered 16 broken ribs"