The U.S. Department of Justice has closed its investigation into the Portland Police killing of Aaron Campbell on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
(Read The Skanner News previous reporting, US Department of Justice Confirms 'Pattern and Practices' Probe of Portland Police)
The Justice Department today announced it will not be filing federal criminal civil rights charges against the officers, and that officials from the department's Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon and the FBI have already met with Campbell's family on their decision
"Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids," said a statement from the DOJ released Tuesday afternoon. "Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish such a criminal violation," it said.
"After a careful review of the facts, a team of experienced federal prosecutors determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the law enforcement personnel who fired at Campbell acted willfully, meaning with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids."
Community members in February of 2010 enlisted the help of lawmakers to convince the DOJ to take up the case of Campbell's shooting Jan. 29 of that year.
Unarmed and in a mental health crisis, Campbell was shot in the back by Officer Ronald Frashour with an AR-15 rifle as he surrendered to negotiators in a dark, rainy parking lot off Northeast Sandy Boulevard.
A Grand Jury that convened on the issue of police use of force in the Campbell case in February of 2010 found officers did not violate policies, but it also expressed outrage at the scene that led to Campbell's death and urged the city to rethink its rules on use of force.
In an almost unprecedented move, jury members pushed Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk and Mayor Sam Adams to petition the court to reveal transcripts of its hearings. "Portland deserves better," jury members wrote in a statement. "Aaron Campbell deserved better."
Community organizations including the Urban League of Portland, the African American Alliance, the Albina Ministerial Alliance, as well as then-Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer together called for a "pattern and practice" investigation by the Civil Rights Division that was eventually referred to the DOJ Special Litigation Section for review.
Frashour, who was fired last year for failing to observe bureau policy on use of force – but has been the subject of recent reinstatement hearings -- eventually racked up tens of thousands of dollars in legal settlements for other use of force incidents, including:
--$55,000 awarded in a federal lawsuit to Frank Waterhouse, tasered without warning by Frashour while videotaping a police search in 2006;
--$44,043.26 to settle a lawsuit from August 2008 when Frashour rammed into a Honda Civic as he was trying to stop a reckless driver who was driving a differently-colored Honda Civic.
Other unresolved lawsuits against Frashour include:
--A 2007 domestic dispute in which a married couple was arrested and Frashour pepper-sprayed the wife inside her house. Ultimately all charges were dropped against both husband and wife, who sued the city of Portland for arresting them without probable cause.
--A wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Aaron Campbell against the City of Portland which is still underway.
Joint Statement by Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Michael Reese on the DOJ Investigation
Today, following a yearlong inquiry, the United States Department of Justice announced that there is "insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers" involved in the January 29, 2010 fatal shooting of Aaron Campbell. Shortly after the shooting occurred, then-Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Mayor Sam Adams urged Senator Ron Wyden to ask the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) Civil Rights Division to conduct a full review of the incident and all aspects of the Portland Police Bureau.
"The fatal shooting of Aaron Campbell was tragic, and I appreciate the Justice Department taking a thorough look at the facts of this case," Mayor Sam Adams said. "Chief Mike Reese and the Portland Police Bureau and I have already taken action in the last year to learn from the Campbell case, and making necessary changes in police training and practices. We've sought to be decisive in addressing this issue."
"I want to thank the DOJ for their investigation into this officer-involved shooting. We can't undo the death of Aaron Campbell, but I believe we have taken significant steps to learn from it," Chief Michael Reese said. "In this case, I believe each Bureau member involved was attempting to do their best to resolve a complex situation. However, there were significant issues that were brought forth in the Bureau's internal reviews and those involved were held accountable."
Immediately following the Campbell incident, the Police Bureau began an in-depth investigation followed by a Grand Jury review. There was also an exhaustive internal review focusing on potential policy violations, officer performance and adherence to Bureau training. The case then went to the Use of Force Review Board, which is comprised of community members, peer members and command staff. Based on recommendations by the Use of Force Review Board, the Mayor and Chief approved appropriate discipline for the sergeants and officers involved in the incident, including termination and suspension for policy violations and performance. The entire investigative file, training analysis and letters of discipline were released to the public.
As a result of the incident and subsequent review, additional training was implemented including the selection and training of officers carrying AR-15 rifles. The Chief also ordered all of the Bureau's policies concerning less lethal tools to be reevaluated to ensure uniformity in each policy. In addition, ballistic shields were purchased and have been deployed allowing officers to approach down subjects in a more timely manner.