Correction: In The Skanner News story about the Fontaine Bleau restaurant owner Rob DeWalt's tort claim, the legal document names Kenan Powell claiming he was a police informant. Powell strongly denies this claim, and the legal document offers no evidence to support it.
The owner of one of the small handful of Black nightclubs in Portland – shut down after a tragic fatal shooting Nov. 9 – has filed a blistering tort claim notice against the City of Portland, the Oregon Liquor Control Board, the Portland Police Bureau, Chief Mike Reese and a string of police officers at the scene.
Fontaine Bleau nightclub owner Rob DeWalt and his attorney, Charese Rohny, detail what they describe as the OLCC, Police Bureau and City of Portland’s “campaign designed to shut down the Fontaine Bleu and stop it from serving the black community in Portland.”
DeWalt claims that the Portland Police Bureau has still never interviewed him after the fatal shooting in front of his nightclub on Northeast Broadway near the Rose Quarter, which he says resulted in a lost $350,000 investment and the closure of his business.
Portland resident Durieul Harris was shot to death outside the club, and two others were wounded.
Police and television reporters on the shooting scene described a “race riot” in which every available police car in the city was called but nevertheless Harris was left to bleed to death, police said, because they were afraid of the crowd.
DeWalt’s tort claim alleges campaign of harassment even included a police informant who was hired by a promoter to serve as a security guard at a Fountain Bleau event.
“Mr. Powell was later exposed as an informant for the PPB,” the tort claim says. “At approximately 11:45 p.m. on November 8, 2013, Mr. Powell reported to the PPB, including Officer Asheim, that he was concerned about the number of gang members he let into the Fontaine Bleau.
“Mr. Powell never informed Mr. DeWalt of this information. Officer Asheim gave Kenan Powell his personal cell number in case something happens,” the tort claim says.
The tort claim notice lists federal and state violations of DeWalt’s rights, including, “intentional interference with economic relations,” negligence, “intentional
infliction of emotional distress,” and defamation.
“The Portland Police scrutinizes [sic] the club by reporting false violations of law during hip-hop events, yet failed to provide meaningful safety measures when a known danger existed on November 8, 2013,” the tort claim says.
“The above named actors have treated Mr. DeWalt and the Fontaine Bleau differently than other similarly situated venues that do not cater to the black community.”
While city officials and the OLCC have argued that DeWalt’s club was a danger to the community, and that shooting victim Harris was a gang member – which his family strongly denies -- the tort claim says it was the Portland Police Bureau’s fault that the scene outside the nightclub became violent.
“The above named actors failed to keep Mr. DeWalt informed of actual and known risks; perpetuated a pretext of nuisance complaints thereby concealing known risks, increased the vulnerability to known dangers which posed a substantial risk to a defined group of black patrons and a black owner,” the tort claim says.
“The above actors’ conduct targeted Mr. DeWalt and his business and put them at substantial risk of serious, immediate, and proximate harm which was obvious and known; they acted with reckless and in conscious disregard of that risk; and when viewed in total, it shocks the conscience as deliberately wrongful conduct.”
A persistent issue in the Fountain Bleau case has been the involvement of a neighbor who blanketed the Police Bureau with complaints about the nightclub, which is located in a commercial/industrial area near the Rose Garden.
“Since the Fontaine Bleau opened, a nearby resident has been in regular contact with the Portland Police Dept reporting what she believes to be disturbing noise from the Fontaine Bleau,” the tort claim says. “Three or four other tenants also reside in this residence, No one else has filed a report complaining of noise. This resident informed the PPB she was working with the City of Portland against the Fontaine Bleau.”
The tort claim lists numerous incidents that, according to DeWalt and his attorney, constitute a pattern of harassment, including police officers filing critical reports without entering the nightclub or speaking with its owner; a lack of police attention when events are attended by predominantly white people; and an incident in which the OLCC allegedly wrote off a police report on drug use at the club as “false.”
Police officers consistently failed to inform DeWalt of the dangers they eventually detailed in their reports, the tort claim says.