The family of 17-year-old Quanice Hayes, who was shot and killed by Portland police in February 2017, has filed a lawsuit against the City of Portland and Andrew Hearst, the officer who fired the shots that killed the teenager.
The suit is not unexpected: on the anniversary of Hayes’ death the family, with civil rights attorney Jesse Merithew, announced their intention in February to bring a suit against the city.
The complaint argues that on the morning of Hayes’ death, officers shouted conflicting commands. It also notes that while Hayes was carrying a replica handgun at the time of his death, there is no evidence that he drew or reached for it during his interaction with officers.
“When the officers came upon Quanice, different police officers shouted contradictory commands at him,” the suit says.
“He obeyed the commands of Officer Robert Wullbrandt, and crawled on his hands and knees as ordered, coming to a stop when ordered to do so. Defendant Hearst, while Officer Wulbrandt was ordering Quanice to crawl on his hands and knees, was ordering Quanice to crawl on his knees with his hands in the air. Quanice bent forward to comply with Officer Wullbrandt’s command and Defendant Hearst shot him.”
The complaint also notes that Hearst was involved in the 2013 shooting of Merle Hatch, but was not disciplined by the police bureau. (In March, a Multnomah County grand jury declined to indict Hearst in connection with Hayes’ death.) The suit mentions the Department of Justice’s 2012 settlement with the city, which found the Portland Police Bureau had a pattern and practice of excessive force against people experiencing mental health crisis. It also notes the city has a pattern and practice of over-policing African Americans:
“The Portland Police Bureau has a history of disproportionate policing of African-Americans, including stops, searches, and seizures of African-Americans at an elevated level disproportionate to their presence in the population. The City is well aware of this history of discriminatory policing. The City is also aware that their police officers wrongly perceive African-Americans, and particularly young African-American men and boys, to pose a greater threat of violence than other members of the community. Despite being aware of these well-known biases, the City has not acted to correct them,” the suit reads.
The complaint argues Hayes’ death is at the intersection of those two patterns, noting Hayes’ erratic behavior on the final morning of his life suggested he was experiencing a mental health crisis, which officers should have sought to de-escalate.
An article published on the website Longreads.com in February paints a detailed picture of Hayes’ life through his final weeks and suggests he struggled with substance abuse and may have been intoxicated at the time of his death.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages from the city and Hearst, was filed with funds from a crowdfunding effort that is still ongoing. Those wishing to assist can visit www.crowdjustice.com.