Justice for Keaton Otis

Details of evidence in the killing of Keaton Otis by officers of the Hotspot Enforcement Action Team of the Portland Police Bureau. Campaign to get Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber to authorize the state Attorney General to hold an independent inquiry into the shooting.

❏ Exposing the false narrative

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STRIP AWAY all the many words describing what happened and why in the minutes up to the shooting of Keaton Otis, and focus on what was seen, recorded and factually checked since. What’s left is the public killing of a young black man — seemingly picked at random — by a gang of Portland police officers.

Stripped bare of the narratives of events on Wednesday 12 May 2010, what happened should have meant that the officers were put on trial for an horrendous crime.

But they weren’t. And they are still patrolling the streets of Portland.

The words and narratives, the innuendos, spun in the hours and days after the killing, succeeded… for the officers, for the Portland Police Bureau, for the institutions of Portland’s political establishment.

At the Grand Jury it was the dead Keaton Otis who was on trial, not the officers who were allowed — encouraged even — to expand at length on the lurid, irrelevant, details of their story, their “false narrative”.

Keaton Otis was found to be guilty. The officers were exonerated… as was the institution of the Portland Police Bureau.

That false narrative has been forgotten, dismissed. But there remains a second narrative, to guard against reference to the first story spun in the those first hours and days: It was the community, not the police, who let Keaton Otis down.

Both narratives need exposing.

What was the first false narrative, and why did it work so successfully? (For a full review of officer statements click here). It is that narrative that let the HEAT officers, and their superiors and Portland’s political establishment — in its widest sense — off the hook.

A false narrative need have no link whatsoever to any truth. Facts have nothing to do with false narratives. They are about giving the base supporters a more palatable reason for their support, other than simple prejudice.

The false narrative of the officers of Portland’s Hotspot Enforcement Action Team — HEAT — of the killing of Keaton Otis did not and does not stand up to scrutiny. We know that because no one ever mentions its web of lies any longer, not even the officers.

And when the Department of Justice came to examine the record of Portland Police Bureau and its violent interactions with the people of Portland, its parameters and range of dates were carefully written to avoid taking on the case of Keaton Otis and the false narrative, the most outrageous example of Portland police violence against black people.

There is no doubt many in the Portland Police Bureau — apart from the gang of seven and their associates who aided and abetted the immediate on-scene cover-up — know the truth of what happened that evening. There are many concentric circles of those complicit-after-the-fact in the killing.

The gang and their supporters needed the false narrative to avoid having to pay for their crime. But there were many others who needed the false narrative.

The police bureau and the city’s political leadership — in its widest sense, of not just elected officials but also the city’s elaborate web of interests and influence — needed the false narrative to avoid the bureau being blown apart if the horrendous truth became apparent.

The DA and the members of the Grand Jury needed the false narrative to allow the Grand Jury not to need to probe for real justice, as the DA’s office and Grand Juries had done repeatedly and consistently when faced with cases of Portland police officers who have committed gross violence.

The dominant white culture of Portland needed the false narrative to rebuild its sense of normalcy, that police are good and blacks — particularly young black men — belong to the other outside group.

But the false narrative was so weak, untenable, it could only be sustained to meet the immediate needs.

Now there is a new false narrative: Keaton Otis was let down by the community. He was mentally ill. He needed help. It was a tragedy.

So, Officer Burley, allegedly shot by Keaton Otis, has worked in the bureau’s crisis team with the mentally ill: “I know the man I met on May 12, 2010, was not the real Keaton Otis,” he says. “This would be a way for me to give back and make sure people like Keaton get the help they need… I thought this would be a good opportunity to honor Keaton’s memory.”

This from an officer who witnesses say they saw repeatedly punching Keaton Otis through the window of car, who admitted trying to put Keaton Otis in a painful wrist-lock and who may have drawn his gun with the intention of shooting Keaton Otis.

It is true Keaton Otis needed medical help. Had he not been shot 23 times he may have had some of that support when he attended his scheduled medical appointment the following day.

The new false narrative is meant to paper over the original thin false narrative that could only conceal the truth for so long if left as the only explanation for the killing of Keaton Otis.

The new narrative is meant to make us forget the horrendous crime that was committed. Polite company now only talks of the need to improve mental health care… though avoiding the issue that the funding of such care is woeful and is still being cut.

What really happened never happened. Keaton Otis died because Portland let him down. Not because a gang of rogue police officers shot him.

So, the officers involved, the bureau and the layers of Portland’s white political establishment now talk of mental health… while two years ago they talked of a dangerous drug lord who tried to gun down officers defending the people of Portland.

The complete reversal is the soundest testimony to the lie that was spun. If Keaton Otis was a cop-killer and drug lord at the Grand Jury, why now is he an official figure of pity? The second false narrative confirms the first was a lie.

The new false narrative says Keaton Otis did not die because a racist gang dressed in police uniform picked him at random, trapped him in his car and, lined up shoulder to shoulder, gunned him down in a seven-second 32-shot frenzy at point-blank range.

And above all, the new false narrative denies Keaton Otis was lynched on a Portland street in the rush hour because he was black and wearing a hoodie. To send a message to the elected mayor.


The false narrative exposed: There is good reason not to forget the details of the false narrative that was used to justify the murder of Keaton Otis. It is this narrative that demands justice for Keaton Otis, that demands the officers who gunned down Keaton Otis — and their accomplices — are put on trial to be held to account for their actions.

Much of their tale did nothing more than create diversions, muddy the waters and try to focus attention on anything but the simple truth of what happened.

* The officers noted Keaton Otis was African-American, was “wearing a hoodie on a warm day” and declared he “looked like a gangster”. Their focus on Keaton Otis was based solely on racial profiling.

The officers were relying on stereotyping, prejudice and fear as justification. Racism.

Wearing a hoodie is not a crime. Being black is not a crime. But many people assume people who are black and wear a hoodie are criminals. The false narrative was meant to fire up their support for the officers, right or wrong.

* The officers’ testimonies to investigating detectives and the Grand Jury emphasize — at great length — the look in Keaton Otis’s eyes and his facial expressions.

Officer Foote focuses repeatedly in his evidence on Keaton Otis supposedly staring at him in the side-view mirror of the Toyota Corolla. A Corolla’s side-view mirror is tiny. Next time you are at a light, try to make menacing eye contact in your side-view mirror with the driver behind.

Other officers go into detail about the look of Keaton Otis.

But their descriptions are completely contradictory, with some officers describing stares into the distance, direct defiant eye contact and others darting looks.

The fact that Keaton Otis’s “look” features in most of the officers’ testimonies raises the question of collusion by the officers in constructing their false narrative.

None of the officers give Keaton Otis any benefit of the doubt or show any attempt to interpret his facial expressions in any way other than a justification for killing him.

Looking frightened, nervous, angry, apprehensive, desperate, mesmerized, focussed, distant, refusing to make eye contact, making eye contact, staring… none of this a crime, let alone reason to near-empty the high-capacity magazines of their Glock semi-automatics into his prostrate body.

Soon after the shooting community leaders were told Keaton Otis had been stopped because he did not make eye contact with the officers.

But the lengthy, detailed descriptions in investigating reports and to the Grand Jury do serve to paint Keaton Otis as some sort of wild-eyed desperado.

* The mysterious and missing purple Crown Royal bag has a starring role in the false narrative.

The bag in question was found in the street at Keaton Otis’s feet after the shooting. Officers describe Keaton Otis reaching across the car — after being tazed and punched — and pulling a Crown Royal bag out of the car’s glove compartment. They say he fired a gun that was inside the bag.

All but one of the officers involved specifically deny seeing the gun, particularly those closest to the shooting.

Officers, aided and abetted by fawning DA questioning on the Grand Jury, described in great detail how drug lords and gang members use Crown Royal bags to hold their stash. According to the officers, Crown Royal bags are standard issue for gangsters.

No evidence was presented to the Grand Jury that the bag had ever been tested for gun-shot residue or drugs. There was no evidence presented to show that the bag had ever had anything to do with Keaton Otis or that it was his bag. The bag was never shown to the Grand Jury. It has never been seen in public.

In the publicly-available detective reports there is also no evidence that the bag was tested or investigated. There is no photograph of the bag.

Crown Royal bags can be purchased for less than a couple of dollars on e-bay and other sites. There’s a big market for them. They’re fashionable, trendy. They are popular for holding cosmetics, scrabble tiles… and bottles of whiskey.

The false narrative: Gangsters carry Crown Royal bags. Keaton Otis had a Crown Royal bag. He must have been a gangster.

* Code 3. When police officers call a code 3 every other car and officer in a radius of a few miles will assume those officers are in imminent danger. Code 3 is full lights, sirens, no concern for speed limits. Come now. Officers in danger need urgent help.

The HEAT officers called a code 3 at 6:21pm. The police radio log shows officers nearby did exactly what was expected. Inner NE in the rush hour was full of sirens. Witnesses would have heard. And so would have Keaton Otis.

Before most of the officers arrived Keaton Otis had been shot 23 times. The shooting was broadcast live over the police radio network. The HEAT officers also announced officers, plural, had been shot by Keaton Otis. It “sounded like world war III” one officer told investigating detectives later, confirming he thought more than one officer had been shot.

Police audio calls no further threat at 6:27pm.

The false narrative: Every officer within miles was convinced Keaton Otis was a major threat to police officers, a cop killer… they had made up their minds about Keaton Otis before they even knew his name or that he had existed.

* The bean-bagging of Keaton Otis’s body. Keaton Otis, shot 23 times and dragged out of his mother’s Corolla, was bean-bagged three times before his dead body was handcuffed and left lying in the street for six hours before being removed at 11:15pm.

Officer Aaron Dauchy, veteran of bean-bagging at point-blank-range a 12-year-old girl dragged from a Max train, fired the bags. He had argued for the bean-bagging when he heard the Strategic Emergency Response Team had been called. He argued there was no need for SERT.

Later at the Grand Jury he explained that Keaton Otis had been bean-bagged because officers feared he was lying on his gun, and was still a danger to the officers. They wanted to bean-bag him quickly so that medical help for Keaton Otis could be allowed in sooner than waiting for the SERT team. That’s what they told the Grand Jury.

Officer Dauchy had looked in the Corolla. Officer Jim DeFrain , who fired 15 shots, had also looked in the car. Neither saw the gun, allegedly used by Keaton Otis to shoot an officer, was sitting in the middle of the driver’s seat. The gun was found an hour later. After all the mayhem, Keaton Otis’s watch was later found underneath the car.

By keeping out SERT, officer Dauchy and other close associates of the seven members of HEAT maintained control of the scene, the body and the car.

The false narrative: Keaton Otis was so dangerous he needed to be bean-bagged even after he had been shot 23 times.

* Keaton Otis had a gun and shot a police officer. He tried to kill a cop.

This is the key part of the false narrative. Even those sympathetic to the plight of Keaton Otis have been stopped by this supposed revelation.

But the mounting evidence casts serious doubt that Keaton Otis had a gun and fired it at the officers. The level of doubt is sufficient to demand an independent inquiry.

This claim is so central to the false narrative of the killing of Keaton Otis that a separate, detailed analysis of the evidence pointing to its falsehood will be posted within 48 hours.


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