❏ A detailed review of the evidence
IT IS NEARLY FOUR YEARS SINCE KEATON OTIS was killed in a seven-second fusillade of 32 bullets during the rush hour on a warm spring evening by officers of the Portland police HEAT team. An officer was also shot in the thighs, non-fatally.
The team say they first saw Keaton (pictured right) driving north in his mother’s Toyota Corolla on Portland’s busy Grand Avenue at just before 6:20pm, Wednesday 12 May 2010. By 6:25pm, and less than 1/2 mile away, Keaton Otis was dying.
In all the evidence and statements by the seven officers immediately involved, there is no indication that Keaton Otis was stopped for any reason other than “he looks like a gangster”. Keaton Otis was simply picked as a target at random.
Three tasers had each been fired twice at him through the open windows of the Toyota — at least one appears to have made contact with his flesh, penetrating his right forearm according to the autopsy. Two paramedics both reported burns to the back of his neck and his father, Fred Bryant, also witnessed a serious burn wound to the back of his head when he viewed the body of his son, as well as gun-shot wounds to his hands and forearms.
Enhanced video of the shooting reveals Keaton Otis clearly shouting “I’ve got my hands up…” an officer shouts “let’s do it…” There then follows a seven-second barrage of 32 shots.
Keaton Otis was shot 23 times. The autopsy finds seven bullets still inside his body. Nine bullets missed.
The police say that Keaton shot first, twice. One bullet from his alleged gun was found, police later said. But it was not recorded as evidence at the scene. No casings from the gun were found at the scene. One was found two days later, in the Corolla which had been parked in the police pound.
Which officer shouted, “let’s do it”? None of the police officer statements makes any reference to that order.
On the morning of 12 May 2010 Portland mayor Sam Adams had fired his police chief Rosie Sizer… the direct in-line boss of the HEAT team.
On the evening of 12 May 2010 officers of HEAT randomly picked a young black man and executed him just off one of Portland’s busiest streets at the height of the rush-hour.
|The shooting of Keaton Otis from pdx97217 on Vimeo.|
In brief… what police say happened between 6:20pm and 6:25pm on Wednesday 12 May 2010
KEATON OTIS was driving a silver Toyota Corolla when Officers Ryan Foote and Jim DeFrain in their slick-top unmarked car say they pulled up behind him at a red light on Portland’s busy Grand Avenue.
Jim DeFrain was checking his phone messages he later tells investigating detectives. DeFrain, p9 Ryan Foote was driving. They had just left Starbucks on Grand and Hoyt, just yards behind. It was 6:20 pm on the evening of Wednesday 12 May, 2010. Grand Jury, p140, line 22
Officer Cody Berne, who leaves the Starbucks car park just after officers Foote and DeFrain, pulls up almost alongside the Toyota at the light.
In that short distance, they estimate three blocks in later statements, both Officers Foote and Berne say they pulled up details of the Toyota on their computers.
Within minutes three tasers had each been aimed at Keaton Otis and triggered twice in the space of 23 seconds. At least one hit him in the back of the neck. He was then riddled 23 times in a 32-shot fusillade of gunfire lasting seven seconds.
By 6:25 pm Keaton Otis, aged 25, was dying. Police audio records the team confronting Otis at 6:21pm and “no outstanding threats” at 6:27 pm. Police audio
Officer DeFrain had fired 15 shots. Officer Berne 11 and another HEAT officer of just four weeks, Andrew Polas, fired six shots. Grand Jury, p133, line 4
Nine shots missed Keaton Otis. One, fired north from the scene, was found later in a shop two blocks away on the other side of the busy Weidler.
Polas’s partner, Chris Burley, is shot once in each thigh. Police say Keaton Otis fired a gun twice from within the Toyota.
After the shooting Keaton Otis’s body lay sprawled out of the car. After an argument about a call for support from SERT — the Strategic Emergency Response Team — Keaton Otis’s body was beanbagged three times: “…if he’s laying on that gun, he could be waiting for us to come up and start shooting at us again” an officer claimed later. The call to SERT was cancelled. The body was hand-cuffed.
Keaton Otis’s body was neither covered nor removed for more than six hours, neighbors complained. It was finally removed at 11:50pm by the medical examiner’s office.
His watch was found underneath the car. His cell phone on the car floor. But the gun — stolen four years earlier but never reported — was found sitting in the middle of the driver’s seat an hour after the shooting. No evidence has ever been presented to show it was later tested for finger or palm prints or had ever been touched by Keaton Otis.
Only one bullet from the gun was found soon after the shooting, in the shot officer’s clothing. A cartridge from the gun was found two days later inthe police car pound. Neither was recorded in the police evidence lists and neither shown to the Grand Jury. Criminalists, p1+
There was no trace of alcohol or any drugs in Keaton Otis’s body. There was no contraband in the car.
Later, it will be revealed that Keaton Otis had no criminal record. He lived at home with his 59-year-old mother, Felesia Otis, ate little (as confirmed by the autopsy), was painfully thin (commented on in numerous on-scene accounts), was reclusive and had repeatedly been treated for depression. The day after he died, Keaton Otis had an appointment with a psychiatric nurse practitioner.
The silver Toyota Corolla belonged to Keaton’s mother. When Cody Berne and Jim DeFrain punched in the Toyota’s plate it was Felesia Otis’s details that were returned.
Driving while black: “Scruffy, scruffy facial hair”, wearing a hoodie and looking “like a gangster”
INTERVIEWED by investigating detective Erik Kammerer just over a day later, Officer Foote recalled: “There was a Toyota Corolla in front of me, silver… it caught my attention because the guy driving the car was focused on me in the side view mirror… I could see he was just staring at me as he was driving on the road. He wasn’t focused on in front of him, he was focused on me in the side view mirror.Foote, p3
“I could tell he was an African American male, and it also caught my attention because it was warm out today, significantly warmer than it has been and he had a hoodie up over his head and was sitting slouched low in the seat, and like I said he was real focused on me.
“I really didn’t think much of it at the time other than this guy is looking at me funny and he’s got his hood up… the Toyota, it looked like the standard that’s a little bit older, you wouldn’t be expecting someone to be driving that would be doing anything bad plus it hadn’t done anything wrong in front of us, so Jim asked my why I ran it…
“This guy in front, kind of looks like he could be a gangster, he’s got his hood up over his head… there is something, he doesn’t fit this car, things aren’t right in this car.”
Officer Cody Berne also declined to be interviewed on the day of the shooting. Two days later he tells investigating detective Erik Kammerer: “… when I’m still sitting in the parking lot at Starbucks I saw what looked to be a young man with a hood over his head and some scruffy, scruffy facial hair.” Berne, p10 Officer Berne sees Keaton Otis drive by while sitting in his car in the Starbucks parking lot.
Officer Jim DeFrain declines to talk about the incident on the same day. But he tells detective Kammerer three days later: “Like I could see, I think that he had like a hoody on, Like a gray hoody and it was all bunched up and he was tucked down in his seat. DeFrain, p11
“And so I said, the car’s registered to a middle-aged woman… the name didn’t ring a bell.”
Jim DeFrain described the Corolla: “It was like a clean, nice Corolla. It was regular stock like, and it wasn’t filthy or anything, It was just kinda nice, it was a nice car.” DeFrain, p10
Foote: “And I told Jim ‘hey just call, call Cody real quick, or hit him up on the Nextel and see what he thinks about this guy in this car next to him’.
“So Jim calls him, says, asks him and Cody says ‘that guy doesn’t match that car, there’s just something, something not right about that’.” Foote, p4
Detective Kammerer prompts Berne: “DeFrain asked you, ‘hey is that a car we should stop and you said something to the effect of yeah, that looks like a good stop?'”
Officer Berne responds, as always, refusing to directly confirm the prompt in his carefully-chosen words: “I think I said something similar along the lines of the car’s registered to a woman born in 1959 and the person, most likely a man, certainly doesn’t look they’re born in 1959. He’s got a hood up and it’s sunny day. You know, why does he have his hood up on a sunny day?” Berne, p10
Officer Cody Berne described “scruffy, scruffy hair.” A more dispassionate Detective Madden noted after the shooting in his on-scene “word picture” report: “The deceased was very thin…The deceased has a thin moustache and sparse goatee. The head hair is cut very short. I could not see any tattoos, jewelry, glasses or scars.”
He adds: “There were many injuries to the left hand, wrist and lower arm consistent with gunshots… I observed that both hands, the left more so than the right, were in positions expected from the application of wrist locks.” Detective reports, page 47
Later the detective comments up to six gunshot wounds to the left arm were “possible defensive wounds”, wounds sustained by a man holding up his hands vainly to defend himself.
We can only speculate Keaton Otis’s point of view: It must have been alarming to see someone so focused at staring at him and trying to make eye contact via his side-view mirror, or to see unmarked police cars behind and alongside with officers intently staring at him.
Perhaps the entire description by Officer Foote was a figment of a lurid imagination. Next time you are at a light, you try to make eye contact with the driver behind in your side-view mirror.
Or, maybe, Keaton Otis was just driving north. We don’t know.
There are three red lights along Grand between the Starbucks and the turn into Wacco leading to SE 6th where Keaton Otis died. At most this red light is well under 3/10ths of a mile from Starbucks, less than a one-minute drive.
New day, new start for Portland Police Bureau… alarming news for HEAT
WEDNESDAY 12 MAY was supposed to be a new day for Portland’s Police Bureau.
With public confidence in the bureau at an all-time low, mayor Sam Adams sacked police chief Rosie Sizer and named East Precinct Commander Mike Reese as the new chief early that Wednesday. Adams also took over personal control of the force from city Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
This was alarming news for the HEAT officers.
A month before Chief Rosie Sizer’s office had taken direct control with a line of command through Sizer’s deputy assistant chief Bryan Martinek and a lieutenant, Pat Walsh, direct to HEAT sergeant Don Livingston. DeFrain, p3
Roll-call was longer that day because of the discussion about the new chief, Officer Andy Polas told the Grand Jury. “We had a lot to talk about.”
Two days earlier the city had announced it had agreed a $1.6 million settlement for the 2006 wrongful death of James Chasse, who died in the back of a police car with 26 breaks in 16 ribs, a punctured lung and head bruising. He had allegedly been caught urinating in the up-market Pearl district. Officer Chris Humphreys, at 240+lbs, was implicated by jumping on top of the 42-year-old, 145lb local musician who suffered from schizophrenia.
Then chief Sizer called a press conference to denounce the mayor’s budget and added the bureau and officers been “unfairly demonized”. Firing Sizer, Adams countered that he wanted to take the Portland Police Bureau in “a new and different direction.” The relationship between the police and the city of Portland “is not what it should be,” said the mayor.
That Wednesday was just 15 weeks since the shooting of Aaron Campbell in the back by Officer Ron Frashour. Campbell, distraught and suicidal at the death of his brother that morning, was walking backwards with his hands on his head out of an apartment block at the instruction of the police. An officer bean-bagged Campbell and when Aaron Campbell inevitably moved his hands, Frashour shot him. Frashour said he feared Aaron Campbell was going for a gun.
Aaron Campbell was unarmed.
Weeks before hundreds of officers had marched through downtown Portland protesting when Officer Chris Humphreys was suspended for beanbagging a 12-year-old girl along with Officer Aaron Dauchy, who will have his own role to play on 12 May 2010. “I am Chris Humphreys,” read the placards. A lone, brave African-American protester is in the photographs surrounded by officers with his own placard: “Portland police shoot blacks.” The Oregonian
Portland Police Bureau was riven with internal tensions, jealousies and bitterness. Officers had taken to even leaking unflattering gossip about each other to the press. Relations between the bureau, the mayor’s office and the city commissioners, always strained, could hardly be worse.
It was not just Portland’s African-American community that was angry and fearful of the police. For many in the city of Portland, the bureau had seemed out of control for years.
Angst in Starbucks
WHEN HEAT — members of the Hotspot Enforcement Action Team — and Officer Aaron Dauchy DeFrain, p8 from Transit met in Starbucks on Wednesday 12 May the day’s events were the concern. The roll-call discussion continued.
There was “some little angst over Chief Sizer getting let go… and worry about would happen to the HEAT team,” recalled team sergeant Don Livingston. Livingston, p9
At one point he steps out to take a call from Lieutenant Pat Walsh. The sacking of Chief Sizer that morning came very close to home for the HEAT team. The likely threat to chief Bryan Martinek, later fired, was also a worry. A scheduled meeting with Lieutenant Walsh had first been on, then off. DeFrain, p6
“Was Chief Reese going to keep the HEAT team? Was he going to move us? Was there going to be a change in the unit? The team really wanted to discuss HEAT and our future with the new chief.”
Officer Andy Polas: “People were wanting to discuss everything that’s going on , we were of course wondering with us being kind of a specialty unit, with the budget and everything, what the new priorities were, if we were going to be sticking around…” Polas, p6
Officer Andy Polas recalled the team talking with Officer Dauchy, “getting his perspective on stuff”. It was “just kind of a big topic of what was going on.”
When Sergeant Livingston went to talk with Lieutenant Walsh for a good 10 minutes, “we were all wondering, we were all really curious what’s going on, it’s big news and he’s outside talking.
“Then he comes back and we start picking his brain of what’s going on with us… and he really didn’t have too many answers for us.” Polas, p8
Livingston: “I didn’t really have anything concrete to give them. I didn’t want them to worry. I kind of told them that we’re well liked. We’ve done good work and I don’t see us going away. I’d be shocked if we went away. And then at that time, I got a call from Pat Walsh so I stepped outside and had a conversation… asked some specific questions about HEAT’s future and he couldn’t tell me what was going to happen but he said there are some things in the works, it’s all good things. You guys aren’t going anywhere and I was able to step back after that conversation and give the news to the officers that our job was safe.” Livingston, p9
Reassured that they were still needed, the HEAT slick-tops left Starbucks… just as Keaton Otis was driving by HEAT HQ.
Sergeant Don Livingstone, meanwhile, talks Livingston, p9 with the acting sergeant of the Gang Enforcement Team, Officer Brian Dale. Officer Dale will later report to investigating detectives the gun that Keaton Otis is alleged to have used to shoot Officer Chris Burley.
Within hours Mayor Adams and his police chief-of-less-than-a-day were explaining yet another shooting of a young African-American man by Portland police.
But the relief in the voices of the TV and radio newsreaders was palpable. This black kid was armed and he had shot a cop, they reported.
HEAT, the Hotspot Enforcement Action Team, directly responsible to the Chief
HEAT HAD BEEN formed in the summer of 2008 to tackle growing youth gang violence in Portland. It was meant to be a temporary initiative. But HEAT had become a permanent feature, with command transferred directly to Chief Sizer a month before the shooting. Its officers worked closely with the Gang Enforcement Team and Transit Division.
“We deal with a lot of pretty hard-core gang members and some pretty bad guys,” Officer Polas told the Grand Jury. Grand Jury, p153, line 17
DeFrain DeFrain, p3 told investigators and the Grand Jury over the course of less than two years, the small unit had taken almost 150 guns off the street, “all during traffic stops, or subject contacts, all of our guns are always from an intimate interaction with somebody.
“We don’t do search warrants, we don’t do investigations.” DeFrain, p4
By 12 May 2010 the 8-strong team had officially seized 137 guns and made some 3,500 arrests.
The team wears a regular Portland class-B uniform of light blue shirt, dark pockets and stripe. They drive an unmarked Crown Vic with a cage and bars in the back. All the emergency strobe lights are behind the front grill, on the side mirrors, behind the rear-view mirror and one each side the inside of the car by the cage. With no lights on the roof. The police call them “slick-tops”.
The unmarked cars, without high-profile lights and the Portland rose on the side, are “able to sneak into the shadows and watch people without being super obnoxious.
“Having watched people from areas of concealment… when the police cars come by, just doing whatever they’re doing, and it’s like a float in a parade,” Officer DeFrain told investigators. “Mean guys always say here comes task force when they see that we roll up… they know what our cars are.” DeFrain, p4 But, if you’re not a mean guy?
The slick-tops “give us the ability to hide if we need to, but still be obviously police car.”
The four cars always work as a team. “Wherever we go the whole team goes.” DeFrain, p8
“We always stick together in a tight group just for safety numbers.”
Communication is via cellphone, on a closed Nextel talk group, not by the constantly-recorded police north precinct radio network. Their Nextel conversations are unrecorded. So, there is no record of actually what the officers said to each other in the two minutes before officially calling the stop at 6th and Halsey on the recorded police network. We only know what they say they said.
“We have a talk group set up where we push the ‘push-to-talk’ button and whoever is talking will come over the speakerphone, since only our unit can hear it. It’s a real effective way of communicating without using the radio to tie up radio time for everybody else,” explained Officer Polas. Grand Jury, p152, line 2
The team decides its own plan each day, often in the Starbucks on Hoyt and Grand. “Our job is strictly self-initiated activity… we’re going out making vehicle stops or contact with citizens… focusing on trying to get guns off the street,” Sergeant Don Livingston told the Grand Jury. Grand Jury, p57, line 3
They work what they call “the core”: a small area 1.5 miles to the north of the Starbucks where they meet each day, from Fremont to Killingsworth and 15th to Interstate either side of MLK boulevard. They also patrol Holladay Park opposite the giant Lloyd Center mall and the MAX transit line.
As well as the usual Glock-17 police-issue side arm, the unit is carrying the AR-15 rifle, the non-lethal bean bag Remington 870 shotgun (the bean bag is actually full of #9 lead shot), pepper spray and tasers.
Some officers also carry a personal back-up weapon: a Glock-26, a .38 Smith & Wesson Airweight revolver, knives and a TLR1-streamlight for better aiming as well as high-capacity speed loaders. All the officers carried at least two spare high-capacity 17-round magazines, at least 51 rounds each. Criminalists, p27/29 Detective Book 1, p633
A 15 mile-per-hour police chase
AT THE RED LIGHT on Grand a few yards south of Wacco, the officers had no legal reason to stop Keaton Otis. Being black, wearing a hoody and not shaving — “looks like he could be a gangster” — may have been enough for officers Foote, DeFrain and Berne, but not for the letter of the law.
Then, according to Officer DeFrain “all of a sudden the car turned on its blinker for a second, it cut over in front of Cody. Like not the way even I would drive if I was in front of a cop. So he makes that traffic violation, it was not a 100-foot signal. That’s kinda chippy, but it was quick… so, I start paying attention. And then all of a sudden he goes like bam, bam, two more lanes over to the right… he takes this big sweeping turn right.” DeFrain, p12
“… the hoody’s up and I’m thinking he doesn’t want us to follow him. He doesn’t want us to see him… this may be is stolen.”
Even before Keaton Otis turns into Wacco, Officer DeFrain says he has the lights flashing through the windscreen DeFrain, p13. Officer Foote is hitting the air horn. Foote, p6 On the Nextel Officer DeFrain requests support from the other HEAT cars. Two cars further north do U-turns, head back south and go full lights and sirens.
From the turn into Wacco to 6th is barely 100 yards. Officer DeFrain says the Toyota pulled away “like fast… not fast, like 50, but faster than us.
“I’m sure I’m talking to Foote… like oh man, we’re gonna be in a car chase… and I knew whatever Foote had seen, he was right. You know this guy was not gonna go with the program.” DeFrain, p14
“He’s doing something inside the car… he’s moving around, I know what is going on, just from experience, he’s hiding something. I’ve seen it a million times. Guys want to delay the stop so they can put stuff away. It could be dope, it’s a gun, it’s whatever… because he’s so focused on either behind us or putting his thing away, he’s like side to side.”
Officer Ryan Foote tells a similar story to the Grand Jury: “Maybe he’s trying to hide the drugs or the gun, maybe he’s trying to swallow drugs.” Grand Jury, p641, line 14
Maybe. Maybe Keaton Otis was confused. Maybe he was frightened. Maybe he didn’t know an unmarked slick top was a police car. Maybe he just resented being stopped for driving-while-black.
Then, the officers say, Keaton Otis signals left — hardly the action of ruthless drug lord about to make a dash for it — and dutifully turns left into 6th. Grand Jury, p641, line 19
Officer DeFrain decides, “he’s trying to sucker us… if he blows the stop sign then I was gonna say that we’re chasing a car.” DeFrain, p16/17
But Keaton Otis doesn’t blow the stop sign. He rolls forward slowly, stops, and then moves forward again slowly before stopping just short of Halsey and 6th. It was not a high-speed chase: “We were probably only going 15 miles-an-hour as we were going east. That entire street was very slow. And then as we got to sixth avenue, I would say the vehicle was less than five miles an hour,” Foote told the Grand Jury. Grand Jury, p641, line 21
Whether this is what actually happened, we don’t know. The Nextel communications between the HEAT cars was not recorded.
Later, Officer Foote drives shot Officer Chris Burley to the hospital. He tells investigating detective Kammerer how he goes on the radio to call up a standard police car — “a float in a parade” as Officer DeFrain describes them — to clear the traffic.
“We’re driving down MLK, the traffic was horrible,” he explains, “and then the slick tops, the people don’t necessarily see the lights or hear where it’s coming from…” Foote, p16 Officer Foote did not grant Keaton Otis that doubt.
Officer DeFrain thinks ahead… warns Officers Berne and Burley to stand out of the line of fire
WHEN Officer Ryan Foote pulled up he put the front of the Crown Vic just set back from Keaton Otis’s driver’s side door. It put Officer Jim DeFrain in a good spot to be out of the car quick: “I was immediately at a spot I like to stand… behind the pillar between the front and rear seats.
“Instead of the guy seeing me, I see him and I can look down upon him and to get me he’s gotta make a very obvious move.” DeFrain, p18
He soon draws his gun. “I don’t see his hands and he’s not doing what he’s told. And he did something, he put something away. I mean I’ve done this so many times. He hid something.”
As Officer DeFrain describes it, Keaton Otis was “like super angry… we do traffic stops on bad dudes all the time…this guy was bad. I’m like this guy just killed somebody or something… one of those guys that has an attempted murder warrant and he’s trying to take us out of our thing.” DeFrain, p18
When Officer Cody Berne clocks in on scene 36 seconds later, Officer DeFrain orders to him to the driver’s side of the car. “It’s real normal for us each to be on a side of the car, but this was not normal any more.”DeFrain, p20
Officer DeFrain is thinking ahead.
When Officer DeFrain can’t see Keaton Otis’s hand he tells investigating detective Kammerer he thought, “I can’t see his hand and I’m, like I’m gonna have to kill this guy. He’s gonna pull up a gun. DeFrain, p20
“I see Cody out of the corner of my eye. And he’s at the passenger side. I also see that there’s this nice brick wall, on the other side. And it’s high… there’s windows, but they’re like high, higher than the car it seems like to me… and there’s a big wide piece of sidewalk. I’m thinking Cody can’t stand there ’cause if this guy comes up with a gun I’m gonna have to shoot there.”
Officer Cody Berne recalls similar thinking: “… one of the habits I sort of tried to get into was always consider your backstop as you’re making this traffic stop… I remember thinking wow, there’s this great wall, just east of us, of all the places for a traffic stop to happen this is unusual to have this solid of a backstop.” Berne, p24
But Otis Keaton does not come up with a gun. Instead, he grabs the steering wheel with both hands, according to Officer DeFrain — Officer DeFrain’s description is a little more graphic: “… he’s shaking the steering wheel ’cause he’s so mad.”. Officer DeFrain holsters the gun. But keeps his hand on it.
When Officers Burley and Polas swing in from Halsey to box in the Corolla, Officer DeFrain orders them to his side of the Corolla: “And I said, ‘don’t go to the passenger side’. I wanted everybody at me or behind.
“Because I’m the guy right now… I don’t know how I sensed that, but I had a feeling that I was the only gun. So don’t go over there.” DeFrain, p23
Officer Chris Burley Burley, p10 is also planning the possibilities: “…we want to make sure we don’t have a crossfire situation, so we want to have everybody on the same side of the car.”
Two minutes after the HEAT officers say they first saw Keaton Otis, looking like a gangster with his hoodie up, most of them have decided they will be shooting Keaton Otis.
Officer DeFrain tells the investigating detectives that he wants HEAT sergeant Don Livingston on scene: “I say ‘we’re not gonna do anything until Don gets here’… ’cause something’s gonna happen and I want Don there… I want the people that I trust… to be there, and I wanted a sergeant there… ’cause there was gonna be a use of force here.” DeFrain, p25
Sergeant Don Livingston and Officer Pat Murphy arrive at 6:22:15pm.
Within 90 seconds Keaton Otis has been tased twice from each of three tasers and has been shot 23 times.
Officer DeFrain, however, did not see Officer Murphy move to the passenger side. Or, Officer Murphy did not hear the warning. When the shooting starts, the video reveals officer Murphy jumping around as if firecrackers are going off all around his feet. With at least two shots flying high, Officer Murphy could easily have been the second officer to be shot.
When the shooting is over, Officer DeFrain has fired 15 of the 32 rounds, nearly emptying his high-capacity magazine with a shot every half-second.
Live video tells no lies
|The shooting of Keaton Otis from pdx97217 on Vimeo.|
A VIDEO shot from the front-porch of the house directly across Halsey shows the final seconds leading up to the shooting and nearly 15 minutes following.
The red car in the picture belongs to witness Earline Barnes, who told officers Keaton Otis had begged her not to leave: “They’re gonna kill me…” In the video she can be clearly heard to be screaming in horror. Detective Book 1, p204-229
But it is the sound that is recorded that gives most clues to what happened in the seconds leading up to the shooting of Otis Keaton at the intersection at NE 6th and Halsey.
The 15-minute video starts just a few seconds after 6:23 pm and shows the arrival of Officer Murphy who goes to the passenger side of the Toyota.
Twelve seconds into the video there is the sound of a taser firing, and a second taser about a second later. Some witnesses identified these sounds as a gun firing, but the expert witness at the Grand Jury confirmed they were the sounds of tasers firing. Grand Jury, p142, line 14
Five seconds later the shooting starts.
As the tasers also record their firing times, these sounds also help to fix the timings of the last minute of Keaton Otis’s life. The shooting is over before 6:24 pm. Detective Book 1, p660-686 Grand Jury, p560, line 7
The tasers fired at:
Officer Pat Murphy fired his Taser at 6:23:02 and 6:23:07, Grand Jury, p560, line 17
Sgt. Don Livingston fired his Taser at 6:23:08 and at 6:23:13, Grand Jury, p561, line 14
Officer Ryan Foote fired his Taser at 6:23:20 and at 6:23:25. Grand Jury, p561, line 17
Medics called to the scene after the shooting both confirmed seeing burn marks across the back of Keaton Otis’s neck. Detective Book 1, p466, 478 Wires from Officer Pat Murphy’s taser were found entangled in the back of his hoodie.
A recently-released enhanced version (right) of the video, by blogger Joe Anybody, runs for just 21-seconds with timestamp and sub-titles. It helps to make these last few seconds more clear:
Officers (9:26 seconds in): “Taze him, taze him…”
Officers (11:28 seconds in): “Going for something” (coinciding with the sound of a taser)… (13:02 seconds in) “he is going for something…”
Officer (15:06 seconds in): “Show me your hands…”
Keaton Otis (15:24 seconds in): “I’ve got my hands up…” + repeated shouting by a voice that sounds like Keaton Otis
Officer (17:12 seconds in, not subtitled and needs careful listening): “Let’s do it…”
Officer (18:04 seconds in): “Let’s do it…” followed by immediate and repeated gunshots.
The anonymous cyclist’s description of a “fusillade” is matched by the noise: This fusillade is not included in the much shorter enhanced video, but lasts continuously for 7 seconds in the original, more muffled cell-phone recording. It is shocking.
Which officer shouted, “let’s do it”? Officer DeFrain, Officer Berne or Officer Polas? It seems hard to imagine one of the officers who didn’t fire their weapon that day shouting such a command.
Officer Andy Polas says Officer Foote shouted, “going for something”. Officer Foote says he heard another officer shout, “going for something”. Officer DeFrain says he shouted, “he’s going for something” — “I’m screaming at the guys because I know he is going for a gun.” DeFrain, p29
None of the officers ever claim to see the gun.
The longer version video also shows how close Officer Pat Murphy, on the passenger side, came to being shot by his own colleagues firing from the driver’s side of the car, pictured right running from the shooting.
After the shooting, cars and a motorcyclist can still be seen moving down Halsey within yards of the events. Officer DeFrain can be seen moving around to the passenger side of the Corolla. Officers seem confused and bemused, standing around the body and walking back and forth across the crime scene.
The young woman who shot the video is clearly in a state of shock at what she has witnessed. As she recovers from the initial shock, sobbing, she gives a brief commentary on what she has seen and what she is seeing (see video commentary below).
The video plus a zoomed-in version were shown to the Grand Jury.
Investigating Detective Klammerer talked the jury through what they were shown. He confirmed the video starts two-and-half to three minutes after Otis Keaton had stopped (in reality it may have been closer to two minutes).
Detective Klammerer points first to Officer Murphy on the passenger side of the vehicle and then to Officer Burley standing on the driver’s side.
The assistant DA the asks the detective: “We see one officer on the passenger side who appears to be running?
Detective Klammerer: “Yeah, that’s Officer Murphy. Officer Burley, right here, then you see him, falls to the ground.” Grand Jury, p143, line 8
The zoomed-in tape is replayed. Detective Klammerer again narrates: “This is Officer Murphy on the passenger side of the vehicle. Officer Burley, you will see him backing up, tall guy, right there, backing up. That’s him right there. And then he falls down after being shot.”
Note the words “then”, “will”, “then”.
These words are taken directly, without any editing, from the official transcript of the Grand Jury. Grand Jury, p143
There is a serious question here. If Officer Burley was shot twice by Keaton Otis, firing just after he was being tasered and before the fusillade of police fire and shouting “I’ve got my hands up”… why does Officer Burley fall down after the police have opened fire?
In the Grand Jury this question — and many others — was not asked.
The zoomed-in tape, along with the transcript of the Grand Jury, has been removed from the District Attorney’s web site.
And live commentary…
WHILE RECORDING the 15-minute live video, watching from across NE Halsey, the young woman witness is first obviously shocked. But as she recovers, sobbing, she records what she has seen… and what she is still seeing at it happens.
It is the most contemporaneous account of events, particularly of those in the minutes after the shooting. Below is a record of what she says, starting just after Keaton Otis has been beanbagged for the first time, about 5:15 minutes into the recording:
“They’re fucking firing at him?
“Why are they firing?
“What the fuck…
“Why’s no one like taking him to the hospital?
“I saw everything from the beginning…
“They were chasing after him, then they pulled him over right there, really fast they were… weren’t like chasing him… he was just going at a normal speed, and then they came up real fast and put their lights on, sirens and shit and just pulled over… and then… they just jumped out of the car immediately and told him to put his hands up and get out of the car, and he didn’t get out of the car…
“Then they started yelling, he was like yelling back at them…
“And then they pulled all their tasers on him, and then they tasered him a whole bunch of times…
“And I pretty much freaked out…
“Then he was…
“They started just firing shit so I kinda got down, and then when I kinda looked back up he was in between the door on the passenger side… on the ground… and not doing anything…
“And they just kept firing at him… shit, I don’t know, beanbags or something…
“He was bleeding, probably from the taser may be…
“Scary as hell…”
She finishes: “They’re all just standing there and shrugging their shoulders.”
“Open the door, open the fucking door…”
HAVE YOU EVER been about to go into the local store, just as someone is coming out? Usually, one of you stands back to let the other through the door, or, one of you holds the door open for the other. It’s not only polite, it makes common sense. If, however, one of you belligerently blocks the door, or bangs the door shut…
Officer Cody Berne told investigating detective Kammerer: “When Officer Foote was talking with Mr Otis, Mr Otis kept saying, ‘open the door, open the door’. Berne, p20
“Telling us — being Berne, DeFrain and Foote — to open the door and I think he was referring to the driver door.” He adds: “I thought that was very bizaar.”
The response of the officers is not to stand back, and open the door and allow Keaton Otis to get out — or, open the door and grab him. Instead they decide to wrestle, Japanese-style, Keaton Otis out of the car… through the window. Were the situation not so dangerous and tragic, it is the stuff of a slapstick Keystone cops movie. Pure farce.
Officer DeFrain tells the Grand Jury that when Officer Burley arrives, “the guy is screaming, ‘open the door, open the fucking door.’ He just keeps screaming that over and over again… he’s really, really screaming.” Grand Jury, p436, line 20
Officer Cody Berne: “Officer Burley had announced that he was gonna… well it’s time to get him out of the car. I believe the front window was down… and Mr Otis’s hands were still wrapped around the steering wheel.
“Officer Burley reached, just part of his arms through the window. He didn’t put his full body in the car, in any way, shape or form, I don’t think even his shoulder went into the car. And I remember him taking one of Mr Otis’s hands off the steering wheel, I believe it was his left hand. He then used… a sankajo hold.” Berne, p20
Officer Polas describes the scene: “Murphy was up there as well. There was pretty much all seven of us were on the driver’s side to an extent like double stacked, not all crammed together but we were all kind of, their thinking was nobody wanted to be on the passenger side in case of a crossfire shoot.” Polas, p14
According to Officer Polas, Keaton Otis responded to Officer Burley’s martial arts manoeuvres by pulling away and saying, “get your fucking hands off me” several times. Polas, p15
Officer Polas: “At that point… DeFrain had tried to open the door, and was going to try to grab that way, but Burley was already through the window and when DeFrain opened the door, Burley’s body, it caused the door to close.”
Officer DeFrain describes the plan Grand Jury, p438: “Burley is trying to put this guy in a control hold so we can guide him out of the car… then I can just easily, without having to work my way in the car at all — Burley’s kind of got him halfway out of the car, so all I have to do is kind of scoop him out.
“I had gotten my arm out and the door got shut again, because they were slamming back and forth… and I’ve got my hand on him now, too, through the window. I’ve got a hold of his left arm… we’re next to each other in the window… he’s on the front part of it and I’m on the back… both with the same intent, to get him in some sort of control hold so we can get him out.
“And there is this back and forth slamming into the car, and I realize that we’re not going to get him.”
The autopsy and the “word picture” prepared by Detective Madden also indicate injuries to Keaton Otis’s wrists — and particularly the left wrist — consistent with the application of control wrist-locks. Perhaps Officer Burley was successful in applying his painful sankajo control hold.
Sergeant Don Livingston shouts “Tase him!”. It’s seconds after 6:23pm. In less than 40 seconds three tasers have been triggered twice each and the officers open fire.
A cyclist’s testimony…bang, bang, bang, bang, bang…”controlled hysteria”
THE NORTH PRECINCT network first learned that there was an issue when Officers DeFrain and Foote broke their Nextel, unrecorded, conversation and announced on the record that they had stopped Keaton Otis’s car at NE 6th and NE Halsey. The time is stamped at 6:21pm. Within a minute they call code 3, effectively calling up support from every cop car in the vicinity. Police audio Detective Book 2, p288
What happened next?
There are pages and pages of description by the officers involved, including Officer DeFrain’s conviction, as he approached the car, that Keaton Otis had just killed someone.
But the description by an anonymous cyclist taken in a statement just 90 minutes after the events seems as reliable a description as any of the day. It fits in with many of the descriptions given by other witnesses, without some of the more lurid speculations… and also without any mention of Otis Keaton firing a gun. Detective Book 1, p31+
The male, database analyst pulled up at the stop sign on 6th and Halsey just as Keaton Otis and the following slick-top arrived just yards away (this is a compilation of his comments):
“I came up to the stop sign and I waited because there some excitement with a car stopping and a police car pulled alongside with its lights on. It stopped very quickly, it didn’t skid it just came to a very fast stop next to the other car, very close to the other car and behind it a little bit. The officers got out, there were at least two of them, they were talking to the driver… it seemed a fairly calm situation, the driver was answering their questions, I couldn’t see that he was being belligerent… I couldn’t hear him yelling… it seemed just like a normal traffic stop.
“They were standing around talking very casually and they had a very relaxed attitude when they were first talking to the guy and it wasn’t until they wanted him to get out of the car that the situation escalated… they didn’t seem like they were alarmed or they were anticipating any type of violence.
“One of the officers told the person in the car to raise his hands up and the person did raise his hands up, he did as he was told. And then things got a little out of hand… the officers I believe wanted the gentleman to get out of the car and I don’t think he wanted to. He started yelling. The officers started yelling back at him, they raised their voices too and I believed they wanted him to get out of the car and I think he refused.
“The occupant was yelling at them, they were yelling back… and it was escalating, the hostility between the two was escalating.
“The level of calmness started to disappear, the overall tenure of the situation had now gone from being calm and talking to more tension. He raised his hands, he didn’t put them behind his head he just raised them up. The officers’ postures got more rigid, instead of having slumped shoulders it was like there was obviously more tension there.
“At that point another police car had shown up, at least one of the officers had gotten out with a taser, I recognized it wasn’t a gun, it was kinda blue or yellow.
“He had the taser raised up and other officers did not have guns drawn, they were just talking to the guy and wanted him to get out of the car and when he wouldn’t they reached in and they grabbed him by his arms and started pulling on him to try to get him out of the car and at that point the occupant of the car got very belligerent and was resisting them doing that, and then it just escalated very, very quickly, this all occurred in a matter of I would say a minute, two minutes at the most.
“They did not open the driver’s side door, they reached in (through the window). They were trying to pull him out of the car, they grabbed his arm and they were trying to pull him out of the car.
“The driver’s door was never opened.
“The officer with the taser at that point fired the taser at the gentleman in the car at which point he slumped over and leaned over, I couldn’t tell if it was slumping over because of the effect of the taser or whether he was leaning over or whatever… he had gone from a sitting position to a leaning over position after the taser had been fired and very quickly after that there were shots fired by the officers into the car at the occupant.
“I didn’t see the occupant well enough to see if he had a weapon to fire, fire back at the officers or not… the only thing I saw was the officers firing at the individual in the car.
“Real quick, as soon as he leaned over or slumped over within five seconds, ten seconds shots are being fired… I watched him slump over and then I heard the shots and I looked to the right and I saw the officers had their guns out and they’re firing. There was just one fusillade and I would guess bang, bang, bang, bang, bang…
“At that point this situation was escalating like exponentially, there were more police cars coming in… jumping out of the cars with weapons… you know it escalated to a point of controlled hysteria, that’s the way I would put it.
“One of the officers opened the passenger side of the car and pulled the individual out part way so he was halfway out of the car on the ground. At that point many other officers were standing around, to the right and and behind the car with their guns drawn pointing at the guy just to make sure he wasn’t going to shoot back. And later they pulled him completely out of the car and by that time all that was going on was a lot of excitement and other officers told me, ‘you gotta leave, go away, bullets flying’. I was just stunned watching this going on.”
This witness was not asked to give evidence at the Grand Jury.
“Ma’am, don’t leave, they‘re gonna kill me”
THROUGHOUT THE STOP, the tasings and the seven-second fusillade plus for many minutes afterwards, cars, a motorcyclist and at least one cyclist were still moving along Halsey just feet away from the police firing at Keaton Otis.
No attempt was made by the police to stop traffic, or tape off the scene, to keep drivers and passers-by safe. There was no attempt to back-off, cordon off the events, await back-up.
Earline Barnes had collected her grand-daughter, 9-year-old Desire, from Buckman elementary school and was taking her to the McDonald’s on Halsey for a treat. She pulled up at the stop sign at 6th and Halsey in the final minute before Otis Keaton was shot, just as Officers Burley and Polas swung their car into 6th to block off the Corolla.
A driver who came just after the shooting found Earline Barnes extremely distraught, crying hysterically and shouting “you’ve killed him” repeatedly.
Desire was huddled down in the passenger seat.
Later that evening Earline Barnes told investigating detectives that Keaton Otis had hollered at her, “Ma’am, don’t leave. They gonna kill me.” Detective Book 1, p204-229
She described what she saw and heard while sitting at the stop sign:
“He was scared. He was sitting with is hands out.
“I don’t know what the confrontation was about, what the police call was about but he jumped out of the car, right at the window. He commenced to telling him to put your hands where I could see your hands. He began to pull on him, hit on him and the young man was saying, ‘I don’t have nothing. You don’t have to hit me. Stop hitting me.’ He was trying to protect himself, putting his hands up and… the tall, bald officer kept hitting him. So I yelled out the window and asked him, ‘what are you doing, why are you hitting him like that?’
“The young man hollered to out to me, ‘Ma’am, don’t leave. They gonna kill me.’ He had a frightful look on his face then like he was afraid.”
She described the officers shouting for Keaton Otis to get out of the car, but blocking the door. Keaton Otis was shouting back he couldn’t get out because the door was blocked.
Only when the shooting stopped did she pull the car back away from the stop sign. An officer told her to move on, she was obstructing justice he said. “I said, ‘No, I ain’t going nowhere. What you going do, kill me too?’ I said, ‘I’m not obstructing shit’.
“Why they was riddling the car with bullets is beyond me. I never seen nothing in that child’s hand. I never seen a gun.”
At the conclusion of her long statement that night she said:
“Today something very terrible happened. I know that the police is supposed to protect and serve. But in my heart, I feel they killed him. I know what I saw and I know what I heard.
“They never read him his rights. They asked him to get out of the car, but didn’t let him get out of the car. They hit him, they beating on him. He said, ‘man, you don’t have to do that. I ain’t got nothing. I got my hands where you can see my hands’.
“Why the shooting came about, I don’t know why it came about because the boy had been tased twice strongly. He was really impaired. So, all I know is they lit up that car. They were shooting, that car was moving. Why so many shots I don’t know. I see a police officer got shot …. I don’t believe that boy did nothing to shoot a police officer. Something else went on. It’s a lot of bullets flying.
“I got blessed. I didn’t get hurt, ’cause I could have. I was just that close. Where I stand now with all of it. I am not happy about it mentally. It’s very disturbing for me because when I close my eyes, I can just see him. He looked at me in my face and asked me for help. And I could not help him.
“I just don’t feel that they should have done it like that. He was never gave his rights. He was never warned and nothing. And if he had a gun, why didn’t they say, put the gun down. I never heard nothing about a gun.
“So, I say to whoever listen to this, all that’s a lie. They try to cover up. It’s not gonna work. Not this time.”
When Earline Barnes described what she had seen to the Grand Jury nine days later, Deputy Distict Attorney Banfield pointed out to the jury that she had a criminal record, describing it in some detail. She was a felon. The State clearly considered Earline Barnes an unhelpful witness.
The Deputy DA did not raise that other witnesses had also previously been in court and where, less than three months before, their court testimony had been shredded. Call State’s witness Officer Aaron Dauchy to the stand…
Officer Dauchy: state’s witness
OFFICER AARON DAUCHY, assigned to the Transit division, was with his colleagues from HEAT in Starbucks on Wednesday 12 May, as he often was when they met to plan their day. On this day he left before them to go to the downtown Transit office, near the Steel Bridge, he says. How long before the shooting we don’t know, and the DA’s and investigating detectives did not ask.
He says he was doing administrative work at the Transit division when his radio keyed up in his ear piece “I could hear the sirens,” Officer Dauchy told the Grand Jury. Grand Jury, p603, line 14 “They called out the stop. When I heard the sirens, I kind of thought, ‘well, maybe they’re going to pursue’, so, I was kind of listening to it…
“I could tell by their voices, having worked around those guys, they are a little amped up, maybe this is not going so good.” Grand Jury, p604, line 15
He got from his office, to his parked car, out of the the Transit compound, over the Steel Bridge and covered the 1.2 miles to the crime scene to arrive two minutes after the shooting. Although he arrived late… he still had a role to play.
Sergeant Livingston called for help from SERT, the special emergency response team. When Officer Dauchy heard this, he argued the call should be cancelled and Keaton Otis’s body should be bean-bagged instead… to get medical aid quicker, he claimed before the Grand Jury. With the call to SERT cancelled, Officer Dauchy, along with other officers with known records of violence against Portland citizens, then controlled the crime scene.
But first… Officer Aaron Dauchy, the credible and reliable state’s witness:
Officer Dauchy had experience with beanbags. In November 2009 Officer Dauchy was with Officer Christopher Humphreys when they pulled a 12-year-old girl from a Max train. The incident was recorded on Tri-Met security video.
Officer Dauchy says the girl punched him in the mouth with a closed fist. She says he grabbed her purse and then pulled her hair.
Witnesses say Officer Dauchy told her to “shut the fuck up” after she complained, “you don’t have to touch me.”
Dauchy admitted in court, “I hit her a couple of times, or several times with a closed fist, and actually switched to a palm heel strike.” He explained: “It’s easier to break a hand with a closed fist.” A grown man in police uniform does not want to hurt his hand when hitting a 12-year-old girl.
The video shows the ensuing struggle on the platform with the girl. She is wrestled to the floor, face down, by Officer Dauchy and another officer, Officer Humphreys, standing at her feet, fires a beanbag. Officer Humphreys was suspended.
Another juvenile arrested and put in handcuffs by Officer Dauchy in the incident testified he was instructed: “Stay there, or I’m going to shoot you.”
A “beanbag” is not a bag of beans. It is a nylon bag of #9 lead shot. It weighs 1.4 oz and is fired by an adapted Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun, usually with a brightly-colored stock. The “sock” leaves the barrel at up to 300 feet/second and then opens up to a 1-inch by 1-inch square before hitting its target. A beanbag is effective up to 70 feet. The girl was shot at less than three feet range.
It is designed to not penetrate the target, but to cause an incapacitating muscle spasm. When Aaron Campbell was beanbagged as he walked backwards with his hands on his head there was no way that he could not have moved his hands. Police officers trained to use less-lethal shotguns would have known that.
A beanbag packs sufficient force to break ribs, a nose or even a neck or skull. If it hits the abdomen it can cause internal bleeding. A blow to the solar plexus can disrupt the heart. A beanbag can kill, and has killed.
Beanbags cause about one death every year. Serious injury or death has also been caused when the brightly-colored shotguns are loaded with lethal rounds.
When Portland Officer Dane Reister loaded four lethal rounds into an orange-painted less-lethal shotgun and fired at Kyle Monroe he showed “extreme indifference” to the value of human life a 2011 Grand Jury ruled. Oregonian
Dane Reister was a 15-year veteran and former use-of-force instructor.
Kyle Monroe, 20, was left with a shattered pelvis, punctured bladder, colon and rectum.
Beanbags are also sold as protection against bears.
Officer Dauchy oversees the beanbagging… the official version
In the video he appears to bend and look closely inside the Corolla through the passenger door. A schoolgirl witness, observing from inside her apartment some ten feet away, says an officer pulled the body out of the car before Keaton Otis was beanbagged. Detective Book 1, p393/4
Officers appear to be standing around, seemingly unthreatened and unconcerned. Minutes go by before Officer Dauchy beanbags Keaton Otis. Then, covered by an AR-15 rifle, officers approach the body, fully drag Keaton Otis from the car and handcuff him.
At the Grand Jury Officer Aaron Dauchy explains the on-the-record reason for beanbagging Keaton Otis: “I dropped down to a knee, because Officef Dale had an AR-15 rifle. When those go off, they are really loud. I didn’t want to be standing next to him if he had to fire… I was telling him ‘show us your hands. You shot a police officer. You do exactly as you are told or you will be shot again’.” Grand Jury, p609, line 6 There was no response. Officer Dauchy asks: “Do you want me to beanbag him?” Grand Jury, p610, line 6
He explained to the Grand Jury the purpose of bean-bagging Keaton Otis: “… to see if he’s basically laying in wait for us. Grand Jury, p611, line 6
“We can’t see his hands. He’s down. We… I don’t know where the gun is. I know shots have been fired. I know an officer is down. So, I don’t know if he’s waiting for us or not, just waiting for us to come up so he can wait and turn, shoot one of us. We’re going to beanbag him to see if we can get a reaction, see if he moves. If he moves, we’ll start giving more commands, get him to crawl away from the gun…”
He knew police procedure. He knew the effect of a beanbag round. He had been on the 30-hour training course. Grand Jury, p602, line 1
Sergeant Don Livingston ordered Officer Dauchy to beanbag Otis Keaton’s body three times. Otis Keaton showed no reaction.
Officer Dauchy, along with Officers Brian Dale, Matt Delenikos and Bill Shaw, move forward to take Keaton Otis into custody. Dauchy, p13 “I can see both his hands out from under him and they’re both empty. I can see a gunshot wound to one wrist,” he tells investigating detective Kammerer.
And he adds: “There’s nothing in the car…”
Later Officer Dale tells Detective Michaelson he saw the gun allegedly used by Keaton Otis sitting on the driver’s seat of the Corolla, from where it was recovered. Officer Shaw also notes the gun sitting on the driver’s seat.
Keaton Otis’s body was left uncovered and not removed for six hours at 23:50.
An alternative narrative… who controls access to the car?
BUT THERE could be an alternative narrative of the reasoning behind the beanbagging episode.
Sergeant Livingston activated SERT — the Special Emergency Response Team — to recover the body: “As soon as SERT comes, they have a different set of tools, different set of resources that they can use to move forward and take the subject into custody. And we can then get him some medical attention. So the wheels in motion towards him receiving that needed attention had been started by me activating SERT,” he told Detective Kammerer. Livingston, p25
On their arrival SERT would have undoubtedly taken over control of the entire scene. Officers like Dauchy, Shaw, Dale, Delenikos would have been moved to one side and away from car, the body and influence over the post-shooting events.
But then the sergeant talks with Officer Bill Shaw: “Mr Otis was no longer rigid. His body seemed to sink down, his torso down into the concrete. His body was no longer moving. I had a conversation with Officer Bill Shaw. He said we might want to consider moving forward and taking him into custody.”
Officer Dauchy described his view of the scene to Detective Kammerer: “I heard Sergeant Livingston activate SERT. There was already enough officers with handguns and rifles out. At this point I reached in the car and pulled out my less lethal shotgun.” Dauchy, p10
“Officer Dale… had his rifle trained on the suspect… I went down on one knee and used the car as cover… people were trying to figure out who was going to take who into custody… and somebody told me to give the commands when we approached.
“So he’s activated SERT. I can’t see him moving. Medical has already been called for… I’m giving commands, telling him, show us your hands.”
Detective Kammerer asks officer Dauchy to talk him through the reasoning:
Officer Dauchy rehearses the arguments he may have made to Sergeant Livingston “…if we wait for SERT it could take 30 minutes to get there minimum. If he does react and we’re able to give him commands and he can crawl away and we can see his hands, we’ll have him crawl away from the car and the gun if he’s on it. If he doesn’t move, he might be too injured to move and at that point we can move up and cover him and take him into custody. Get him away from the car and if medical’s there, we can bring them in.” Dauchy, p12
Sergeant Livingston picks Officers Shaw and Delenikos to be the recovery team. He orders Officer Dauchy to beanbag Keaton Otis three times. Keaton Otis doesn’t react. Under the cover of Officer Dale’s AR-15 the four move up to drag Keaton Otis from the car onto the pavement.
Three of the officers have known and appalling histories of violence towards the public: Officers Shaw, Delenikos and Dauchy. They are now in control of the body of Keaton Otis, access to the Toyota Corolla and the immediate vicinity.
In 2005 Officer Shaw had been one of three officers involved in the shooting of a homeless African American, Vernon Allen. Later in 2010, Officers Delenikos and Shaw will beat and taser a young black student to unconsciousness.
They said their reasoning for beanbagging Keaton Otis was his urgent need for medical aid. Or, was it the urgent need to stop the arrival of SERT and other officers not so closely associated their friends on the HEAT?
A minute after the beanbagging SERT is cancelled. A minute later medical is called in.
Shortly, Officers Shaw and Delenikos will take control of the inner-perimeter of the crime scene, controlling who comes in and and who goes out. And then someone closes the rear door of the Corolla… after leaning in.
And who closes the passenger door? And why?
JUST AFTER officers Dauchy, Delenikos, Shaw and Dale drag Keaton Otis’s body out of the Corolla and onto the pavement, one officer strides out from the middle of the crowd gathered around the body and boldly and purposefully walks towards NE Halsey and out into the middle of the road where he seems to talk into his shoulder radio.
Ten seconds after he breaks away, a second officer also starts to walk towards Halsey. In about 20 seconds the first has turned around and the two have met on the corner of Halsey, seemingly exchanging brief words and returning back into the gathering of officers around the body of Keaton Otis.
The sequence is clearly visible on the video — between 6:20 minutes in and 6:50 minutes in. Before the officer starts his walk to the middle of Halsey, the passenger door of the Corolla is clearly open. By the time the two officers return, the door is closed.
While the two officers are taking their walk, at just before 6:30 minutes into the video, a shadow appears to move from the group to behind the Corolla’s passenger door, bend over and look or reach into the car.
At 6:31 the door closes.
The sequence of pictures from the video (above right, top to bottom) show the first officer starting his walk with the Corolla passenger door open, the first officer returning from the center of Halsey as the second officer walks while the door closes behind him, and, finally, both officers returning together to the group with the passenger door now closed.
Is all this significant? Is there an obvious explanation? Probably.
Or, is it interfering with a crime scene? Are the officers trying to divert the attention of the person recording the video or are they calling up medical? Do the officers even know they are being recorded? Is the officer approaching the car just curious, or taking an opportune moment? Is the door closed to make moving around easier?
Or, is this when the gun Keaton Otis allegedly used arrives on scene and is placed on the front seat to be found an hour later?
The gun, exhibit #67… did anyone see it?
OFFICER BRIAN DALE, who had also been in Starbucks earlier and arrived on scene soon after the shooting, was part of the team delegated to recover Keaton Otis’s body after he had been bean-bagged by Officer Dauchy. The day after the shooting Officer Dale was interviewed by detectives for more than an hour. At the end of the interview he was asked if he had anything to add: “I saw a gun on the driver’s seat,” he responded. Police witnesses, p44
“Like a black base and silver top, some type of semi-auto on the driver’s seat.”
“Like a black handle?” asks Detective Michaelson.
“Yes, it looked like that palimer bottom and a standard like silver-colored top slide, semi-auto of some type.”
This was the gun that allegedly had been used to shoot a cop, twice. That was it. No further questions were asked. End of interview. Thank you very much.
Officer Dale’s brief two-sentence response is the only on-scene description of the gun Keaton Otis allegedly used. Officer Bill Shaw, who helps pull Keaton Otis out of the car and onto the pavement, also notes the gun on the seat, but does not describe it: “His hands were crossed up underneath his body. Pulled his hands out. Pulled him out… pulled him the rest of the way out of the car. I did a quick pat-down for the gun and we noticed the gun was on the driver’s seat, but I still finished my pat-down.” Police witnesses, p31
None of the HEAT officers who shot Keaton Otis say they saw the gun. Indeed, they say they not only did not see it, they all quite specifically deny ever seeing the gun as they describe facing Keaton Otis’s alleged shots.
And none report seeing it on the driver’s seat as they looked down on Keaton Otis’s prostrate body inside the Corolla. So, none of them could describe the gun.
Officer Foote shouted, “gun!” Officer Polas told Detective Kammerer. Polas, p17
But Officer Foote, looking in through the driver’s-side window as Keaton Otis allegedly reached across the car, says he never saw a gun and he heard another officer shout “gun”.Foote, p14/18
Officer DeFrain, who says he saw Keaton Otis lean over to get the gun before firing 15 shots at Keaton Otis, only saw the explosions from a gun. He didn’t see a gun he said later. DeFrain, p37
Officer Cody Berne, who fired 11 shots that day down at a prostrate Keaton Otis, also denies seeing the gun or a muzzle flash, only a hand and an arm outstretched as if holding a gun. Berne p28
Officer Andy Polas, who fired six shots, told detectives, “I did not see a gun in his hand.” Polas, p24
Officer Pat Murphy fired the taser, through the passenger-side rear window, which most likely hit Keaton Otis across the neck. Asked if he ever saw a gun in the Grand Jury, he replied, “I did not”. Grand Jury, p215, line 25
Officer Shaw takes control for security of the inner crime scene shortly after. Detective Book 2, p291 Later Officer Shaw hands over control of the inner perimeter to Sergeant Duilio, who in July 2001 had shot a 40-year-old black man who just successfully defended himself and disarmed a man who had attacked him with handgun.
The gun allegedly used by Keaton Otis was traced to an elderly gentleman, a Mr Heinz, who had purchased it in 2004. In April 2006 Mr Heinz reported a burglary where other firearms were stolen from his home along with his car.
The semi-auto was not one of the firearms reported as stolen. Mr Heinz told investigators he believed the gun had been in the stolen vehicle, but he had not realized this at the time of the burglary. He had never reported the gun as stolen.
It came to light again after four years on the evening of Wednesday 12 May 2010.
After all the mayhem, it was discovered by investigating detectives sitting on the driver’s seat of the Toyota and labelled exhibit #67 at just after 7:30pm.
The gun was a Taurus Millenium PT111, 9mm Luger calibre, double-action, semi-automatic, serial number TVK95611.
To fire it first time, you need to pull back the slide and manually cock the gun. To fire the gun you need to manually pull the trigger each and every time.
After Keaton Otis was tasered by three officers through the windows of the Corolla — and directly penetrated in the right forearm and possibly hit once across the back of his neck — Keaton Otis is alleged by the officers to have leaned across the car, taken the semi-automatic out of the passenger-side glove compartment in a Crown Royal bag, swivelled himself in the passenger seat, turning with his back to the passenger door, cocked the gun, extended his right arm and fired off two shots with the gun appearing out of the top of the driver’s side window.
Both shots are alleged to have hit Officer Burley, one in each thigh, within inches of each other.
Although the finger and palm prints of Keaton Otis were taken after his death, there were no matches with any law enforcement records. Criminalists, p48 There are no public records indicating the gun was tested for either palm, finger prints or blood matches. There are no records that the gun was ever linked to Keaton Otis, or any confirmation that it was in his hands that day.
Nothing was presented to the Grand jury to show that Keaton Otis had ever touched the gun.
Sergeant Livingston, standing at the driver’s-side door and holding a taser, says he did see a gun, but his description is ambiguous and vague Livingston, p18. “He’s holding the gun — He’s pointing it in our direction. From where I’m standing I can see that it’s pointed not at me, but it’s pointed more towards where Officer DeFrain is standing… at that point I realized I’ve got something in my hand that is not adequate… I throw it to the ground… I’m gonna use my engine block as cover, I’m gonna draw my gun.”
He adds: “I didn’t see a muzzle flash, but I saw his wrist break back after, when I heard the shot, I saw his wrist crack back at the same time, consistent with recoil after you shoot a gun. And that’s what I saw twice coming out of the vehicle.” Livingston, p19
At the Grand Jury Sergeant Livingston describes seeing the gun come out of the driver’s-side window: “The next thing I know is, I see — I don’t see how it happened or where he got it, if he had it in his hands before — I see a gun come up over the top of the window above the door. It looks like it’s still inside the vehicle, itself.
“And it’s pointing — I’m standing next to Jim. It looks like it’s pointing right at Jim. I’m standing close to the car, but Jim is standing to my right. I look at the angle of the gun, and I think it’s pointed at Jim.” Grand Jury, p79, lines 19-25
So, lying on his back, hunched up against the passenger door, Keaton Otis fires the gun twice out of the driver-side window down at Officer Burley’s thighs. And hits him twice. That is the claim of the officers.
The missing Crown Royal bag
IN THE EXPERIENCE of Officer Jim DeFrain “dudes keep dope in Crown Royal bags”. DeFrain, p30
But when Keaton Otis allegedly shot twice at officers — possibly even three times according to Officer DeFrain — he was using a gun still inside a Crown Royal bag according to Officer DeFrain’s description. DeFrain, p30
The purple bag with its distinctive gold braid drawstring was later found at the feet of Keaton Otis, his body laid out by the passenger door of his mother’s Toyota Corolla. It was labelled with a police business card folded into a tent, placard #2.
Records show the purple bag was placed, with other evidence, into a police vault. The publicly-available records also show it was removed from the vault on 18 May. But where did it go?
Nothing indicates there were ever any tests on the bag, for residues from a gun shot, or drugs or any evidence that it was ever in the hands of Keaton Otis. Indeed, it simply seems to have disappeared.
Yet the Crown Royal bag featured prominently in the Grand Jury hearing as well as in many of the descriptions of the officers present when Keaton Otis was shot. But it was not shown to the Grand Jury.
Officer Cody Berne told the Grand Jury: “…oftentimes folks that I interact with on the street like to hide their bad stuff in Crown Royal bags, most commonly narcotics. Nice looking bag, nice color purple. It as gold rope along the side of it. If you want to hide your bad stuff in something nice, maybe that’s how you do it.” No stylish gangster would be seen with their stash in anything else. Grand Jury, p685, line 11
The bags are normally sold holding Crown Royal whiskey. “I don’t think I have seen a Crown Royal bag with liquor, only methamphetamine,” said Officer Berne.
The bags also sell on e-bay and Amazon — upwards of $1.95 apiece — as chic gift bags. My wife’s sister keeps her cell-phone in a Crown Royal bag.
Officer DeFrain, at the rear driver-side window, saw the Crown Royal bag when he says Keaton Otis, after being tased, reached over into the Corolla’s glove box. “…he reaches across and opens up the glove box and there’s (nothing) in the glove box except a Crown Royal bag that’s got something in it. Like something fairly big.”
His first thought, he told Detective Kammerer in his first interview three days after the shooting, “he’s got crack in a Crown Royal bag, but then… he’s got a fucking gun in the Crown Royal bag.DeFrain, p30
“I’ve never seen a gun in a Crown Royal bag.”
“And he grabs this Crown Royal bag just like no big deal… but real, shaky and mad, and he was committed to getting this thing… tasers weren’t gonna bother him and cops with guns weren’t gonna bother him, he was going to get that thing. And he reaches in there and in my mind, the only thing in there is this Crown Royal bag… I need to do something if I was gonna shoot.
“He pulls the Crown Royal bag out… it was like his butt was in the passenger seat kinda, but he was kinda turned toward me… and he leans forward at the waist with the Crown Royal bag and all of a sudden I see gunfire coming out from where he is. DeFrain, p30
“I mean, like the poof! The powder and the smoke and I can hear it.”
Later in the same interview Detective Kammerer comes bag to the Crown Royal bag: “…how was he holding the Crown Royal bag? …when you showed, you had your hands together about mid-chest, touching in front of you with the elbows at your side.
“Was the bag between his hands? DeFrain, p37
DeFrain: “Yes, it was in the center of his chest.”
Kammerer: “Okay. Did you ever see a gun?”
DeFrain: “I never saw a gun.I saw the explosions from a gun.”
Kammerer: “Where do you believe that gun was?”
DeFrain: “In the Crown Royal bag… I expected to see the Crown Royal bag explode… I never really saw that, but there was explosions coming from where he was with the Crown Royal bag.”
Officer Cody Berne describes Keaton Otis reaching over to the glove box: “I see a Crown Royal bag in the glove box. A pretty large Crown Royal bag… and I just remember focusing on that Crown Royal bag where his right hand was going… sort of like, ‘hey, a Crown Royal bag’.” Berne, p22
Like Officer DeFrain, Officer Berne told Detective Kammerer he did not see a gun: “I didn’t see a handgun in his hand… I saw his hand and arm position and then I heard these shots from his car… I don’t remember seeing a muzzle flash.” Berne, p22
Officer Chris Burley also saw the Crown Royal bag Burley, p18: “I’m still backing up… I’ve got officers in front of me… and I see him reaching into the glove box… and it looked like he was reaching into something like a Crown Royal bag or something… it was in the glove box.
“And he was still tumbling and tumbling and I’m backing up and then I hear two, I hear pop, pop. And then I feel a burn, I’m like okay, I was fairly confident I’d gotten hit.”
Officer Foote, standing in front of Officer Burley near the driver’s side window, saw the Crown Royal bag he told investigating detectives. One taser seems to have had an effect, says Officer Foote, but “…he’s able to reach… I’m not sure if he got into the glove box or where this item came from but all of a sudden I saw in his hand there was a purple Crown Royal bag. Foote, p13
“I never saw a weapon on that passenger seat when we were talking to him or… this purple bag, but all of a sudden he’s got a purple bag in his right hand… I’m moving myself now so that I’m looking through not only the open window but through the windshield as well, so I’m trying to see what’s going on.
“…his legs are still in the driver’s seat, but his upper half of his body is in the passenger seat area and this purple bag… it seemed to float away, it’s like just dropped and kind of like there was nothing in it.”
At the end of the interview Detective Kammerer asks Officer Foote if he ever saw a gun. “No,” he replies. “Okay,” says the detective. Foote, p18
The bag featured much in the memory of the officer who fired the most shots that day. At the Grand Jury its description as the must-have accessory of a gangster was emphasized repeated. Typical was Deputy District Attorney Rees asking Detective Kammerer: “Are you familiar based on your training and experience with the use of those bags to carry contraband, such as drugs and guns?” Grand Jury, p135, line 8
But the bag was never shown to the jury, nor were any test results revealed. So, what was the point of talking about it at all, other than to label Keaton Otis as a gangster in the minds of the jury?
The real questions remain unanswered: Where is the Crown Royal bag? And was it ever tested for the residue from the gun explosions, the powder, and the smoke that Officer DeFrain says he saw exploding from the Crown Royal bag?
Was it ever tested for the methamphetamine, the dope that “dudes keep in Crown Royal bags?” If so, what did the tests reveal?
And if the bag was not tested, why not? Where is it?
As a mark of respect for the memory of Keaton Otis I now have a Crown Royal bag hanging from the rear-view mirror of my car. Like Keaton Otis, I am not a gangster and I have “scruffy, scruffy facial hair” — a beard and a moustache. I also wear a hoody.
Where did all the bullets go?
OFFICERS DEFRAIN, BERNE AND POLAS fired 32 rounds between them. Keaton Otis is alleged to have fired two. Where did all the bullets go?
The tip of a police-issue 9mm is hollowed out. It is meant to make the bullet expand and flatten out as it meets flesh or fluid. Police-issue bullets are not meant to pass through, but to stay inside the bodies of those they hit. Grand Jury, p194, line 11
At the autopsy seven bullets were removed from Keaton Otis. At least one, possibly two, would have been fatal Dr Karen Gunson, forensic pathologist and Oregon State Medical Examiner, told the Grand Jury. Grand Jury, p233
The most-likely fatal shot enters the left chest, perforates the left lung, strikes the pulmonary artery, passes through the heart, transects the aorta — the largest blood vessel in the body — before passing through the right lung. Grand Jury, p232, line 11
The second potentially-fatal shot entered through his right arm and was found next to the spinal column after passing through the liver and bowel.
Bullets fired into his left side are recovered from his right shoulder, right lower chest, right chest cavity, bowel, right side of the spine and the left clavicle. Criminalists, p50
Most of the shots hit Keaton Otis mostly in the left arm and the left leg. About four shots hit Keaton Otis in his right leg and arm. Three of the nine shots that missed, did graze his body. The injury on the back of Keaton Otis’s neck was attributed to a bullet by Dr Gunson.
The officers describe Keaton Otis as having his back to the passenger door and firing a gun with his extended right hand just before they opened fire. So, why did most of the bullets hit him on his left side, and not in his right chest?
Why, of the 23 bullets that penetrated Keaton Otis did 14 enter from his left side?
The autopsy revealed that Keaton Otis had been hit by 23 bullets. A further nine shots missed completely.
One shot crossed Halsey and then the busy Weidler Avenue at rush hour, ricocheted off a fire hydrant and landed inside a Radio Shack a block-and-a-half away where a shopper picked it up still warm. Detective Book 1, p688/9
But many of the bullets shattered and flew in all directions. Where these fragments were found raises at least circumstantial questions about the police assertion that Keaton Otis shot Officer Chris Burley.
When Officer DeFrain opened fire he was standing behind the pillar separating the front and rear driver-side windows of the Corolla. He fired at first through the rear driver-side window, towards the north-east. He then moved forward and fired through the front driver window downwards towards Keaton Otis, directly east. He fired 15 shots in total. DeFrain, p32/33
Officer Berne, standing next to the rear driver’s-side door and just to the south of Officer DeFrain, fired north and east, with a brick wall as a backstop. He fired 11 bullets.
Officer Polas, facing north, opened fire through the rear window of the Corolla. “…I felt my bullets would be fired at a downward angle, that they most likely hit the engine block or… the concrete just in front of the car. I remember not seeing any civilians to the north or anybody out in the street walking around.” Polas, p18 Odd, considering the number of witnesses who stood, aghast, and watched the shooting and the cars and motorcyclist caught on the video driving by.
Spent bullets and fragments were found around the Corolla, the slick-tops and to the east.
But some were also found to the west, behind the shooters.
Officer Chris Burley was standing just to the north of Officer DeFrain, about 10 feet away from the Corolla by his own testimony to the Grand Jury — but some 20 feet away on the police diagram (above). The police say he was shot by two bullets from a gun fired by Keaton Otis — both Officers DeFrain and Berne say three shots came from within the car. Berne, p24
Fragments were also found on the south-west corner of 6th and Halsey, to the north and west of the shooters. Detective Book 2, p316
And fragments were also found underneath and to the south of a yellow Backhoe or tractor, a heavy industrial piece of equipment, parked to the west and slightly south of the shooters on the other side of 6th. Supporting officers took cover behind the Backhoe.
Investigating Detective Arjay Dran reported finding “a spent bullet” — not a fragment — at after 3am the following morning underneath the Backhoe, directly behind the shooters Detective book 1 of 2, p4.
Police felt it sufficiently likely that bullets — and fragments of bullets — fired east and north could have gone west, past and behind the shooters, that they later searched the power station grounds running along the west side of 6th. Nothing was found in the grounds.
Officer DeFrain felt an impact in his groin during the shooting. His own description puts the impact in line with the alleged shots from Otis Keaton. He asks two officers repeatedly to check him. He thought he had been shot.
In the privacy of his own shower he finds a burn: “I looked down and there’s this hole. It’s almost like somebody took a cigarette and put it right above my groin and it was like a burn.” DeFrain, p35/36
The only bullets that were fired to the west were supposedly from the gun Keaton Otis pulled from the glove compartment of the Corolla. Only one bullet from that gun was found, lying on the ground (its position is not at all clearly identified in the lists of evidence in the records of Detective Kammerer). The casing was found inside the Corolla the Grand Jury was told, though it is not listed in the evidence found at the scene. Criminalists, p1-4
The Taurus P111 held ball, military-style, full-metal-jacket bullets with a copper casing — unlike police-issue bullets, the tip is not hollowed out.
Forensic expert Leland Samuelson could only confirm that one bullet had passed through Officer Burley’s clothing. No copper residues from the bullet were found on the clothing. There was no blood on the bullet, but there were traces of DNA that statistically matched Officer Burley. Mr Samuelson explained that DNA can be found in skin cells as well as blood and tissue. Grand Jury, p589, line 21
Detective Kammerer asked Officer Burley: “Is there any way that anyone else at the scene could have been responsible for shooting you?” Officer Burley responded: “You know, I don’t know. I mean all I was focused on was like inside the car…” Burley, p22
Seven long seconds
WHY DID the three offices fire 32 bullets, continuously firing for seven, long seconds? Why not one or two?
Their training was to keep firing until there was no longer a threat. The officers of HEAT interpreted “no threat” to mean their target was dead or their guns were empty, or almost empty.
Reading their account of the seven-second fusillade is deeply sickening. They describe a killing frenzy. They were out of control.
Officer DeFrain: “I think by the time his second shot got off, I’m shooting… And so I’m like bam, bam, bam, I shoot through the back window… and I keep shooting and keep shooting and the windows had exploded and at some point during that time I take a second.” DeFrain, p32
Officer DeFrain moves to the front driver’s side window. “He is now on his stomach, but he’s crawling across the front seats… he was trying to get out of the door… and I didn’t see any marks on him… I didn’t see his face ’cause I think his hoody was up over his head by that time… and his hand was under him… I’m like this guy is gonna turn round and shoot me… he’s pretending…
“He’s gonna shoot me right now… or he’s gonna bail out of the side of the car and run and shoot.
“So as he’s crawling across the seat, I shoot him, I start shooting again… I’m shooting at him, bang, bang, bang, because he’s still moving.
“At some point he stops… like he fell out of the car now… instead of him pulling himself across the seat, now it’s only his weight like drags him out of the car. And he falls out of the car and I knew that he was at least stopped. DeFrain, p33
“I started screaming, I didn’t want anybody to shoot any more. It was done for right now… I said like stop, stop, stop. ‘Cause it was done.”
Let’s do it…
Officer DeFrain had fired 15 rounds from a distance, he estimated, of three or four feet. DeFrain, p34
Officer Cody Berne was standing to the south of Officers DeFrain and Foote. Officer Berne didn’t see a gun nor remember a muzzle flash, just Keaton Otis almost laying across the front seats with his right-hand outstretched. Berne, p23/29
“And as I saw his hand, as I’m processing this Crown Royal bag, as I’m processing the taser wires and the instruction, I hear two pops, like cannon fire in rapid succession, coming from him.” Berne, p23
Officer Berne took a two-handed shooting position next to the driver’s-side raer door: “He was just this enormous target in my front sight, was huge. I felt like I was directly alongside him or sitting across a three-foot table, I felt like I was on top of him and my front sight was covering his entire torso.” Berne, p30
Officer Berne’s descriptions of events seem subtley to be at odds with those of other officers. He resists Detective Kammerer’s prompts. He seems to agree with the other officers, but his actual words and tone sometimes feel as if they are more literal, but leaving little holes, that in an final defense he could say, “I didn’t say that, what I actually said was…”
“I remember as I was firing I heard the two loud explosions coming from the Corolla. I heard and saw Officer Burley moving and the shots coming from the Corolla then made a really distinct sound from the shots I remember hearing from alongside me… I remember hearing Officer DeFrain was shooting… remember hearing the pops from his handgun and my handgun and they sounded very different in this bizaare auditory, whatever was happening with my ears.” Berne, p31
“Hearing a very distinct sound from the pops coming from the Corolla… I remember Mr Otis kept on moving… I’m still sort of astounded now and I shouldn’t be… I thought they’d been a number of bullets fired, not just one or two, yet Mr Otis was still moving, still moving his body, still moving his arms, still moving his hand. And I was just astounded at the number of pops and then his ability to still continue to move. And I think then at some point while I’m processing this and I heard that third pop coming from his car as well.
“There’s no great period of time here. It was bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. And then that third pop coming from his car and bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.
“…as that third pop happened… he’s now turned his body, he’s almost in the front passenger seat, almost entirely in the front passenger seat. And I think he was now facing generally south and west… I think his knees may have been on the front passenger seat. I remember his head facing toward the trunk of the car.
“And I also remember this, that I was amazed by the the number of gunshots that I heard in this brief period of time, but I didn’t seen any prominent physical injury on Mr Otis.
“Even when you shoot a target, a paper target, you often times that paper targets wobbles… in this case there was no indication that I was used to in my training that showed that that round actually impacted and was doing anything to Mr Otis. You know, it wasn’t clear in my mind that this was over yet. Which I remember just being astounded, why isn’t this over? How is he still moving?” Berne, p32
“At some point he was moving much less. He was no longer moving deliberately. I think I sort of remember his torso and head just moving very slowly as he’s putting his body in this south facing position, almost kneeling in the front passenger seat. And then at some point he opened the front passenger door and began to fall and slump and move out of that front passenger door.
“…essentially there was no longer a good angle on the driver’s side where we could cover Mr Otis with our handguns… he was so far below us… it was not a tactically sound angle to still be on the passenger side.” Berne, p33
Officer Cody Berne had fired 11 of the 32 bullets.
When Officer Polas hears Officer Foote shout, “he’s going for something… gun” he steps back from the Corolla and seeks cover behind the engine block of the car parked alongside and slightly to the rear of the Corolla. He trips and ends on the ground. Polas, p17
Officer Polas moves to the rear of the Corolla.
“I knew Burley was down,” said Officer Polas two days later. “I had a clear line of fire on the suspect. I could hear gunshots going off. I thought he was still shooting at us. I knew that he had just tried to kill us. And tried to kill my partner.
“And I could see him aggressively in that driver’s seat, he looked like he hadn’t been hit or hadn’t been wounded or disabled to any extent.
“He was aggressively trying to get his legs up over and get into that passenger seat and get out that passenger door. And I remember thinking in my head… this guy’s gonna kill us if he gets out of his car… it’s a real bad situation.
“And I had a clear line of sight on him as he was getting out of the car and I could hear gunfire going off and I thought he was still shooting at my partners. And I pulled my gun and fired at him inside the car. Polas, p18
“He went from… aggressively trying to get out of there to his movements became slow… I remember thinking he may have been hit or was gonna give up. His movements became way slower. I remember him almost laid out now…”
Officer Polas moves to his right. “I can see him as he opened that door… I had stopped firing… and he almost snaked out of the car. He kind of came out like he maybe put is hands on that passenger seat, pulled himself out and… his hands went underneath his body and his head… his upper torso came out.
“… from his waist up was out on the street or curb and his waist down was still inside the car. And that’s when I immediately started giving commands… if this guy has this gun under him, he could quickly pull that thing out and shoot me before I could shoot him.” Polas, p20
Officer Andy Polas had fired six of the 32 bullets.
Was Keaton Otis still alive after the shooting?
KEATON OTIS was still alive as the shooting stopped, the officers who shot him –and their supporters –argued.
Officer DeFrain: “At least for now it’s done. He’s out and he’s laying in a weird uncomfortable position now… and I can see like that I had hit him, even though I never had any sense of hitting him.
“I start going around the car and I do a tactical reload as I’m moving around the other side of the car… I come out on the other side of the trunk with my gun up and I can see him and he’s moving. And he’s groaning. But I can see that he’s been shot in a bad spot. He’s making some sort of noise and I think I yelled, he’s moving. But he wasn’t moving in a way that I considered to be dangerous to me anymore.” DeFrain, p34
“I thought he’s dying or he’s hurt bad enough, but he’s not moving his arms… I don’t know where the gun is, I don’t know where anything is.”
The question arises, if Keaton Otis was still alive, but sufficiently incapacitated not to be a danger any longer — if he ever was a danger — why then was immediate medical aid not summoned? Why do minutes pass? Why then was he beanbagged? Why, indeed, was there a need to beanbag him at all?
Seemingly, Keaton Otis was simply left to die, if he was not already dead. To justify firing off 32 round in seven seconds, Keaton Otis needed to remain a threat. But a threat who was not saved. He needed to be a threat, but in the end, a dead threat, who could never tell his side of events.
The autopsy… and the State Medical Examiner’s fantasy conclusion
DR KAREN GUNSON was, and still is, Oregon’s Chief State Medical Examiner. At the time of Keaton Otis’s killing she had five forensic pathologists in her program. She chose to do Keaton Otis’s autopsy herself on the third day after the shooting.
Also present was Senior Deputy District Attorney Don Rees, who will question her at the Grand Jury… along with PPB Detectives Erik Kammerer and Mark Slater plus Officer Paul Meyer and Detective Sergeant Kraig McGlathery plus criminalists Alison Schleich and Randy Yoshimura. This was a high-profile case.
No representative from Keaton Otis’s family was invited to be at the autopsy. Keaton Otis’s body was disposed of before his father, Fred Bryant, had chance to organize his own autopsy. Indeed, he had to fight to get to even see his son’s body.
Dr Gunson’s clinical description in the police autopsy report of Keaton Otis’s injuries from 23 bullet wounds is gruelling Criminalists, p50. But at the Grand Jury Grand jury pp226-240 she agreed with DA Rees that Keaton Otis could have still fired a gun or even fled the scene:
“Oh, Yes. I have had cases where somebody was shot on the second floor of a home, ran down the stairs and down the street, and they were shot in a similar spot,” Dr Gunson explained. “So they are capable of conscious activity up until probably — well, finally they bleed enough so they are unconscious.”
Presumably in the skipping-down-the-stairs-and-out-into-street case, the victim had been shot just once, twice? Keaton Otis had been shot 23 times and seven bullets were recovered by Dr Gunson from inside his body. Also, Dr Gunson knew exactly how much bleeding had occurred… she told the Grand Jury.
There was 1,000 ccs of blood in his left chest cavity and 500 ccs in his right chest cavity, bleeding from the fatal shot that entered the left side of his chest, perforated the left lung, partially cut through the pulmonary artery in the heart and struck the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body before passing through the right lung. It was recovered from the right side of the chest.
Keaton Otis lost more than a quarter of his 5,000 cc blood volume from those wounds.
But he also lost some blood — “a teaspoon or so” Dr Gunson told the Grand Jury — from a second bullet which had passed “through his liver and some of his bowel before coming to rest next to the spinal column”.
“There’s potential he could die from that because it hit the liver,” she said, before adding, “but there’s very little blood present in his abdominal cavity, so probably somewhere around 20, 30 ccs which is a teaspoon or so full.”
Why so little?
Indeed, why so little when his liver had been wounded twice and two bullets had passed through his abdomen as is made clear in the more detailed police autopsy report but not told to the Grand Jury?
It is worth quoting the detailed autopsy report:
“GSW #4 was a gunshot entrance wound to the right side of the chest which perforated the abdominal wall, the liver, the stomach, and came to rest in the colon.”
“GSW #8 was a gunshot entrance wound to the outside of the upper right arm which perforated the bicep, exiting on the inside of the right arm and then re-entering on the right side of the chest wall, perforating the diaphragm, the right lobe of the liver, the right kidney, and came to rest next to the spinal column.”
“GSW #6 was a gunshot entrance wound to the right side of the chest which perforated the chest wall, the abdomen, and exited in the right side of the groin.”
It is unclear to which of these bullet wounds Dr Gunson was referring when she gave evidence to the Grand Jury.
So, why so little bleeding into his abdomen from three bullets with hollowed-out tips that between them had been slowed by smashing variously through the liver, a kidney, the diaphragm, the abdominal wall, the abdomen, the stomach, and loops of colon/bowel?
Dead men don’t bleed they say.
When bullets #4, #8 and #6 (the numbers do not indicate the order in which the bullets were fired, just the identity given to the wounds in the autopsy) pulverised their way into Keaton Otis, their tips opening out and flattening the bullets to cause maximum damage, his blood pressure was already so low he could no longer bleed.
Apart from the fatal wounds from bullet #1 and gun shot wounds #4, #6 and #8, four other bullets were also respectively recovered from the right chest cavity (#2), from between the chest and abdominal wall (#5), from near the larynx behind the clavicle (#10) and from the right thigh having smashed the femur (#22).
The police autopsy report also reveals that Dr Gunson found Keaton Otis had a fractured humerus in his upper left arm (#11), a fractured left elbow (#12), a fractured radius (#14, #15) and ulna (#15) in his left wrist, multiple fractured metacarpal bones in his left hand (#16, #17), a fractured femur in his right thigh.
Bullets had passed through both thighs (#19, #20, #22) ad through the lower left leg (#21) exiting through the thigh. Another through his left shoulder, pushing behind his clavicle before coming to rest next to his larynx (#10).
A taser probe had also penetrated his right forearm.
Abrasions to his forehead contained glass fragments. He had lacerations and abrasions to his left temple, trauma injuries to the left cheek, a square-shaped abrasion on his upper left chest, an abrasion on his left side, multiple abrasions and laceration on his left elbow, abrasions to his left fingers…
And… “an apparent one-inch-long incised wound to the left wrist, which partially transected a tendon”. Had Keaton Otis also been attacked with a knife?
After being punched, wrist-locked, possibly knifed and then pulverised by 23 bullets fired into his body from a range of a handful of feet, the state of Keaton Otis’s body was nowhere comparable to that of a case where the victim ran down the stairs and out into the street.
Both Dr Gunson and Deputy DA Rees knew all this. One had conducted the 155-minute long autopsy and the other observed.
So, why in the Grand Jury did the Deputy DA pose only leading questions which did little to reveal the truth of what had happened, which served to divert attention away from what really happened that evening?
And, why did the supposedly-independent State Chief Medical Examiner tolerate such and go along with him, focusing the Jury’s attention on a hypothetical case, of another shooting victim running down stairs and along a street, and away from the stark realities of the killing of Keaton Otis?
Stopped for not making eye contact… Shot for looking in a mirror, looking desperate, for staring, for wide eyes… For looking scared
THE DAY AFTER the killing of Keaton Otis African-American community leaders were called in by Mayor Adams and Chief Reese. After the shooting of Aaron Campbell there had been uproar across north Portland and angry public meetings. Aaron Campbell was still in the memory of Portland. The news of Keaton Otis’s death was met with equal suspicion. It had the makings of being a PR and political nightmare for the two leaders just a day after the new start.
The community leaders were told Keaton Otis had been pulled over for “not making eye contact” with the officers.
It revealed a crass lack of cultural awareness by Portland police. Making eye contact is often considered a sign of disrespect by African-Americans.
But later statements by officers, however, focused on looks and eyes… looks in car mirrors, stares into a thousand miles, desperate wide eyes, angry eyes, darting eyes, huge eyes, whites of eyes, looks never seen before…
Officer Foote tells Detective Kammerer: “Right after we pulled out of MLK and Hoyt… it was within probably three blocks, maybe less… there was a Toyota Corolla in front of me… it caught my attention because the guy driving the car was focused on me in the side view mirror… I could see he was just staring at me as he was driving on the road… he wasn’t focused on in front of him, he was focused on me in the side-view mirror and it caught my attention.
“I could tell he was an African American…” Foote, p3
In his testimony to the Grand Jury Officer Foote Grand Jury, p629, line 13 again focuses on the look: “The driver… was actually watching me in the side-view mirror… and the look is, the look was so different than any look that I had seen before from somebody at work that it really caught my attention.”
Officer Foote continues to focus the attention of the Grand Jury on the look of Keaton Otis in his side-view mirror over five more pages of testimony. Five pages describing the look in the Corolla’s small side-view mirror.
The side-view mirror of a Corolla measures a bare 5 inches by 3.5 inches.
Officer DeFrain walks up to the Corolla with his gun drawn, positioning himself to the rear of the front door, behind Keaton Otis, looking down over his shoulder: “I can just see he’s got a thing in his eye, like a black dot in his left eye.” DeFrain, p19
After Officers Polas and Burley swerve into 6th from Halsey to block in the Toyota, Officer Polas recalls: “I remember I looked directly at the suspect. I made direct eye contact with him. He looked right at me. And I remember him just looking — I remember him looking really angry… he kind of looked at me. He put his hands up… like ‘what’s this about? what the hell is going on?’ throwing his hands up.” Polas, p11/12
When Sergeant Don Livingston and Office Pat Murphy pulled in, just after Officers Burley and Polas, Keaton Otis in the Corolla was completely boxed in and surrounded by the cars and seven officers of the HEAT team.
“Before drawing my taser though,” Sergeant Don Livingston told Detective Kammerer. “… let me back up for a second, I made eye contact with the individual seated in the driver’s seat… his eyes were huge. I saw the whites of his eyes and what I saw in his eyes was panic, desperation. Livingston, p14
“It wasn’t normal behavior at all… his eyes were darting all around… I thought two things, he’s looking at where all the officers are, like he’s targeting… like he’s looking for an avenue of escape…
“So, I step up next to Officer Foote and I draw my taser…”
However, Officer Pat Murphy did not see a man with darting eyes. He saw a “thousand-yard stare”. He told the Grand Jury what he saw as he moved to the passenger side of the car to avoid the “space issue” on the driver’s side: “No way did the driver appear to be acknowledging the officers in any way, shape or form. I refer to it as a thousand-yard stare… Grand Jury, p209, line 8
“He was sitting in the car facing northbound, not acknowledging, not turning his head, not looking with his eyes in any shape or form. I noticed even though I made my way around the car towards the passenger’s door… he didn’t seem to track me, didn’t turn his head, didn’t acknowledge I was there… totally fixated northbound.”
We can only suppose the turmoil of emotion that Keaton Otis felt, and how this was reflected on his face. If he was frightened, terrified even, he probably had the look of a terrified man — a perfectly normal reaction if you’ve just been boxed in by four cars with flashing lights and are facing police officers shouting and at least one brandishing a gun.
The very definition of racial profiling
RACIAL PROFILING is defined as, “the inappropriate reliance on race as a factor in deciding to stop and/or search an individual” in the Portland Police Bureau’s 2009 Plan to Address Racial Profiling.
The 37-page plan called on the police bureau to change its hiring practices in order to diversify its ranks, improve officer training, foster more interaction between the police and the community, and analyze traffic stop data to get a better scope of the issue.
On traffic stops one strategy states: “Officers may be less likely to stop motorists and pedestrians on the basis of race — or to contribute to the perception that they do this — if they are expected to introduce themselves and be clear about the reason for
All patrol staff and sergeants received such training in 2007.
The plan’s other strategies seem to make equal common sense.
Did the officers who formed HEAT in 2008 receive any of this training? Indeed, is the plan anything more than a piece of paper for the whole bureau, a few pages of PR?
Or, is it that the whole reason-for-being of HEAT is stops based solely on racial profiling? The small area the HEAT cars patrol are predominantly African-American or Hispanic neighborhoods. Their work is “self initiated”. They do not answer general radio calls. They just stop whomsoever they wish, whenever. Accountable only to the chief.
On what basis? Wearing a hoody? Being too well-dressed? Having scruffy hair? Having too stylish a hair cut? Being in too smart a car? Being in too crappy a car? Driving too fast? Driving too slow? Smiling, not smiling? Avoiding eye contact, or, being rude and making eye contact? Whatever. Just black will do.
Neither the Grand Jury nor the Police Review Board attempted to answer such questions or find solutions and systems to prevent such a tragedy occurring again. They defended the status quo of Portland’s racialized, arrogant and beyond-control policing culture.
A pause… just what did Keaton Otis do?
SO, WHAT DID Keaton Otis do? Actually.
After reading pages and pages of the evidence of Portland officers about what happened on Wednesday 12 May, it is worth taking pause, and asking just what did Keaton Otis do?
Strip away the innuendo of hoodies on warm days, scruffy facial hair, slouched postures, the pages of chilling descriptions of facial expressions and the shock at Keaton Otis’s perceived anger and loud verbal profanity… what’s left?
It’s not illegal to swear at a police officer. Indeed, the officers themselves say it happens daily. It goes with the job. It goes with lots of jobs. It might not be wise when faced with a police officer, but it is hardly the reason to be shot.
Facial expressions? Didn’t any of the multitude of bad dudes who had been stopped by the HEAT officers over the previous two years look intimidating, angry, on occasion? So, what look was so disturbing and chilling that it provoked the officers to shoot? If anything, wouldn’t such darting, wide eyes be more an indicator of something else… sheer terror or mental illness, perhaps?
But Keaton Otis didn’t signal. Even the officers don’t pretend the minor traffic violation, the pretext for the stop, was anything more than the pedantic legal pretense to allow them to do a stop they’d decided to do in the couple of hundred yards from Starbucks. Anyway, Keaton Otis did signal, twice. But not 100 feet in advance. Drive Grand on any rush hour.
He tried to wrip off the Corolla’s steering wheel. Strip away the white knuckle descriptions, the fact is he was holding the steering wheel, his hands were visible… he was going with the program. Until the officers leaned in through the car window and tried a pain hold, and, according to one witness, hit him in the head.
He fought off the officers and refused to exit the vehicle. Even the officers say he was demanding to get out of the Corolla. He fought them off when their declared aim was to hurt him.
But Keaton Otis had a gun? Even assuming he did, the officers’ narrative makes it clear the situation had escalated to the point where lethal violence was actively being contemplated well before any gun appeared. If, indeed, it did. Someone shouted gun. None of those directly involved saw it.
Expectations of violence were high even before any of the cars had come to a stop.
What are we left with?
He was wearing a hoody and, in the eyes of the officers, looked like a gangster? Well, with a unit seemingly driven solely by racial profiling, that presumably was not unusual. Most young black men wearing a hoody probably look like a gangster to the HEAT officers. Most young, black men probably look like gangsters to the HEAT officers. And they don’t all get shot.
So, what was so different about that day?
On Wednesday 12 May 2010, Portland mayor Sam Adams had fired police chief Rosie Sizer, the direct in-line boss of HEAT.
Otis Keaton was just the very first black man to drive by HEAT HQ when the officers of HEAT hit the streets. Amped up, as Officer Aaron Dauchy said.
A Grand Jury… or a trivia cop show?
A GRAND JURY is usually called to allow an impartial panel of citizens to examine evidence, to determine whether there is reasonable or probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and to issue indictments if they believe that there is enough evidence for a trial to proceed.
The Keaton Otis Grand Jury met nine days after he was shot, on Friday 21 May. Grand jury
In his 30-plus years as Multnomah District Attorney — in his eighth term in May 2010 — Mike Schrunk had never indicted a police officer in an on-duty shooting. Oregonian
Nothing would change in this Grand Jury.
It pointed out in a letter to DA Mike Schrunk that there had never been an officer indictment for on-duty use of force, “not even indictments for criminal negligence or manslaughter”. It also raised two legal rulings:
The Ninth Circuit Court ruling in Bryan v. McPherson, in essence, limits officers’ use of the taser to instances in which a person poses an immediate threat. “From what little information we’ve heard in the media about this incident, it sounds as though Mr. Otis was not accused of having a weapon at the time officers tasered him, he was reportedly in one form or another not complying with their commands. Are you instructing the jury to consider this court ruling when considering criminal charges?”
The Oregon Supreme Court ruling in State v. Oliphant, boils down to a person’s right to self defense if they reasonably believe an officer is, or is about to, use excessive force against them. Copwatch queried, isn’t it possible that with “the overwhelming number of officers, and the fact that he was a young African American man suffering from mental health issues in a city where people in either one of those groups might reasonably fear for their lives at a police encounter, he had a right to self-defense?”
In a Grand Jury the role of the DA is to act as a prosecutor. If there was anyone facing a trial in this Grad Jury, it was only Keaton Otis. But in his absence the most — indeed, the only — substantial questioning was reserved for his proxy, the one witness who defended him and pointed to the culpability of the police officers, Earline Barnes. Grand jury, p352-377
For the most part, officers were allowed, encouraged even, to describe events without any fear of meaningful cross-examination. No critical questions were raised about their judgement, actions or motivation. Much of the testimony is word-for-word identical to the officer statements made to the investigating detectives.
There was no critical questioning about whether Keaton Otis presented sufficient threat — as opposed to being profane, frightened and uncooperative — to justify the use of tasers. And as for Keaton Otis’s right to self defense in the face of seven officers, three armed with tasers and at least two with drawn Glocks…
However, Officer Foote takes up more than five pages of transcribed testimony describing the look of Keaton Otis that he saw in the Corolla’s small side-view mirror. Grand Jury, p629/635
So, when officers describe their initial suspicions based on the fact that Keaton Otis was wearing a hoodie or had scruffy facial hair (the jury is spared the “gangster” remark), there was no follow-up examination questioning whether all this amounted to racial profiling and how it could be justified.
Instead of seriously examining events that ended in the shooting of a young man, the Grand Jury was little more than a vigorous case for the officers’ defense, reverentially conducted by the prosecuting district attorney’s office.
Earline Barnes described seeing an officer — most likely Officer Burley from her description — repeatedly hit Keaton Otis through the car window. But Deputy District Attorney Don Rees does not ask Oregon State Medical Examiner Dr Karen Gunson if “blunt force injuries” to his face could have been caused by being hit with a fist.
Instead Mr Rees focuses on asking Dr Gunson how long Keaton Otis could have survived and continued to move after being shot through the aorta — “he has a potential for activity for several seconds, maybe 30, 40 seconds, maybe up to a minute”. Grand Jury, p234, line 16
Instead of exploring whether or not his injuries — mostly to his left side — were consistent with him being shot while his back was to the passenger-side door and extending his right arm or lying across the front seats or kneeling in the passenger seat facing south, Mr Rees focuses on questions that reinforce the police justification for their lengthy barrage… that they could not see any evidence of injuries so they just continued shooting.
It’s not so much that what evidence was presented at the Grand Jury was irrelevant or skewed, though much of it was superficial, a sort of cop trivia show. It’s what was not asked that is pertinent. It’s about what was left out, what was ignored. It’s about what the DA’s office chose to emphasize and the abundance of evidence it chose to ignore and the questions it chose not to ask.
It chose to not raise any questions that might probe or cast any doubt on the descriptions and statements by the officers involved. It chose to raise questions that only condemned Keaton Otis, even though he had no way of defending himself. The deputy district attorneys did not do him the courtesy of even attempting to see events from his point of view, of even presenting a token devil’s advocate argument in his favor.
No question such as:
“Officer, you say that Mr Otis had his hands on the steering wheel, that he was shouting ‘open the fucking door’… surely is it not possible that Mr Otis actually was willing to get out of the car and would have gotten out of the car… in the circumstances repeated profanity did not constitute sufficient threat to justify being tasered let alone shot?”
“Officer, is it not fair to say you over-reacted… that, in retrospect this could have been handled without such violence against Mr Otis? What you describe as angry looks and the repeated shouting of the word ‘fuck’ hardly seem to be such a major threat? Surely, wearing a hoodie and having scruffy facial hair do not constitute sufficient reason for this tragedy?”
“Officer, was it not reckless to get into a position where three of you fired 32 shots during the rush hour without the area being taped off, roads closed… did it not occur to you to engineer a stand off, call in a shield, negotiators, the crisis intervention team… what was the rush?”
There was no such gentle probing.
As Portland Copwatch wrote to DA Mike Schrunk: “We hope you present all of the facts, and all of this context to the grand jury. As we noted in the Aaron Campbell case, while you follow the questions that the grand jury asks, you also pick and choose what information to present to them.”
The Grand Jury found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Police Review Board finds application of deadlyphysical force “within policy“
IN OCTOBER 2011 the Police Review Board unanimously concluded the traffic stop and box-in, the use of tasers and the application of deadly physical force were all “within policy”. Police Review Board, p37
One member of the panel concluded the beanbagging of Keaton Otis’s body three times was “excessive”, once would have been sufficient.
The board made a number of training recommendations including better training in “flash sighting” for officers firing their guns at close range. Police Review Board, p39
It also said the case should be de-briefed in the Sergeant’s Academy.
It unanimously recommended the training division uses resources (if available) “including on-staff mental health and cultural diversity experts, to examine and consider particular aspects of individuals, including their mental health, cultural norms or other factors that might affect their response to law enforcement personnel.” Police Review Board, p41
The board rejected the recommendation for specialty units, such as HEAT, that “developing tactical situations should be broadcast on the appropriate radio net” rather than the closed, unrecorded NEXTEL system.
What did Keaton Otis say?
WE WILL NEVER know Keaton Otis’s version of events on Wednesday 12 May 2010.
We do know from the video that he was shouting, “I’ve got my hands up…” seconds before the three officers opened fire.
Earline Barnes, who was found crying and shaking after witnessing the shooting, says Keaton Otis appealed to her, “don’t leave, they’re gonna kill me.”
And: “I don’t have nothing. You don’t have to hit me. Stop hitting me.”
A cyclist who also saw the events confirms that he raised his hands when ordered. “It’s like watching a movie… one of the officers told the person in the car to raise his hands up and he did raise his hands up, he did as he was told.”
A young schoolgirl in one of the neighboring ground-level apartments watched the incident from her bedroom through the blinds. Police estimated from a distance of 10 to 15 feet. She confirmed she saw Keaton Otis with his hands on the steering wheel, and when he took one hand off the wheel he waved it. She interpreted the wave to indicate to the officers that he meant, “no”. The hand remained visible. Detective Book 1, p392-430
She described Keaton Otis as shaking after he’d been tased. When he moves to the passenger side of the car, she says, it was to get away from the tasers. After the shooting, but before he was beanbagged, she describes an officer opening the passenger side door and pulling Keaton Otis out of the car.
We don’t even know actually what the officers of HEAT said. Their NEXTEL conversations were closed and unrecorded. We only know what they say they said.
Driving while black is life threatening
THE REST we have to surmise.
And here, it is likely what black folks surmise will differ from what most white folks will surmise. Their experiences are starkly different.
In the black community tales of being stopped for driving-while-black are a sort of bitter joke.
White people get stopped by cops… for broken tail-lights, speeding, DUIs. But they don’t get stopped because they’re white.
Black people know they get stopped for broken tail-lights, speeding, DUIs… and often — mostly — for simply being black, because of what black has become to mean in a still deeply-racialized USA. And the history of race in America tells them the results of the stop are likely to have much more to do with their color, than a broken tail-light.
The USA remains a society where relationships based solely on color, and its history, subliminaly and structurally govern all institutional interactions between whites and people of color, and often personal interactions too — where one community feels it daily while the dominant white majority chooses to live in a state of denial.
For most whites in a dominant white society the reaction is likely to be, if the kid had nothing to hide, if he’d done nothing, why did he run?
For black people, a Crown Vic pulls up behind you, and another alongside… this could be a life-threatening experience. Or, a white person in a big car is staring at you in your mirror. And why would they think that? Because of the long history of events like the killing of Keaton Otis. Because of the history of events like the killing of Aaron Campbell. Repeated many times in many cities and neighborhoods across America over many decades, and frequently still.
And because of the growing number of government and state programs that target black people, and young black men in particular. (For a shocking and detailed analysis see The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander).
On a personal note, when I first heard of the shooting of Keaton Otis and the 27 shots — in the early days the number fluctuated — my thoughts turned to the days of lynchings, when whites celebrated the hangings of blacks by peppering, shredding and desecrating their dead bodies with, literally, tens and hundreds of rounds of lead shot.
I felt, in a visceral sense, there had been a lynching in inner-NE Portland during the rush hour. I felt Portland, and its good people as well as Keaton Otis, had been abused and defiled. I still do.
We don’t know what Keaton Otis felt when he saw a Crown Vic behind him, with an officer staring at him in his side-view mirror, and another slick-top almost alongside. But the weight of black history tells us — and probably told Keaton Otis — he had cause to be afraid, very afraid.
The good cops find alternatives to lethal tactics
NATHAN THOMAS was 12 years old in 1992 when a suicidal and mentally-ill intruder broke into his Portland home and took him hostage with a 12-inch knife in his own bedroom. One officer attempted to negotiate, but then two officers opened fire, chaos ensued, other officers stormed the room and Nathan Thomas was accidentally shot after 14 minutes. He died some hours later.
His parents set up the Nathan McMurry Thomas Fund in memory of their son. It has given a memorial award every year since to a police officer for “exceptional communicative accomplishments which further the goals of community policing.”
Nathan’s parents, Martha McMurry and Gregory Thomas, wanted to press the bureau to “value alternatives to lethal police tactics.”
But one result of the police investigation into Nathan’s death was to arm officers in hostage situations with AR-15s, the rifle Officer Ronald Frashour used to shoot and kill an unarmed Aaron Campbell. The Oregonian
The police never interviewed Nathan’s parents. The Grand Jury, assessing the wisdom of firing 18 shots in a little boy’s bedroom, showed no interest in their views about the need for alternatives to lethal violence. Nathan’s parents were initially told he had been stabbed: only later did they accidentally discover the truth.
“We’ve been told 100 times that the whole bureau was shaken by this. I wanted to believe that,” Greg Thomas told The Oregonian. “But when you see the stuff that’s gone on regardless, particularly the Aaron Campbell shooting, you wonder if we should have done something differently and if anything has changed.”
But the recipients of the awards do show that there are officers in the Portland Police Bureau who do have an alternative vision — such as Detective Terry Wagner who was presented the award in 2003 for “her dedication to using communication skills to diffuse volatile situations”.
❏ 2003 Officer Michael Castlio, for his work with the homeless;
❏ 2004 Officer Paul Ware, for preventing a distraught man with a butcher knife from doing harm to himself and others in the Senate Chambers of the Oregon State Capitol;
❏ 2005 Officer Dan Thompson, for preventing a distraught man with a gun from doing harm to himself or others. Officer Thompson used his skills to gain the man’s trust and, as a result, ensured a safe outcome for all involved;
❏ 2006 Officer James Nett, for preventing a distraught and suicidal man from doing harm to himself and others. Officer Nett drew on his experience and training in crisis intervention to resolve this incident;
❏ 2009 Officer Betty Woodward, for continued devotion and dedication to the people of Portland – and particularly to the mentally ill;
❏ 2010 Reserve Officer Gerald Miller, for his work with elderly crime victims;
❏ 2011 Officer Kevin Wolf, for his crisis communication skills in negotiations with an armed, bloodied suspect in an effort to rescue a 12-year-old boy.
SO, WHY THE RUSH TO SHOOT in the case of Keaton Otis?
What was stopping the HEAT officers from taking a step back, even aiming their AR-15 rifles from a distance at Keaton Otis, securing the area, stopping traffic… and talking to Keaton Otis through a bullhorn? Even asking for help. His car was boxed in. He wasn’t going anywhere.
Time and a few feet of space might have helped everyone.
Time might have helped the officers see beyond hoodies and angry eyes.
Time might have brought wiser, calmer heads to the scene.
Time might have helped Keaton Otis communicate how he felt to people able to listen and hear.
Time might have offered security to passers-by, like the motorcyclist (above) driving by just after the shooting.
But someone in the HEAT team called time and shouted, “let’s do it…”
Why? Neither the Grand Jury nor the bureau’s investigating officers seemed interested in finding out.
What they said later… no mention of the 32 shots
FOLLOWING THE GRAND JURY Mayor Sam Adams issued a statement in which he said: ““Chief Reese and I intend to keep the peace in Portland moving forward with a different approach. It will take time to fully implement. But reform has work began with hands-on oversight and face-to-face outreach: visiting the scene of the shooting to better understand the issues at hand; visiting the hospital and talking with wounded Officer Chris Burley; and spending time with the parents of Keaton Otis, attending his funeral to hear first-hand their pain and grief.
“We’re also taking real steps forward in funding mental health services in the coming year’s budget, including funding the construction and operation of a joint City-County Mental Health Crisis Center; dedicating funding for the Hooper Detox Center; funding Crisis Intervention training for police officers, and continuing to fund the Police Bureau’s Service Coordination Team.
“And, as part of the Portland Plan, we are working toward creating real equality of opportunity in Portland, issues that cut across ethnic lines, age, and geography.
“I am working with Chief Reese to strengthen the trust between the Portland Police and many in the community it serves. Releasing the investigative reports and the Grand Jury transcripts is part of Chief Reese’s and my commitment to increased transparency and accountability within the Police Bureau.”
Officer Chris Burley, three weeks after the shooting, said: “The community as a whole failed Mr Otis. It is something we can all learn from.” The Oregonian
The officers of HEAT wrote to the police union news-sheet The Rap in June 2010 to extend their thanks to officers and community: “The events that led to the unfortunate death of Keaton Otis and injuries to officer Chris Burley showed the strength and character of many members of the PPB and our Portland community.”
SOME QUESTIONS that come to mind… in no particular order:
❏ Which officer shouted, “let’s do it”? Is it the same officer who shouted, “he is going for something…” which testimonies indicate was Officer DeFrain? The video/audio exists, has it been analyzed to answer these questions? Modern technology is well up to this task. If so, what were the results? If not, why not?
❏ Was the gun allegedly used by Keaton Otis tested for finger-prints or palm-prints? If so, what did the results show? If not, why not? Why was this evidence not presented to the Grand Jury?
❏ Does Portland Police Bureau training include how to defuse and de-escalate potentially life-threatening situations? In other US cities, and across the world, the police seem able to resolve such situations with patience and negotiation without killings within minutes while cars, motorcyclists and cyclists pass by just feet away. If not, why not?
❏ Why did DA Mike Schrunk not instruct his deputies at the Grand Jury to compare the injuries to Keaton Otis and the descriptions by the officers about his position in the car when he was shot? If he was presenting his front and right side to officers, why are the most serious injuries to his left side?
❏ Why did DA Mike Schrunk not instruct his deputies at the Grand Jury to explore the timing of the events, the rush to open fire, the dangers to the general public and alternative options such as using a shield, the crisis intervention team and negotiation?
❏ Why did DA Mike Schrunk not instruct his deputies at the Grand Jury to explore the wisdom of the decision to wrestle Keaton Otis out of the car when he was, according to the same officers, shouting “open the fucking door” and had his hands on the steering wheel?
❏ Why did DA Mike Schrunk not instruct his deputies at the Grand Jury to critically question whether implementing a traffic stop based on judgements such as wearing a hoodie on a warm day, having a moustache and supposed angry looks in a small side mirror amount to racial profiling?
❏ Why did DA Mike Schrunk not instruct his deputies at the Grand Jury to constructively explore the events of the day to question Portland Police Bureau’s implementation of the Blue Ribbon panel’s November 2000 recommendations on racial profiling and the PBB’s 2007 Plan to Address Racial Profiling?
❏ If such incidents are considered sufficiently stressful for the officers involved to allow them to decline to be interviewed immediately — a privilege not allowed the general citizenry — then why are such stressed-out officers allowed back on the streets to carry on such stressful work, fully armed, with seemingly no oversight?
❏ Why was command of the HEAT team moved from the North Precinct to the direct control of the Portland Chief of Police, Rosie Sizer? Is this still the case with Chief Mike Reese? If so, why?
❏ What budget pays for the HEAT team? How is this budget funded? Are external agencies/grants/funding involved? If so, what are they? What are the terms of such external funding?
❏ Are the same members of the HEAT team still patrolling the streets of Portland today? If so, why?
❏ Have new rules of operation been introduced to govern the operations of the HEAT team? If so, what are they? If not, why not?
❏ Has there been any review by the Portland Police Bureau of the effectiveness of its 2009 Plan to Address Racial Profiling? Has there been a review of its proposals and the training that all officers, supposedly, go through?
❏ Was the car with the unreported Taurus semi-automatic inside, which was stolen in 2006, recovered by the police. If so, what records exist, and do they show whether or not the Taurus semi-automatic was also officially recovered by the police? Or, did it just disappear? Did the investigating detectives check?
The Purpose of this blog
THIS BLOG is an attempt to put the killing of Keaton Otis into some wider, but still local, context. It seeks to describe events using material from those who were present — except the crucial person, Keaton Otis himself — and find some answers to what happened that day, and where answers can’t be found to point to some of the questions, anomalies, contradictions and inconsistencies.
The sources used for all references in this blog are all in the public domain, nearly 2,000 pages of evidence and testimony as well as video, audio plus media reports. Quotes and descriptions are from police interviews and Grand Jury testimony plus other public sources.
Some quotes have been edited to remove the repetitions in the literal transcribed speech of police interviews to help readability. Every effort has been made to rigorously and honestly present the original meaning. Where there has been ambiguity, the original, full quotation, complete with repetitions, has been used.
Quotes from different interviews, and different parts of the same interview or statement, but on the same themes, have deliberately been been brought together, juxtaposed to help illuminate events. The citation links indicate this. Quotes that raise new questions, support the narrative of officers or seem just contradictory have been kept in to help readers build their own conviction. If there is doubt, pull up the original and read all the context.
Usually less is more. But here if it seems relevant it is included… regardless of final word count. Others can boil it down, or add from the documents.
The sections on the actual shooting, seven long seconds, and whether or not Otis Keaton was still alive immediately after the shooting, were not easy to include for fear of intrusion into family grief, or descent into voyeurism and sensationalism. They are included as they seem to help describe the complete loss of control, the frenzy, that took place in the less than six minutes after the officers left Starbucks — and the disregard for Keaton Otis.
Words of caution: We only have descriptions of what happened, many of them taken days after the event. The officers involved must be considered to be partisan in their words. All declined to be interviewed on the record on the day — unlike the bystander witnesses who had little choice and no training for the task. Some of the officers were not interviewed for up to three days, speaking only to their association representatives in the interim.
Ms Lais describes under emotional stress events as she records the video. A close listening to the words and the tenses of the verbs spoken implied, to my ears, that it is even possible none of the descriptions up to the point when the officers go public on the recorded North network at 6:21pm actually happened. We know the slick-top of Officers Foote and DeFrain pulls up at speed alongside the almost-stopped Corolla, but little or nothing of the journey over the previous half-mile, what was said or what happened can be verified. She says the slick turned on its lights, not that they were already turned on. A slip of the tongue? Or, a significant detail?
Also, there were seven HEAT officers involved, plus an array of other officers-with-a-past offering assistance (Dauchy, Delenikos, and Shaw, Duillio, Broughton, Foxworth), but the involvement of a rooky Officer Polas and a seasoned self-described “lead guy… the only gun”, Officer DeFrain, were clearly at very different levels, even though both of them shot Keaton Otis.
And, for instance, is the sort of question of who closes the passenger door? really significant? Or, is this just paranoia? Or, is it a clue to the planting of a gun that Keaton Otis never touched or fired?
Justice for Keaton Otis will finally come in public campaigning and such detail, be it this detail or others yet to be revealed. The devil will be revealed in the detail.
Editorializing is hopefully excluded or at a minimum within the descriptive passages based on quotations from the interviews, though as with all journalism what the writer chooses to leave out is as important as what is included or how it is ordered. The aim is that the reader constructs for themselves their own picture of events, and finds for themselves the inconsistencies and contradictions in the stories presented. Readers should open the documents and read critically around the passages quoted, to find their own significant words, their own feeling for what truly happened that day.
The links will bring up the relevant document, but not the actual line or quote. The p# refers to the page of the document: either the page label in the document or the pdf page number if there are no specific page labels, or the labels are confusing, as in the Grand Jury transcript.
Updated 6/17/12. Minor corrections + editing: 9/16/12.
2/8/2014: The autopsy and the Chief Medical Officer’s conclusions added + minor editing and shifting of order of narrative.
A comprehensive list of links to documents and news items is available at Mental Health Association of Portland
Records of interviews, etc, by Detectives Erik Klammerer and Mark Slater: Book 1 of 2
Records of interviews, etc, by Detectives Erik Klammerer and Mark Slater book 2 of 2: Book 2 of 2
Records of interviews, etc, by other investigating detectives: Detective reports
- Transcript of interview with
- Transcript of interview with
- Transcript of interview with
- Transcript of interview with
- Transcript of interview with
- Transcript of interview with
- Transcript of interview with
- Transcript of interview with
- Police witness statements:
- Criminalist reports:
Transcript of the Grand Jury
Video shot from house on Halsey: original cell-phone recording posted at vimeo.com/12121790
Video with time stamp and sub-titles: 21 seconds of enhanced video
Video in slow motion: Multnomah County DA has been removed by the DA’s office.
Police audio: Audio file
Portland Police Bureau powerpoint Maps of events
Know your Portland police officers: Portland Indymedia
Court report of beanbagging of 12-year-old girl: Blogtown PDX
Video of beanbagging of 12-year-old girl: You tube
Profile Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk: The Oregonian
Portland Copwatch raises concerns about Keaton Otis Grand Jury: Portland Observer
Blue Ribbon panel on racial profiling, recommendations November 2000: Background + recommendations
Portland Police Bureau Plan to Address Racial Profiling, 2007: Portland Police Bureau
Portland Police Review Board: Conclusions and recommendations
Mayor Sam Adams’ statement on the Otis Keaton Grand Jury: Statement
Postscript: “We did a reallygood job” — Officer DeFrain
Detective Kammerer: “In hindsight do you think this incident could’ve been approached in a way that presented less risk to yourself or others?”
Officer DeFrain: “I think we did a really good job in a bad situation.” DeFrain, p40