Justice for Keaton Otis

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

Posts Tagged ‘police shootings of African-Americas

❏ The killing of Keaton Otis

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For the evidence and events in detail, plus inconsistencies, questions and sources go to The killing of Keaton Otis, a detailed review of the evidence.

HOURS AFTER PORTLAND’s mayor sacked his police chief, officers killed a young black man — stopped at random — during the evening rush hour.

Keaton Otis died in his mother’s Toyota Corolla barely one hundred yards off two of Portland’s busiest streets at just after 6:20pm². Three officers had each tazed him twice. He was then shot 23 times in a seven-second barrage by three other officers. Nine further shots missed, one ricocheting into a Radioshack two blocks away.

Keaton Otis

Keaton Otis (right) had been stopped at Portland’s NE Halsey and NE 6th less than three minutes previously.

Keaton Otis had no criminal record. There was no contraband in his car. There were no drugs or alcohol in his blood. He was a recluse who suffered from depression. He was stopped, officers later claimed, because he failed to signal a turn 100 feet in advance.

They admitted it was nothing more than an excuse, a pretext.

The officers also said: “He was wearing a hoodie… He kind of looks like he could be a gangster.”,

The public lynching was recorded on the i-phone of a witness.

Seven officers of the Hot Spot Enforcement Team (HEAT)³ shot Keaton Otis in a military-style, pre-meditated assassination of an innocent. Other known and notorious officers colluded in the organized cover-up.

HEAT was under the direct control of the chief-of-police Rosie Sizer sacked that morning by the city’s mayor Sam Adams. .

It was just weeks after an Officer had shot, in the back, an African-American man who was walking backwards under police command, with his hands on his head… the man was distraught and suicidal following the death of his brother. Portland city was forced to re-instate the officer last year, together with $160,000 in back pay.

And the city was still angered by the death of a local schizophrenic musician with 16 broken ribs in the back of a police car… after being arrested for allegedly urinating in public. Several hundred police had marched in defense of the accused officer, who had a consistent record of violence, after he also bean-bagged a 12-year-old girl.

The message to Portland’s political and civil authority from Keaton Otis‘s killers was immediate and blunt: Significant numbers of Portland’s police would not be accountable to the people of Portland. They would continue to behave like a rogue gang… acting with impunity… and contempt for civil authority in Portland. And get away with it.

And they have. The officers involved still patrol Portland’s streets. Portland’s police remain beyond the control of the city’s civil authority.

Portland’s political and police leadership remains intimidated and cowed into silence over the killing of Keaton Otis. They continue to block attempts to find justice for Keaton Otis.

The HEAT officers claim they saw Keaton Otis at just before 6:20pm as he drove north along Portland’s busy four-lane Grand Avenue, as they were leaving the Starbucks they daily used. The radio conversation between their four cars was not recorded. We do not know what they said or what happened before they called a full code 3 alert on the police network for all cars to converge on a terrified Keaton Otis… we only know what they say they said and what they claim happened.

“He kind of looks like he could be a gangster,” they later claimed, “he’s got his hood up over his head,” and he had “some scruffy, scruffy facial hair.”

By 6:25pm Keaton Otis was dying. The i-phone video records Keaton Otis screaming he has his hands up. An officer shouts, “let’s do it!” as three officers opened fire¹⁰.

Witnesses say Keaton Otis appealed for help — “don’t leave… they’re gonna kill me”¹¹ — as officers lined up along one side of his car.

Witnesses¹² tell of him being punched in the face through the car window, of the officers not letting him out of the car¹². Video of the killing shows cars and a motorcyclist still driving by just feet away after the seven-second-long barrage.

Within minutes Portland’s most notorious police officers — with prior, proven histories of violence against innocent, mostly black, Portlanders — and close associates of the HEAT officers have converged on the scene, taking control of the car, the body and evidence… and arguing to keep out the rival Strategic Emergency Response Team¹³.

Later they claim Keaton Otis had opened fire first and shot an officer in the thigh. An hour after all the mayhem, a gun — stolen in 2006 but never reported — was found sitting on the driver’s seat. No bullet cases from the two shots Keaton Otis allegedly fired were found. ¹⁴.

Keaton Otis‘s body was sprawled out of the passenger door. His watch was found beneath the car. But the gun was sitting in the middle of the driver’s seat. None of the independent witnesses report seeing Keaton Otis fire a gun. None of the officers who shot Keaton Otis saw the gun… indeed, they all specifically denied seeing any gun¹⁵.

No evidence has been presented that Keaton Otis ever had any link to the gun¹⁶.

The Grand Jury¹⁷ prosecuted Keaton Otis‘s guilt and defended the officers’ story. Without question. The witness who shot the i-phone video was asked to leave the Grand Jury when the DA showed the police-edited version of her video. That version has since been removed from the DA’s web site. Witnesses whose testimony was favorable to Keaton Otis were either not called, or were discredited as hostile witnesses by the DAs.

The Portland Police Review Board¹⁸ found the officers’ actions “within policy” and stated HEAT radio communications should remain unrecorded.

The parameters of a recent report by the US department of Justice into excessive force by the Portland police avoided any examination of the police killing of Keaton Otis.

Keaton Otis was aged 25 when he was executed by Portland police officers on Wednesday 12 May 2010 at just before 6:30pm on the busy streets of rush-hour Portland… on the same day the mayor sacked the police chief.

Keaton Otis still awaits justice. The people of Portland still await a police force that they can trust.

The 15-minute i-phone video of the killing can be viewed here.

A 21-second enhanced version of the video with time stamp and sub-titles can be viewed here.

For links to publicly-available documents, including the Grand Jury transcript and transcripts of police interviews with witnesses and officers, officer biographies, press reports, statements and maps click here.

For a detailed review of events, police claims, the publicly-available documents + inconsistencies and questions raised click ” target=”_blank”>here.

For more information about the Justice for Keaton Otis Campaign see Justice for Keaton Otis on facebook.


❏ Aims and demands

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THE attempt to de-construct the narrative around the police killing of Keaton Otis cannot explain everything that happened… but it can raise sufficient doubts about the official story to demand that Oregon’s Attorney General and/or the US Department of Justice mount a rigorous and transparent investigation into the killing by a reputable and independent authority… leaving no stone unturned.

During the course of such an investigation all officers directly involved in the killing and the immediate aftermath should be suspended on full pay, pending the outcome of the investigation. If the investigation concludes charges should be laid… then those officers should have their day in court to be held to account for their actions.

This is not an attack on the Portland Police Bureau and its officers. Support for the police does not mean uncritical support no matter what. Genuine support means holding the institution and its officers to account: recognizing and applauding the good, aiding and supporting necessary change and rigorously rooting out those who besmirch the reputation of the PPB.

It is a defense of the good name of the majority of the officers of the PPB and their service to the people of Portland. They deserve to do their vital, and often dangerous work, with the full support and trust of the people of Portland, finally free of the shame inflicted on them by the actions of a minority of rogue officers who do not deserve to wear the blue uniform of the PPB.

This would be justice for Keaton Otis. He, and the countless other victims of the worst of the PPB over the years, deserve nothing less. The best of the PPB and the people of Portland also deserve nothing less.

❏ Quick guide

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Below are quick links to key points in the detailed narrative. The aim of the blogs is to give as detailed and as accurate review of what is known about the killing… pointing to anomalies and contradictions as well as raising key questions. As new information comes to light the blogs are updated as appropriate.

In brief… what the police say happened between 6:20pm and 6:25pm on Wednesday 12 May 2010

Driving while black: “Scruffy, scruffy facial hair”, wearing a hoodie and looking “like a gangster”

Wednesday 12 May 2010: A new day for the Portland Police Bureau and alarming news for the officers of HEAT — the chief is fired

Angst in Starbucks… then Keaton Otis drives by

HEAT, the Hotspot Enforcement Action Team

A 15 mile-per-hour police chase

Officer DeFrain thinks ahead… warns Officer Burley to stand out of the line of fire

Live video tells no lies

And live commentary…

“Open the door, open the fucking door…”

A cyclist’s testimony…bang, bang, bang, bang, bang… “controlled hysteria”

“Don’t leave, they’re gonna kill me”

Officer Dauchy: state’s witness

Officer Dauchy: beanbags Keaton Otis… the official version

The alternative narrative… who controls access to the car?

And who then closes the passenger door? And why?

The gun, exhibit #67… but did anyone see it?

The missing Crown Royal bag

Where did all the bullets go?

Seven long seconds

Was Keaton Otis still alive after the shooting?

The autopsy… and the State Medical Examiner’s fantasy conclusion

Stopped for not making eye contact

HEAT: The very definition of racial profiling

When driving-while-black is life threatening

A pause… just what did Keaton Otis do?

A Grand Jury… or a cop show?

Police Review Board finds application of deadly physical force “within policy”

What did Keaton say…

Good cops

Why the rush to shoot?

What they say now… no mention of the 32 shots

Some questions

The purpose of this blog


Postscript… so, how did they do?

❏ How HEAT violated Oregon law

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Did the HEAT and GET squads violate Oregon law when, without cause, they stopped, then assaulted and killed Keaton Otis?

Since no “traffic crime” was committed, nor was a “traffic violation” ever alleged let alone proven, then the stop was both a “self-initiated” and a “warrantless stop” as officers admitted to the Grand Jury. Neither excessive speed nor reckless nor dangerous driving was ever alleged.

Thus, we conclude this was a pretext stop.

In 2009 the Oregon legislature took the problem of racial profiling and pretext stops sufficiently seriously to write Oregon statue 2009 ORS 810.410 Arrest and citation:

(1) A police officer may arrest or issue a citation to a person for a traffic crime …..

(2) A police officer may issue a citation to a person for a traffic violation …..

(3) A police officer: … (a) Shall not arrest a person for a traffic violation.

The language of the statute is clear and plain. It consistently uses the word “may,” meaning it is a permissable authority. So, there is a burden of proof on the officer, to prove the stop was reasonable under the circumstances.

The officer’s decisions and conduct must proceed from lawful use of authority, with the officer acting only upon reasonable assessments of facts. Also the common understanding and meaning of the language applies: may means permissable; must means required. Nowhere in the statute does it require arrest, neither for traffic crimes nor for traffic violations.

Other Oregon case law made it unlawful for the officers of HEAT to try to stop Keaton Otis.

In State v. Painter, 296 Or 422, 676 P2d 309 (1984), “…where no citation can be issued, detention is not authorized.”

In State v. Peterson, 143 Or App 505, 923 P2d 1340 (1996), “…Nervous behavior of driver is insufficient by itself to raise officer safety concerns and allow expansion of stop.” Leave to appeal for a superior court was denied.

2009 ORS 810.410 Arrest and citation: (3)(a) needs to be put before a jury of citizens to seriously question the actions of the officers of HEAT and GET on 12 May 2010… and the subsequent motivations of the DA’s office at the Grand jury.

Q. Why did the DA’s office refuse to see what was put right under their noses?

Q. Where is the “citation” indicating that an authentic “traffic enforcement” stop and arrest was ever intended? There appears to have been no such citation for a violation.

Q. Why would such a huge combined force of HEAT/GET officers be required to serve that citation upon the lone occupant and driver, Keaton Otis, on May 12, 2010?

Q. Why did officer testimony talk about a mission having to do with getting guns off the street rather than “bad drivers” off the street? This allegation concerning the stop, on its face, sounds unreasonable and unsupportable by facts.

Just looking at the law, the officers had no right to think Keaton Otis could be arrested, convicted or imprisoned for the alleged violation.

2009 ORS 801.557 Traffic violation: “… punishable by a fine but that is not punishable by a term of imprisonment.”

  • 153.039 Stop and dentention for violation

  • 153.042 Citations

  • 153.061 Appearance by defendant

What then would cause them to believe he could be stalked, stopped and killed?

It’s not the law that comes to mind. It’s the historical experience of the police in Portland which would inform their judgements of using deadly force with impunity.

When we take a look — just at the stop itself — we clearly see what witnesses noticed at first. Namely, it looked like a normal traffic stop, because no speed was involved on the part of the Corolla. When the police stopped, however, they did so abruptly and approached with weapons drawn.

Witnesses also noticed the boxing in of the Corolla — back and front — by police vehicles. Those witnesses would have their testimony corroborated by the video of Christine Lais.

Most of the other witnesses appearing before the Grand Jury were simply supplying the police with verbal padding and superfluous imagery, simply to bolster the police testimony, increasing the amount of false narrative but not at all necessary to establish the facts in the case. I

Testimony of the bulk of the witnesses called at the Grand Jury was used to establish the false narrative of the police. The Deputy DAs assisted with that goal.

It was not the first time that the fabrication of a false narrative had been used in a bid to cover police guilt.

In Glenn v. Washington County, a jury found officers and the county guilty of violating the rights of Lukus Glen — using excessive force, needlessly, unreasonably killing him. The winning presentation by plaintiff attorney had two fundamental parts pitted against each other: a false police narrative vs. stubborn facts supporting witnesses for plaintiff.

As in the case of Keaton Otis, the authorities constructed a narrative of complicated and confusing “facts” to turn the blame back upon the victim for his own death. The police claimed Lukus Glenn, with their descriptions of his unreasonable behavior, forced them to escalate. Neither crisis intervention training nor de-escalation training applied to such a situation: namely, when the citizen is “unreasonable,” deadly force is the only reasonable alternative.

Only when the trail of false narrative and its confusing irrelevancies was stripped away to the bare essentials did the violation of the rights of Lukus Glenn become plain

Why would the DA’s office want to pad the case of officers, if they were innocent in their actions?

Stripped of its lurid adjectives and claims, the police officers’ narrative could be demolished in a lawsuit by attorneys for the plaintiff.

On the other hand, if one knowingly pads the case of guilty officers, one becomes an accomplice in the act under investigation! The padding, in this case, has only served to implicate the DA’s office in the false narrative of the police. Why would such desperate measures, on the part of the DA’s office, even be necessary?

Political support by the police, kept DA Mike Schrunk in office for 30 years? And, could it be that the support was mutual, that mutual support existed under a highly effective “covenant of blindness” — which amounted to a “covenant of lawlessness” maintained for 30 years, between PPB and the DA’s Office and also among Schrunk’s Deputy District Attorneys?

Could it be that both the police and the district attorneys have jointly, deliberately supported a “covenant of blindness” to the needs of citizens, to keep citizens from obtaining — to discourage citizens even from seeking — true, real, effective justice in Portland, OR, USA?

In 2010, not a single criminal was killed by police in Portland. Only sick persons in crisis were killed. Portland may be the only city of its size that shot not a single criminal that year.

This entire group of Portland citizens, not just Keaton Otis, constitute a class of litigants and deserve a lawyer to press the case for all of them. By the same token, the Governor of Oregon would have just cause to conduct a full-blown, high-level investigation! We have here not just a massive failure of leadership. We also have a massive failure of our legal system.

The DOJ has been looking at Portland as though it’s only problem with law enforcement is a failure of leadership between the Mayor and the PPB. I don’t think anybody really wants to know how bad the Oregon system is.

The role of others in turning a blind eye to the lawlessness of the PPB also needs to be examined:The City Attorney’s office, the Director, Office of Independent Police Review, the Attorney General of the State of Oregon. Ditto, now, the US Department of Justice, which deliberately restricted its search to “civil violations.”

So far, every investigation into PPB use of deadly force steers clear of the obvious, leaving it to citizens to do the research and fight the fight for justice. Yet, we pay for the crimes and criminals as well as for the defenses and damages! It’s truly outrageous!

Is it any wonder the violence of Portland Police Bureau escalated despite every good faith effort of the community to stop the violence and to rid the Bureau of unprofessional officers?

The whole system permitted itself to indulge Police officers and their Commanding officers with a de facto license to execute — in public and at will — innocent citizens who got in the way of police fury. That fury has been plainly on display since November 2009 and continues with the furious defense of officers Humphreys and Nice in the Chasse death, and Frashour in the Campbell death.