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.

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❏ Exposing the false narrative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both narratives need exposing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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❏ Did Burley shoot himself?

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AFTER officers of Portland’s Hotspot Enforcement Action Team, HEAT, killed Keaton Otis just off the city’s main Grand Avenue, they claimed their victim had fired first.

They claimed Keaton Otis fired twice and hit Officer Chris Burley in the thighs.

That claim has since been the principal barrier to getting justice for Keaton Otis (right). He shot first, so, of course police returned fire… 32 bullets in seven seconds. It is the perfect cover story.

Keaton Otis

But many have had doubts about the claim. Much of the evidence just doesn’t seem to add up.

Now, there is further evidence casting doubt that Keaton Otis shot Officer Burley. In fact, there is a case to say Officer Burley shot himself by accident. It lends further support to the demand that the case of HEAT and their shooting of Keaton Otis needs to be re-opened and investigated by an independent authority.

Go straight to the new evidence.

First, what has long been known from documents in the public domain, but little publicized:

* Only one bullet allegedly fired at Officer Burley was found, not two. Although it supposedly had passed through Officer Burley’s flesh it had no traces of blood on it. It had been fired from a copper casing, but there were no traces of copper on any of the officer’s clothing.

The gun allegedly used by Keaton Otis, a Taurus Millenium, contained gold-cased rounds. The police Glock-17s fired silver-cased rounds. 32 silver cases were recovered by investigating detectives. No gold cases were found at the scene, either in the Corolla or outside. Crime scene diagram legend

* The i-phone video filmed by a witness shows Officer Burley falling after the police open fire, not before or even as police open fire. At the Grand Jury investigating detective Kammerer talked jurors through a police-edited version of the video — the witness who filmed the video was asked to leave. He clearly described, twice, Burley falling after the shooting starts. He points to officer Pat Murphy fleeing as his fellow officers open fire, and then tells the jurors, “Yeah, that’s Officer Murphy. Officer Burley, right here, then you see him, falls to the ground.” Grand Jury, p143, line

The police-edited, 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.” The police-edited version of the video is no longer available.

* Against all police protocol, Burley was not taken to hospital in an ambulance, but was taken in the back of one of the HEAT cars by two other HEAT officers, Officers Foote and Murphy. Why? Was it just that he needed urgent care as they claimed, or did the HEAT officers need to be alone for another reason?

* One other officer was also shot. Officer Jim DeFrain was hit in the lower abdomen and a round burn mark left on his skin. There has never been any claim that he was shot by Keaton Otis. The most likely cause was flying fragments of bullets, ricocheting off Keaton Otis’s car and the wall behind the car. Bullet fragments were found all around the scene and behind the shooters. One bullet was found underneath the back-hoe on the opposite side of the road. A credible theory has always been that Officer Burley was shot by a ricocheting bullet.

* The gun allegedly used by Keaton Otis has never been linked to him. No evidence has been put forward to show that he ever touched the gun. There is no indication that the gun was tested for palm or finger prints. The gun had been stolen in 2006, but never reported stolen. The first time its owner, an elderly gentleman living in Gresham, knew it was missing was when police traced his ownership after the killing of Keaton Otis.

* There is no evidence that the mysterious Crown Royal bag, allegedly used by Keaton Otis to carry the gun, was ever tested for residues or drugs. Indeed, the bag appears to have disappeared.

* No one claims to have seen the gun till it was found by detectives an hour after the shooting, sitting in the middle of the driver’s seat. All, but one, of the officers of HEAT specifically deny seeing the gun, even though they all claim Keaton Otis shot at them at close range and they returned fire. None can describe the gun.

* Close associates of the HEAT officers – some of the most notoriously violent officers in Portland – converged quickly on the scene, taking control of Keaton Otis’s body and also access to the car. They argued a call to the Strategic Emergency Response Team should be cancelled. It was. Numerous officers, close friends of the HEAT crew who had been with them earlier in the day before the killing, had access to the car to plant the gun. The video shows at least one officer leaning inside the car.

* Keaton Otis was driving his mother’s car. She had been very concerned about his state of health and frame of mind and closely monitored him. It is hard to believe Keaton Otis could have hidden or kept a gun in his mother’s car.

All that, and much more, can be found in the Grand Jury transcript as well as interviews with witnesses and police officers.

The new evidence is based on examining the damage to the wall officers used as a back-stop plus evidence contained in reports by detectives.

First, detective interviews of officers on the night of the shooting seem to open an answer to one key question:

If Officer Burley had shot himself, why did his weapons (a police-issue Glock-17 and a personal back-up Glock-26 semi-automatic) both have full magazines when examined by detectives later? If he had fired one of his weapons, the magazines should have been less than full. But all the magazines he was carrying (at least four) were all full. If his magazines were full, he could not have shot himself.

But what if he had shot the gun and then the rounds had later been replaced? Evidence in detective interviews indicate, at least, this was a possibility. Opportunity and access was a possibility.

Contrary to standard police procedure, Officer Burley was transported to the hospital in the back of one of HEAT’s unmarked cars, not an ambulance. The car was driven by HEAT Officer Ryan Foote with Officer Pat Murphy riding in the passenger seat.

But when Officer Foote’s magazines (three, each with a capacity of 17 rounds) were examined by detectives Slater and Kammerer, there were 16 rounds in each of two magazines and 15 in the third magazine reports by detectives, page 22. Unlike all the other officers involved, he alone — apart from the the three shooters — had less than full magazines.

His magazines were four rounds short of their total capacity.

Detective Kammerer wrote in his report: “I asked Officer Foote if he maintained full capacity in all of his magazines, and Officer Foote told me he did not keep his magazines fully loaded due to a recommendation he received from his firearms instructor when he was at the range. Officer Foote told me he normally kept sixteen rounds in two of the magazines and fifteen rounds in the third magazine.” reports by detectives, page 22

Further, Officer Burley’s police-issue Glock was not kept with him at Emmanuel hospital, where he was taken for treatment, but was put in the trunk of the unmarked Crown Victoria slick-top used to take him to the hospital reports by detectives, page 25.

His duty belt with his police-issue weapon was in the trunk of the car where it was found by Detective Kammerer later. The belt must have been placed in the trunk before Officer Burley arrived at Emmanuel hospital or as he was being taken into the ER as testimony from Officer Chastain reveals.

Officer Chastain had been responding to the code 3, driving south when he responded to a call for a car to give code 3 escort — full lights and sirens — to the unmarked car carrying Officer Burley (officers complained the driving public seemed unaware that the unmarked car with flashing lights was in fact a police car).

Officer Chastain helped Officer Burley out of the car and into the ER. He told detectives that while Officer Burley was on the gurney he seemed anxious to have his personal back-up Glock-26 removed from its holster and secured — most likely from his ABA brand body armor vest. detective reports by detectives, page 62

Officer Chastain removed the Glock-26 and a Smith & Wesson folding knife. But in his account he makes no mention of Officer Burley’s police-issue belt or the police-issue Glock-17. reports by detectives, page 57

Officer Chastain secured the Glock-26 and knife in the trunk of his own police car, not in the trunk of the unmarked car. Neither the unmarked HEAT car nor Officer Chastain’s car appear to have had a formal police guard placed on them for at least an hour.

There clearly was opportunity to re-load Officer Burley’s magazines, for both the Glock-17 and the Glock-26.

wall from the road

wall and windows
high shot
road cracks

Also, there is evidence that officers were talking about the possibility that Officer Burley had fired his weapon, despite protocol insisting officers do not converse about incidents.

Officers Stradley and Gradwahl were detailed — as Traumatic Incident Committee support — to sit with HEAT Officer Ryan Foote in the ER’s bereavement room. Detective Weinstein, part of the investigation team, was also in the hospital. He visited Officer Foote in the bereavement room at 19:21 to offer his support.

Minutes later Officer Stradley left the bereavement room to speak with Detective Weinstein. The detective wrote in his report: “Officer Stradley told me he did not think Officer Burley had discharged his duty weapon. At the time, Officer Stradley and I were speaking just outside of Officer Burley’s hospital room.” Detective reports, page 60

How did Officer Stradley know?

Portland Police Association president, Officer Dobler, was also outside Officer Burley’s hospital room.

Examination of the brick wall used by the officers as a back-stop also, at least, raises the credible possibility that Officer Burley did shoot himself.

Most of the damage is low down on the wall, where it would be expected.

However, two bullets hit the wall high up: One impact was 55 inches above the pavement (marked orange in the picture, right), and between two windows of the apartment behind the wall. Eighteen inches to the left, and the bullet would have gone flying through a window into the apartment.

A second bullet hit the wall 77 inches above the pavement, two feet higher and to the right and inches away from the window to the right. reports by detectives, crime scene legend + diagram

If Officer Pat Murphy — standing alone on the driver’s side of the Corolla — had not run crouching for cover as his fellow officers opened fire, he could easily have been shot in the upper chest, neck or head by these high-flying bullets.

Examination of the 1 inch by 13/8 inch oval hole left by the 55-inch impact seems to indicate that bullet gouged into the wall coming from the left and from below as you face the wall. The higher bullet impact — at 6ft 5 inches off the pavement — can only have come from below. Most of the damage to the wall from the other impacts is around a foot off the pavement.

If the high-flying shots were fired by either Officers Cody or DeFrain — the officers standing by the driver-side car door firing down into Keaton Otis — they would have needed to fire over the Toyota.

Officer Foote and Sergeant Livingston were to their left, further towards the front of the Toyota. If they had fired and hit the wall between the two windows, their aim would have been wildly off. To have hit Keaton Otis they would have needed to fire almost south through the car’s windshield. But both say they didn’t fire their guns.

Officer Chris Burley was standing to the left and behind Officers Cody and DeFrain, and, according to his own testimony, was moving backwards. If Officer Chris Burley had fired the shots, they would have gone over the Toyota’s hood or windshield before hitting the wall from the left. The diagram (right) is based on the coordinates of the profile of a Toyota Corolla and the height of the lower of the two high-flying bullets.

Officer Chris Burley says he never fired a shot.

But someone fired those two high-flying shots. If it wasn’t officers Berne, DeFrain or Polis (firing from the rear of the Toyota, northwards), who did fire the high-flying shots?

The surface of the road all around where Keaton Otis was parked is in poor quality (picture, right, below). It has been roughly repaired and there are many holes and deep cracks to catch someone moving backwards.

What if… Officer Chris Burley actually did have his gun drawn and, moving backwards, also stumbled? What if… in falling he fired off a high shot or even two high shots… and landing in the road his semi-automatic Glock police issue — or the Glock 26 personal backup gun he also carried — fired again twice, shooting himself twice in the thighs?

If he shot himself after the shooting had started he may also have had some of Keaton Otis’s blood on his shirt. It would also explain why Officer Burley needed to go to hospital in the back of a HEAT car, driven by HEAT officers. His gun would need to be made to look as if it had never been fired.

As the evidence in the reports by detectives shows, there was opportunity to re-load Officer Burley’s magazines. Officer Foote, who drove the injured Officer Burley to hospital, was four rounds short on his own magazines… and he had access and opportunity.

Officer Foote was four rounds short. And Officer Burley could have fired one or more shots as he stumbled.

This, and many other questions over the killing of Keaton Otis, could be resolved by a proper investigation led by the FBI, or the Department of Justice, using modern technology to re-examine the evidence including the video, the guns, statements and Officer Burley’s clothing as well as other evidence.

For a detailed review of the publicly-available evidence see The police shooting of Keaton Otis, a detailed review.