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 ‘pretext stops

❏ 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.


❏ 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.

❏ 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.