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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 8, 2010 6:34 AM. The previous post in this blog was Public bidding? Just dodge it.. The next post in this blog is Technical difficulties at Google. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Otis grand jury

I spent three and a half hours last night with the grand jury transcript in the Keaton Otis killing by Portland police. It's a riveting read, certainly captivating in its detail, and it will no doubt impress anyone who takes the time to look through it.

From the accounts of the six or seven police officers on the scene and many other witnesses, there is not much doubt that Officer Christopher Burley was shot a few seconds before most, if not all, of the 32 shots were fired by his fellow police officers. There was another, non-police-issue gun at the scene, which fired at least one shot. No fingerprints appear to have been taken from that gun. One bullet fired by it was recovered, and it had the wounded officer's DNA on it. The cartridge casing was in Otis's car.

It's not likely that Burley was hit by friendly fire -- his fellow officers on the scene were standing behind him when the shooting started -- and he never fired his own gun. There was no gunpowder on his clothing.

The police officers' stories all line up. Burley tried to grab Otis by the wrist through the front driver's side window of his car, and open the door so that another officer could reach in and pull him out. Otis pulled away and slouched along the front seat toward the glove compartment. Two cops shot their Tasers into Otis, who was in an extraordinarily agitated state ever since they stopped him, but that had only a limited effect. Otis pulled a gun out of a Crown Royal bag and shot twice, they say, or maybe it was three times (although only one bullet and one casing from that gun were recovered). Three officers then rained down a hail of hollow-point bullets, only one or two of which struck with fatal effect.

The victim was a severely depressed young man who had been locking himself in his darkened room for days and was starving himself to death. At 6 feet 4 inches tall, his weight was down to 155 pounds. Once in a while he would eat a bag of Doritos. One man testified that an enraged Otis had previously threatened him with a baseball bat in a bizarre incident. He clearly had serious problems.

His mother, with whom he lived, testified that she and her husband, who raised Otis, did everything they could to get him help. But he would not take it, and society would not force him to do so until he was more of a proven threat to himself or others. And so he was killed by the police instead.

Although it produces a gun and a bullet that hit Burley, which is what I needed to put my worst fears to rest, the grand jury transcript also points to an alarming circumstance -- the sickeningly thin reasons that the police officers gave for singling Otis out in traffic on Grand Avenue and tailing him. It was another one of the Portland police's amorphous "I had a bad feeling about that car" explanations, reminiscent of the James Jahar Perez killing a while back.

The main reason that the officer who instigated the incident gave for following Otis was how intently Otis was looking through his side view mirror at the police car behind him. Then a second police car got involved alongside the first, further upsetting the extremely sick kid. The police also said their suspicions were aroused because Otis was wearing his sweatshirt hood up on a warm evening, and the car he was driving was registered to a woman, and an older woman at that. (It turned out to be his mother.)

So they tailed him, and he reacted by cutting across a couple of lanes of traffic. Then he wouldn't pull over right away. And when he did, he screamed and cursed and refused to obey the cops' instructions. One of the police officers pulled out his gun, which got Otis even crazier.

Then more police cars showed up, boxing him in. Then one of the policemen reached inside the car and grabbed his wrist. He pulled away and got Tased twice. Then the Crown Royal bag appeared, and that was the tragic end of Keaton Dupree Otis.

I don't often agree with Portland's creepy mayor, but on this one, I think he's right: This sort of thing should not happen. Our community, all of us, should feel enough shame to try to do better, much better.

Comments (27)

"Three officers then rained down a hail of hollow-point bullets, only one or two of which struck with fatal effect".

Explains why so many rounds need to be fired at suspects who are shooting at them.

I'm reading a book that might interest you and anyone else concerned about the PPB's frequent interactions involving gunfire and dead sick people:

"Anatomy of an Epidemic: magic bullets, psychiatric drugs, and the astonishing rise of mental illness in America" by Robert Whitaker.

Whitaker's (a journalist) expose-oriented book and it's very disturbing or even frightening -- basically he discusses all the long-term studies of drug treatment for mental illnesses that he could find, and it's a frightening picture, especially when you consider how many kids are being medicated for ADHD etc. Word of the day: IATROGENIC (caused by medical treatment).

Turns out we've put millions of people on drugs that, over time, convert them from a little sick to VERY sick, bipolar, etc. A very, very, disquieting book.

Gibby -

The officers in Portland and elsewhere are trained that once they are in a shooting situation to empty the magazine.

Whether that is good policy or bad policy, or good training or bad training, is a whole different question.

The argument that is made is that once a shooting situation is posited, the officer can't fire once, stop to see if there is any effect, if not, fire again, etc etc. The argument is that its too dangerous for the officer to stop. The greatest safety is to fire until empty.

The argument has some apparent logic.

I don't know if there is any empirical data to support the argument.

The "fire until empty" policies sure result in some scenes that after the fact look real bad to us civilians.

Actually they are trained to fire until there is no more threat. The magazine is often emptied as a result.

Thank you for reading through that and giving us a summary, Jack.

If I were black and depressed I would be fearful of the police and watching closely in my rear view mirror if they followed me. Sometimes the police have done much better in situations like this, with a very difficult persons. Jack, thank you for taking the time to read and analyze. And your analysis is on the mark. This shouldn't happen. It doesn't need to happen as often as it does in Portland.

It's just gut-wrenching that those parents couldn't get their deteriorating kid, who was obviously hell-bent in the direction of death, in to a lockdown treatment center.

It also raises the need to have a real national discussion on limiting gun ownership. Noone should be allowed to have a gun, if they can't prove they are minimally sane. People who have shown they are prone to violence shouldn't be allowed to have them, period.

But while that conversation never happens, and our gun laws are as they are, police need to stop pulling over people because they look crazy. Because they probably are crazy, and they probably have a gun. Develop more of a sly approach to the problem. Take note that they look crazy, find out who they are, where they live, and quietly talk to their circle of people. Confirm they are probably crazy, and work to get them committed for an evaluation.

It's just gut-wrenching that those parents couldn't get their deteriorating kid, who was obviously hell-bent in the direction of death, in to a lockdown treatment center.

Unfortunately, he was 25. He wasnt a "kid" any more. His parents dont have control.

It also raises the need to have a real national discussion on limiting gun ownership. Noone should be allowed to have a gun, if they can't prove they are minimally sane. People who have shown they are prone to violence shouldn't be allowed to have them, period.

You are assuming he had it legally in the first place. If it was bought legally, there would have been a background check for a handgun. Although he could have purchased it at 18, so he could have owned it for some time. But my guess is legal guns are not kept in a "Crown Royal Bag" in the glove box.

I don't understand why no fingerprints were taken from the gun. Is there also evidence that the gun found in the car(with no fingerprints) is the gun that fired the bullet with the officer's DNA?

At these moments our simplest instinct is to find blame, to subvert tragedy. It's a difficult illness to treat, and often also difficult to find or accept treatment.

The effort we can make, as a collective community, has three parts.

1. Recognize and acknowledge the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction. For young persons, for many young black especially, asking for help for mental illness is frightening and demeaning.

2. Know an intervention when you see one. Persons needing help often ask in unusual ways. Be tolerant. Have wellness and happiness as our mutual and primary goal.

3. Provide resources for those interventions to be available. Our state legislature has underfunded the treatment systems significantly causing a general migration of a medical problem to a legal problem. Besides immoral, this is penny-wise and pound foolish.

I look forward to testifying with Offier Burley and Mayor Adams at the state legislature for funding our mental health services.

BTW, with our partner organization Portland Hearing Voices, the Mental Health Association of Portland will bring author Robert Whitaker to Portland for a reading at Powell's August 19.

"Noone should be allowed to have a gun, if they can't prove they are minimally sane. People who have shown they are prone to violence shouldn't be allowed to have them, period."

Yes, and who will define what is sane? Can't let veterans have access to guns, they might have PTSD! In fact, homeland often classifies them as potential home grown terrorists now. Look at what happened to that ODOT worker down in Medford a few months ago. The cops stormed his house on the mere word of his supervisor claiming him angry after being escorted out by a cop from his job (fired) and the fact that he went out and bought guns (that he'd been wanting to buy for months).

It's good to see some data relevant to why this happened. Simply read p.461 - p490 of the Grand Jury transcript. My own questions are now mostly answered.

Young Mr. Otis began to develop paranoid schizophrenia in 2008. Mrs. Otis' description of her boy reads like a classic case study. Don't get confused that this is about mood, depression or "Bipolar". There are no mood congruent delusions here. This is schizophrenia.

As time went by, he became worse and worse. As his psychotic disorganization and paranoid delusions worsened, he came to the point of being unable to meet his basic needs and was scary to others.

Mrs. Otis was told by a "nurse practitioner" that her son wouldn't "qualify" for involuntary care and treatment because he didn't pose an "imminent threat". She could have used a second opinion from what I read in her testimony. What she received was an opinion that it was unlikely the county would schedule a civil commitment hearing for her son.

It did not mean that if the Otis parents or anyone else had called the police or Project Respond, they wouldn't have taken him to a hospital and had him admitted to a psychiatric unit, which happens many, many times a day, every day, in less severe cases.

Like most floridly psychotic paranoid schizophrenics, young Mr. Otis sounds have have been delusional and was prepared to defend himself against all odds, and all demons, real and imagined, and to the death, if "they" finally cornered him -- in his case, apparently, with a handgun in a sack.

In the big picture, this recent Portland case has next to nothing to do with police, was pre-determined, and was unpreventable (given current realities), unless one expects police to be clairvoyant.

Our State began going out of the business of caring for (and abnegating responsibility for) severely ill schizophrenics about 30 years ago.

There now is essentially no civil commitment in Oregon, so involuntary care in Oregon is off the board. Each county has it's own methods by which to confuse the public that this isn't the reality.

In Multnomah County, theoretically, any two adults can file a form called Notification of Mental Illness with the Court, which is a statutory petition to have a hearing to consider involuntary treatment for a person in need of the same. Hearings don't happen that often because the Court employs the County (who is also the last payer) to ration hearings by delegating the hearing decision to Civil Commitment Investigators (County employees with some mental health skills). If an Investigator decides 'No Hearing", the psychotic person with schizophrenia is free to remain untreated "in the community". The legal thinking behind this is rich in constitutional concepts of free will, autonomy, and self-determination. How that aligns with psychosis is a problem.

"Imminent threat" is not a statutory term in Oregon (unless that has changed too), it is County administrative rule, if it is actually written down anywhere. The evident purpose of creating the term is to preclude pointless hearings and civil commitments to nowhere when there are no facilities for civil commitment in the first place.

The County, not the police, not the psychiatrists, not the hospitals are the authority in all this. They have no money to do anything about commitment beds or facilities. The State gave them the mission but not the money. There are no beds or facilities to which to civilly commit anyone. State decisions, and legislative decisions, have already set the thresholds for money and for rules. The voters, of course, approve all this, though perhaps indirectly.

For you, your family, your friends, your neighbors, there is a message here.

The incidence of schizophrenia is about 1 per 4,000 new case per year. The prevalence is about 1%. If Multnomah County's population is 700,000 there will be 200 new schizophrenia cases added to the 7,000 already diagnosed.

Typically, new cases appear in late teens and early twenties. Those afflicted will usually have been utterly normal before onset. It's like an infectious disease anyone can catch at random. The cause isn't parenting, education, character or anything else. It is utterly undeserved and unjust, like most neurological diseases.

Each year, any one of our children and grandchildren has a 1 in 4,000 chance of become schizophrenic. Many cases are mild, some are severe. Good luck to anyone in Oregon, or in Multnomah County, who is so touched.

So, naturally, Portland will spend more money on bike lanes and condos and spiffy eurotrains to make the place more *livable* -- Portland's "leaders" are crazy, too. Go by hearse!

I don't understand why no fingerprints were taken from the gun.

Maybe they were, but they were not presented to the grand jury.

But my guess is legal guns are not kept in a "Crown Royal Bag" in the glove box.

I keep my legal portable GPS in a Crown Royal bag in the glove box. So why not a gun?

If I were you, Allan, and the police stopped me, I would not open that glove box unless they told me to.

I agree, Jack: there's no GPS guidance for the destination they'd be sending me to if I did.

For the gun "experts" who actually have no experience firing handguns (and some posters do), here's a little fact. If you are a decent aim/shot the first and possibly second rounds are going to be the most accurate if you are firing in rapid succession. The faster a handgun is fired the greater the inaccuracy on later shots. The reasons are simple physics (your hand is moved by the recoil) and human nerves when this firing is done in a heated moment. So emptying your weapon as a tactic is stupid especially in an area dense with bystanders. While I have never fired in a combat/police situation, I have experience with handguns. Fully automatic weapons are even more inaccurate than semi-automatics.

As one of the officers testified, he couldn't even see Otis when he shot into the car. There was just a general area that he knew Otis had sunken down to. The officer helped fill that box with live bullets.

Jack, given the bullet shortage (http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/the-ammo-shortage-continues/) you'd think they might be a bit more careful with their ammo.

PS - I don't agree with the conspiracy theories on shortage of ammo but there apparently are conflicting needs for the raw materials. I used that link as a quick resource but the story made the rounds in lots of media outlets last year.

Jack, usually you make alot of sense to me, but I think you're off on this one.

Cops' "bad feelings" surely result in the capture of untold numbers of real criminals.

A cop following a car/person they have a bad feeling about for a couple blocks isn't racial profiling.

Had this guy done nothing, maybe they wouldn't have even pulled him over. But he started breaking laws - so they pulled him over. Seems like good police work in my book. I for one am happy that our police are taking people with a proclivity for driving erratically and shooting people off our streets.

I'm not a fan of all our local popo have been up to - actions w/ chasse and shooting people in the back are very disturbing, but in this one, I think they acted as I would hope our police force would - looking for suspicious activity, enforcing the law, and protecting themselves. They have a right to go home at night.

No, you're wrong. Take the time to read the transcript. They already decided to pull him over well before he broke any traffic laws -- all based on the fact that he was a young black guy in a hoodie glaring at them in his mirror. That's total bullsh*t.

BTW, I don't care whether I usually make sense to you or not.

Page 22 of the Grand Jury Transcript for Officer Burley indicates Office Foote and Officer DeFrain were going to "stop the car." Later starting on page 408 of DeFrain's testimony, Officer Foote "ran the plate" of the Otis's Mother's car. In the testimony, the reasons for Officer Foote doing this are not clearly stated.

My take, is that the Officers assigned to HEAT work the gangset beat everyday for years so they get used to seeing the vehicles that gangstas drive. Therefore seeing Otis in a car not registered to him, a car unfamiliar to the HEAT team, and Otis possibly wearing a gang color, gave Officer Foote a hunch to "shake him down" in order to confirm his instincts.

What are the colors for the gangsets in Portland?

Was Otis wearing a particular colored hoodie that could mark him as a member of a gang in that part of Portland, OR?

Why was Otis wearing the hood of his hoodie over his head on a nice day?

To answer my last question, there was no reason to unless you are mentally ill or want to attract unwanted attention from police.

Wow Ryan you are really clueless. Back in the 70s, in some parts of the country you could get pulled over just for being a long hair. A friend of mine who was a long hair but otherwise a straight arrow got pulled over and had his car tossed and semi destroyed while the fuzz looked for non-existent drugs. Guy never took so much as a toke in his life. Drank beer (of drinking age) but nothing illegal. Wearing a hoodie with hood up is not probable cause the last time I checked into probable cause.

Mr. Otis was delusional, paranoid, and very likely schizophrenic. He was shut in to his room most of the previous few month (according to his mother), and barely eating. At some point, he became the owner of a pistol. Mr. Otis was mentally ill, and his parents realized he wasn't going to improvve without medical intervention. We're fortunate the PPB stopped him: he was a ticking time bomb.

He didn't have to die because he was mentally ill or stopped by the HEAT team, he died because he reached for a weapon and shot a police officer.


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Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 324
At this date last year: 176
Total run in 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269


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