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Friday, March 16, 2012

Did killer slip through justice system cracks in Portland?

A crazed gunman in Pittsburgh killed one person and wounded six or seven others before himself being killed by police last week. The man had had a run-in with police over the holidays in 2009 when he lived in Portland. But the Port of Portland police or the Multnomah d.a.'s office may have dropped the ball on his criminal case. As the Pittsburgh paper tells it:

According to an arrest report from the Port of Portland police, on Dec. 29 of that year, someone reported Mr. Shick, then known as Mr. Scolskan, to authorities because he was seen "exhibiting strange behavior" on the Commercial Roadway at Portland International Airport. Three officers responded and told him to show his hands. He refused and when officers approached him, he pulled a large flashlight from a bag strapped around his neck and tried to hit one of the officers with it. As they wrestled him into cuffs, he kicked another officer in the head.

An officer zapped him with a stun gun, but it "had no affect," the report said. Mr. Shick was charged with attempted assault and assault on a peace officer, both felonies. He also was charged with misdemeanor assault, disorderly conduct and two counts of resisting arrest. Police banned him from the airport for 90 days. Following his arrest, he was taken to a hospital for a mental evaluation.

Robert Leineweber, the Multnomah County deputy district attorney assigned to the case, said police then petitioned a court to have Mr. Shick committed, with the arresting officer testifying at the hearing. A judge ordered him into psychiatric treatment for up to 180 days, but it's unclear how long he remained in treatment.

Mr. Leineweber said when he learned of the commitment, he called the arresting officer to see how they should proceed with charges. He said he never heard back from the officer and Mr. Shick was never prosecuted.

Assault on a police officer could have resulted in some jail time. Would it have changed the course of events? An academic question at this point.

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Forecast: A shower of subpoenas, followed by flurries of excuses. Expect near-record lows.

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