Portland police officers did no wrong when they shot and killed Jose Santos Victor Mejia Poot at a southeast psychiatric hospital earlier this month, a grand jury ruled Thursday afternoon.
Officers Jeffrey M. Bell, Christopher A. Davis and Jeffrey E. Nelson were on administrative leave following the April 1 shooting. Bell, 25, fired the fatal shots. He has been with the police department for just over a year.
Adding to a litany of criticism, District Attorney Michael D. Schrunk rebuked Pacific Gateway Hospital for its apparent disregard of past problems.
"From the criminal investigation, it appears that staffing levels were so low as to compromise safety, and procedures at the hospital were inadequate,' Schrunk said in a letter to the hospital and Portland Police Chief Mark Kroeker.
Problems were brought to the attention of hospital officials, but nothing was done.
For example, the lock for the secure room where Poot was housed wasn't repaired. Poot broke out of the secure room, prompting a series of events that eventually led to his death.
"The staff did not have a standard operating procedure to ensure the secure room was locked as it should be, and that, in this case, there was actually doubt if it was locked," Schrunk wrote.
Pacific Gateway Hospital said Thursday it had not developed a response yet to the grand jury's findings. The two-page letter that summarized the grand jury's findings is now in the hands of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is considering its own probe.
The grand jury delivered its findings the day before Kroeker scheduled a briefing with the Hispanic Advisory Council at Pacific Gateway Hospital.
Twice on the night of April 1 staff called police to deal with Poot. During their first visit, Poot allegedly threatened hospital staff and officers with pencils. Poot was then placed in a secure room.
Less than an hour later, Poot escaped, forcing hospital to call police again. After brute strength, bean bag rounds and pepper spray failed to restrain Poot, Bell shot Poot after he charged at them with a metal pipe.
Poot's death unleashed criticism against police for excessive use of force and against the hospital.
Less than two weeks ago, Multnomah County took Pacific Gateway Hospital to task for allowing armed officers inside its facilities, its unclear administrative policies and inadequate services for minorities.
The county no longer refers patients to Pacific Gateway until the hospital changes some of its policies.