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Witness account of police over-use of force

Summary. Sunday 11 May 2003. "Police brutality" was just an abstract concept to me until I witnessed the events described below. Portland police officers hurt an unarmed, handcuffed young man. I will try to be as objective and factual as I can, but I must admit that it was an emotional set of events.
[Backstory. Apparently there was a barfight at the Rialto Poolroom Bar & Cafe that spilled out onto the street.]

As I walked home, I saw at least three sets of police car lights in the distance. I was curious at the size of the response, so I went to take a closer look. When I arrived at SW 4th and Alder, there were several police cars and numerous police officers on the East side of 4th. Two young men were standing in handcuffs.

One of the young men--and the most important in my recounting of events--was then made to bend over the back of a police car. The officers kept insisting that he put his head down onto the car. He was resisting slightly. Keep in mind that he was in handcuffs and surrounded by several police officers.

At this point a female officer said, "I think I'm going to need a Taser." Another officer, also female, responded by coming over and then placing a Taser against the man's right calf. Not long afterward, the click-click-click sound of the Taser could be heard as I watched the officer use it against the man. He became limp for a short time after that.

The officers surrounding the man proceeded to search a black backpack and his person. They "had to" apply the Taser at least once more. Then, at about 1:45am, the key event happened.

The officers had apparently "needed" to search the man's person more thoroughly. They pulled him from the back of the police car until he was in a standing position a few feet away from the car. The young man was then simply standing there. Shockingly, one or more (it happened fast, so it was hard to tell) of the officers slammed the man to the ground. The side of his head hit the concrete hard. Keep in mind that this was unprovoked!

The officers then proceeded to roughly take off the man's shoes and socks and continued searching his person. Later I heard him (I was very close, standing on the curb of the West side of 4th) say, "I just want to sit down." The officers never let him sit down, and, in fact, later kept him in an uncomfortable position on the back of the same police car.

Amazingly, a fire truck and an ambulance came by shortly afterward to deal with the injuries that the police officers had caused the man. I was unable to see him much at this point, but I heard from one of the two men mentioned below that the man suffered considerable bleeding around his head and face. He was wheeled into an ambulance on a stretcher. This man was in very good shape before all of this, and he left the scene in very bad shape.

[Notes. that I also witnessed several other, less-major incidents, but I wanted to focus on the one, main incident in this recounting. Two more young men were arrested when they attempted to breach the perimeter of the scene. One was pepper-sprayed and roughly handcuffed. The other had a Taser used against him. Two other men, who also witnessed the main incident alongside me, were threatened with arrest when they tried to enter the scene, verbally complaining about the officers' unnecessary use of force. One of the men was issued a citation for "walking in the street". I watched his interaction with officers; he was never walking in the street.]

[Further notes. As far as I could tell, all of the individuals involved in these events were white, excepting the two men that were threatened with arrest. My only regrets are that: 1) I did not have my camera with me during these events, and 2) I failed to get the names and detailed descriptions of the officers involved in the use of force against the man. However, this latter point is somewhat excusable, because if I had come closer or tried to talk to the officers, I would have been threatened with arrest, as the two other men were.]

phone: phone: 503-816-0475

Boy was I wrong 11.May.2003 04:45


I moved to Portland from Hawai'i about a year ago. Before moving, I had read stories about the Portland Police Department refusing to round-up Muslim men, as part of Ashcroft's illegal detainment of thousands of Muslims in the name of national security. I read about pro-police rally's, thanking the police for taking a stand against the Federal Government. It definitely wasn't a reason I chose to come here, but I do recall thinking it would be nice to move somewhere with such a reasonable police force.

Boy was I wrong.

Stories like this are simply never reported in mainstream media. So kudos to you and Indymedia for actually getting this type of story heard.

It's no wonder Los Angeles turned down Kroeker for their top police spot. They've experienced police violence for years, and judging from the PPD, Kroeker would not have been much of a change.

Criminals With Badges 11.May.2003 07:23


Well you're story is just another of a bucketfull - where the Portland Police are nothing more that Criminals With Badges. This is also another prime example of the city wasting tax payer dollars - had they not brutalized this man - WE WOULDN'T BE PAYING FOR THE MEDICAL ASSISTANCE HE RECEIVED AT THE SCENE.

Deep in my heart I don't believe that "all police officers" are shitheads. I can't believe that. But I grow more and more cynical and angry by the day. These people are so called "public servants". Can we (the public) do something??

Uhm,... 11.May.2003 12:37


have you ever asked a cop for his/her name? They don't usually ante up after breaking laws in front of you.

Huh? 11.May.2003 12:45


Just because something is of public record - doesn't make it the TRUTH.

Not really sure where you're coming from JayJay

JayJay's a troll 11.May.2003 12:51


just so you know. you can try to reason with him, but he has that function turned off. better to ignore his needy, sad self.

nice try jay jay 11.May.2003 12:52


hey jay jay,

you're full of shit. the story is quite possibly true. what's recounted is consistent with numerous other incidents of police violence around portland and the country.

not all, in fact depending on the circumstances, few police wear name tags. getting them to wear them has been a long standing struggle through legal channels here in portland.

and, here's where you're really off, if you've ever tried to ask for an officers name during an arrest, or any questionable actions on their part, you stand a good chance of getting arrested or cited yourself. clearly you have not had much, or any, personal experience with the "business" side of police.

they act with increasing impunity. little is ever done to them. that's why so many people are killed by portland police. if you happen to be a person of color then watch out. what about Kendra James this last week in n. portland. police often shoot first and ask questions later.

get a clue before you post comments that are clearly meant to discredit others who may in fact be reporting the truth.

p.s. tazers are meant to be used carefully or they can be leathal. they are never meant to be used as torture devises or when someone is already in custody and subdued.

Called the Rialto 11.May.2003 13:16


and asked if there was an incident there late last night early this morning ... and if it involved cops. The answer is yes and yes. But the nice person who answered the phone said it didn't happen in the Rialto and didn't involve their customers. The last you can take or leave, but i just wanted to pass it along.

Bravo 11.May.2003 13:19


Nicely covered incident in a growing threat to our hard won freedoms. Freedom from a police force oppressing those it is sworn to protect. Citizens of Iraq now have that freedom isn't it time that we did too?
Aaron, keep up the good work, and carry your camera.

freedoms for starting fights in nightclubs? 11.May.2003 13:29

mike h


A fight started in the Rialto, and spills to the street, can get quickly out of control.

The police have a thankless job. Had it been one of you peaceniks, that accidentally got caught up in this fight, unknowingly, would be screaming at the cops cause they didnt handle the situation properly.

People that break the law, will get whats coming to them, and trying to be apologists for criminals is just plain sickening.

Again .. you break the law, expect to get taken down with force!

Response to comments 11.May.2003 13:32

Aaron Shaver ashaver@pdx.edu

In response to the "Pure Fiction" post: Not only would the officers in question not "gladly tell" their names, the officers were (if you read my submission) arresting or threatening with arrest anyone who came near the scene.

In response to "Called the Rialto": It is very possible that the fight did not involve Rialto customers. I heard this information from a fellow bystander (in other words, second hand), and I tried to make that clear by prepending the backstory with "apparently". Thanks for making the call, though.


You did make it clear 11.May.2003 13:45


Hey Aaron-

You did a great job covering and reporting this incident. You did make it clear you were relaying information just as you understood it. I just thought I'd add the Rialto's assertion that it didn't involve their patrons and that there was no fight in their establishment.

Thanx for reporting so well on this edition of state-sanctioned terrorism.

Needed 11.May.2003 13:51


Police brutality is needed to keep the average person from becoming a criminal. It is needed to keep people in check. Just think of these people who have claims of police brutality as examples on what not to do. All great empires punished people as examples and judges today do the same thing in America. It is violent but needed.

What??? 11.May.2003 14:22

Brandy M branmart@hotmail.com

"Police brutality is needed to keep the average person from becoming a criminal."
"All great empires punished people as examples and judges today do the same thing in America."

Did you really just write that? Yes, of course we need rules to live by, but there is a big difference between fair and appropriate punishment for a crime, and brutality. It is ridiculous to claim that the general populace is going to rage out of control if they are not brutalized. I for one think more of my fellow humans. Social controls can be maintained in much better ways than through fear, violence, and intimidation.

As for making an example of others, you're correct that it happens here in the USA, but its not "needed." Making examples of people is NOT what justice is all about. You would do well to consider exactly who in our society is usually chosen for this role - I can tell you for certain that its not the upper-class, white, protestant male. Do you think any of the Enron executives are going to be beaten or executed? Barbarism is not what makes a "great empire," although judging from the most recent actions of our government, they still have yet to get that message.

We need real police accountability to civilians 11.May.2003 14:26



img 11.May.2003 14:28



why is the site changing a gif to a jpg? 11.May.2003 14:30



thumbnails 11.May.2003 14:36


The site creates jpg thumbnails for all images so that those thumbnails can be easily and quickly loaded. To get to the gif just clik the image and it will take you to it.

ah, i see 11.May.2003 14:39



Witness of witness 11.May.2003 15:29


This is a true story because the one who wrote it down is my neighbor. While my roommate and I were formatting my computer he just came back home from downtown and told us this story.

Hmmmm. 11.May.2003 16:09

Tree Topper

Why is it everytime PPB does something to someone (ie. arrest, cite) PPB is in the wrong. Does anyone in this town ever accept that if you break the law you might get caught. Why is it that the bad situations that happen to people only happen to people on this site. The people that are against anything that the majority of the people vote in. Why?

Well I have nothing to say about the posting...It could be true or it could be false....I would say if it is true why don't you go to a lawyer and sue....

What the Hell? 11.May.2003 18:22


"Freedom from a police force oppressing those it is sworn to protect. Citizens of Iraq now have that freedom isn't it time that we did too? "

You are watching too much CNN or Fox News. The Citizens of Iraq are being dominated by a ruthless occupation army who are employing local stooges (in many cases members of the very same Baath Party the USA vilified before the war). Don't believe it? Check out the Mosul Massacre of April 15, or the Fallujah Killings of April 28 and Arpil 30 where the USA shot and killed Iraqis for the crime of protesting their occupation.

It seems that the citizens of Portland are only getting a small taste of "American style freedom" that the people of Iraq suffer under everyday.

The Person that commented that "All great empires punished people as examples and judges today do the same thing in America" is unintentionally making a revealing point that many activists in the USA haven't quite grasped yet: The same American Empire that bombs, attacks, and oppresses the citizens of another country is the very same American Empire that will turn on you--its own citizens.

Ultimately, this is just one more reason why the issue of domestic Police Terrorism is connected to the anti-War struggle against American Imperialism in that they both involve resistance against a Common Enemy: the American State.

Response to Tree Topper 11.May.2003 20:57

Aaron Shaver ashaver@pdx.edu

In response to "Hmmmm.": I can't speak for other posts on this site, complaints against Portland police, and so on. I have, in fact, benefited from *good* police work. (An officer on the PSU campus was tremendously helpful and professional when I asked for assistance with someone who had made a threatening phone call to me.)

However, I did witness an ugly situation this morning, and I didn't think that 1) corporate media would care, or that 2) I had enough evidence to make any formal complaint, either to a lawyer or to the Portland police. (As I stated in my submission and in a comment, it would have been difficult to impossible to get officer names without becoming another victim in the incident).

As to the first point, it looks like I may be right. OregonLive.com has trivial stories like, "No Megabucks winner; jackpot increases to $2 million", but there's no mention of the incident this morning, even on its voluminous NewsFlash section. I suppose I could petition the Oregonian or local TV stations myself. But the bias, lack of concern, and sensationalism demonstrated by these sources is well-documented. In other words, I doubt it would help more than it would hurt.


Author of Needed 11.May.2003 23:56


I wrote in as "Needy" in a satirical manner and in no way agree with the comments I wrote. They were intended to illustrate just how asinine some ideals can get. I was attempting to draw out any person who may agree with those comments. Also I was attempting to display that America isn't anywhere near perfect and to show the "love the USA right or wrong" people just how ridiculous things could get.

*whew* 12.May.2003 01:22

Brandy M

Thank goodness you were being satirical with the comments written under "needy." However, I do think its telling that I bought it . Sadly enough, there are a lot of people out there who really do feel this way.

Than you Aaron 12.May.2003 10:37


Thank you for being willing to witness this incident for the rest of us. This was a very good and informative report. I'm really shocked by all the police violence in this city. I've been trying to keep an open mind with regard to the police. Like another poster here, I've been telling myself the police are people too, they aren't all bad, etc. I have always been one to assume the police are here to protect us from "the bad guys." And when an officer turned out to be one of the bad guys, I thought it was an aberration. I thought it was just, you know, a bad cop.

But there's something seriously wrong with the police in Portland. I don't know if it's just here, or if it's all over the place. And I don't know why this is happening. I think some people have been screaming about this for years, and I was deaf to it. I didn't hear when African American people kept telling me that the police were being racist, brutal, criminals in their neighborhoods. I thought it was just a case of a bad cop or two, who had given the rest a bad name. Even when I saw the Rodney King tape, I thought it was just those particular officers. And when the police dropped opposums on the door of an African American restaurant here in Portland, or when they choked a Black man to death and then sold "don't choke em, smoke em" tee shirts...I still thought it was just some bad apples, some training issues.

Now I see that I was being racist and blind. I now understand that there has been a pattern or shootings, violence, and arrests in black neighborhoods all along. Perhaps I understand this now because I'm seeing it moving into my neighborhood as well now.

In the past year, the Portland police have pepper sprayed hundreds -- if not thousands -- of peaceful protesters. In at least one incident, they actually pepper sprayed a baby. They've shot too many people to count. They just shot a woman to death who was only trying to leave. I have seen videos of the police beating people up and throwing them to the ground where I couldn't see why. It was during a protest, and the police just came up to someone and threw him down and beat him. I've heard about the police using tasers and rubber bullets on unarmed people with alarming frequency.

I think it's time we did something about this. After all, we're paying their salaries.

Aaron, you do have grounds to file a complaint 13.May.2003 15:59

Red Emma redemma13@yahoo.com

First of all, as other commenters have said, thank you for caring enough to stop and be a witness, pay attention, and document what you saw. But I think you're wrong that you don't have enough grounds to file a complaint. Although you couldn't get the officers' names at the time (and nobody can blame you for that) an incident report most likely WILL be filed and even if their version of events is a complete lie, it will at least contain the officers' names and it will be public record. It sounds like you're pretty clear about the time, date and place of what you saw, so identifying the incident will not be a problem.

The Portland Police "Citizen Review Committee" is currently grappling with the issue of "standing"--i.e., who has the right under their system to file a complaint, if they're not actually the person who was hurt. But I believe it is still allowed for any person who is a direct witness to police brutality to have "standing" to file a complaint. If you go through the CRC complaint process, you should expect it to be a long, bureaucratic and incredibly frustrating process that probably will not give you the result that you want--however, this review process, flawed as it is, is the best we've got right now, and I think it is important for people to use it so that these cases are not just forgotten and buried.

Call Portland Copwatch at 503-236-3065 (or one of the other police accountability groups in town, I don't have their numbers handy) and they can walk you through the process of filing a complaint.

Take responsibility for your actions 14.May.2003 19:07


I'm getting so sick and tired of the whining when some crook gets shot. Do you even have an idea of what police have to deal with on a regular basis? They are well trained and professional, but the irrational hostility towards them in some circles is the cause of nearly all the confrontations. Oh, gee another unmarried single mother ex-con with a drug problem decides to drive off instead of obey law enforcement officers. Drive off mind you without regard as to whether she is going to run an officer down. No wonder these cops are on edge. If you get pulled over for a violation, here is a hint: don't resist arrest because that is yet another crime. What do you think your going to push the officer away and he'll simply say "Oh, O.K. you didn't want to be arrested? My mistake."

Grow up and start taking responsibility for your actions.

Exessive Force Exercised In My Home Against My 15 Year old Son... 16.May.2003 11:08

Andria` Jones Msblkorchid4u@cs.com

In my home Portland, Oregon
15 year old son Denorris, myself Andria Jones , 16 year old Jelani
My 16 year old son arrived home from school, beaten up and bloody, 911 was called after helping him into the house. I asked for police and medical assistance. While giving the description of the assaulter; officer Ware entered our home via our opened entryway door. (We had no knowledge that we had left it open.) He ran in unannounced, never id'd himself approached my 15 year old as he was locking our sliding patio doorw/metal bar.Drew his weapon(which turned out to be a taser)ordered my son to drop the bar. My son complied and called for me"Mom";he took 2 steps towards me not the officer and he shot him with the taser.He never heard a word that any of us said, he just kept hollering at my son to "get on the ground." He continued to squeeze the trigger shocking my son while he writhed around in pain, trying desperately to pull the probes out of his chest. He ended up with burned fingers and the probes had to be surgically removed. He eventually called for backup, and they barged in our home barking orders and refusing to let me use my phone, (I was trying to call my Mom,. whom is my caregiver; I'm disabled) They never once dealt with my injured son (whom ended up with a broken nose, concussion, broken blood vessels in his eye, and the guy that assaulted him was never arrested, My son was hit with a pipe. Officer Ware told me he tased my son because he didn't know whether he was a good guy or bad guy.(my son had no shirt on his hair uncombed);he then said he was the suspect (the guy that assaulted my son was a young Caucasian male, 6'4,350-400lbs., and the incident happened 5 blocks away from our home; also my son is African American, 160-165lbs.,5'5);He then said that my son threatened him with the bar and he was in fear of his life. In essence my 15 year old ended up being transported to the hospital, and my 16 year old rode in ourfamily car. To add insult to injury my 15 year old was charged with "interfering with police, and disorderly conduct". They have since dropped the charges after a few court dates. My son has been on a tranquilizer and added antidepressants. He freezes at the sight of police cars or officers, he won't go anywhere around them. He has a recurring nightmare of being gunned down in the back while running. He won't even take out the trash without someone watching him, his fear is so great that it breaks my heart. He trembles terribly and has had a hard time with depression (he's began to cut on himself). His grades have since slipped he's getting the 1 on 1 aide that he needs. The therapist has no idea when he'll regain his trust and actually feel safe again. We have a long road of healing ahead of us. I have summarized this as it's so much more to tell.
I've filed a complaint and a torte against the Officer Ware and others. Our case is now under investigation by internal affairs.
I've spoken to a few attys. and I've been told to drop it because he wasn't physically damaged and also because no atty. from Portland would go up against the police dept. How do you tell your child that noone cares?? I've done all that I can thus far, I don't know what to do next.

Question 16.May.2003 17:55


Bar fights can get extremely out of control, causing the officers to use force when nesessary to control the situation. Aaron, did you actually witness the fight, or know any details of what actually happened before you arrived.

Police Brutality by Aspen's Finest 11.Feb.2004 11:48


I was a resident of Aspen, Colorado for 17 years until I was a victim of police brutality. I have since moved because of what happened. Three police officers were called to my apartment on a false report. The police arrived at my door and without any discussion tasered me twice with the dart and wire taser (50,000 Volts with low Amprage). I pulled the darts out of my flesh both times. The police then threw me to the ground and manually tasered me around ten times before they were able to handcuff my arms behind my back. While I was being escorted to the police car, I was manually tasered three more times in cuffs. I was unwilling to get in the car because I was guilty of nothing. After being threatened with the flying dart taser, I quickly got into the police car equiped with a restraining chair I was placed in for the ride down to the jail. After being in the restraining chair for two hours screaming about my rights being violated, a shot of Haldol (a heavy seditive) was injected into the back of my neck. Sweet Dreams in three seconds. I woke up eight hours later covered with bruises all over the front and back of my body. I am still facing charges because I resisted and tried to defend myself. Next time you are thinking about coming to beautiful Aspen for a ski or summer vacation please think twice. BEWARE! Don't let something like this happen to you.