1998 Another Survivor Murdered by the Cops
It is not difficult to demonstrate a pattern of state repression. People of color, the homeless, disabled, poor, and politically radical- have been violently targeted by "Portland's finest." Couching this discussion in the context of party politics is abusive at best. The political machinations of this local government have been supported, and have continued across party lines. It is time to recognize that the political systems of this country are fundamentally corrupt, and act accordingly. This post was made in an effort to further demonstrate the historical context of state repression in Portland. See you at the march!
PORTLAND, OR: Another Survivor Murdered by the Cops
Graeme Bacque ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
Wed, 21 Oct 1998 14:37:06 -0700
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Date: Wed, 21 Oct 1998 10:46:52 PDT
Reply-To: GLOBAL HOMELESS NETWORK < AHS-L@AMERICAN.EDU>
From: Blazing Star < email@example.com>
Subject: In memory of Richard C. Dow
Copyright 1998 Oregon Live =AE
Officers placed on leave in death
The Portland Police Bureau acts after a man with a
history of mental illness dies in a hospital after
a street struggle to subdue him
Wednesday, October 21 1998
By Maxine Bernstein of The Oregonian staff
Eight Portland police officers were placed on
administrative leave Tuesday after a man with a
history of mental illness died in their custody as
they tried to restrain him in connection with a
Richard C. "Dickie Dow, 37, of North Portland was
pronounced dead at Legacy Emanuel Hospital about 7
a.m., nine hours after a school police officer was
unable to control him at North Fenwick Avenue and
Lombard Street, police said.
An autopsy Tuesday showed Dow suffered two rib
fractures and several bruises and scratches, but
State Medical Examiner Larry Lewman said no
injuries were sufficient to explain his death. The
cause of death awaits the results of toxicology
tests and further investigation, Lewman said.
"We are currently hampered by a lack of
information that needs to be supplied by the
others involved in the altercation, Lewman said in
a prepared release.
Witnesses and relatives contend that police
mishandled the incident and ignored pleas from
Dows mother and stepfather, who sought to calm
their son and alert police of his mental health
problems but were handcuffed and taken into
"I was just trying to explain to them he has a
mental problem . . . that I can calm him, said
Barbara Vickers, Dows mother.
Detective Sgt. Cheryl Kanzler, a Portland Police
Bureau spokeswoman, said she could not respond to
the concerns Tuesday because most officers
involved had not yet been interviewed.
Administrative leave is routine in all custody
deaths. Two Portland homicide detectives have been
assigned to the case.
"We need to take this one step at a time and do a
thorough investigation, she said. Its very
premature to make any conclusions about what
happened out there.
Witnesses also questioned why police did not
provide immediate first aid to Dow or permit a
neighbor to do emergency cardiopulmonary
resuscitation when he stopped breathing at the
scene. The Police Bureau discontinued CPR training
for officers in 1991, Kanzler said.
"We have EMS and ambulance personnel who are there
in a matter of minutes, she said. If you apply CPR
wrong, you can seriously damage or kill somebody.
The incident began about 10 p.m. Monday when an
anonymous caller alerted police to a fight in the
street outside Winchells Donut House on North
Lombard Street. A Portland school police officer,
who was not identified, was the first to respond.
He found one man chasing another and tried to stop
Dow at North Fenwick Avenue and Lombard Street.
Dow, police and witnesses said, did not respond to
police orders to stop. He was walking very quickly
west toward his house, 7305 N. Fenwick Ave., when
the school patrol officer caught up with him and
struggled with him, police and witnesses said. The
officer said Dow appeared extremely agitated.
"At some point that officer called for Code 3
cover. He was engaged in a fight with this person
and was not able to control the guy, North
Precinct Cmdr. Rick Rictor said. Code 3 is a
heightened call for backup.
Dow was a diagnosed schizophrenic and lived with
his mother and stepfather. They had just returned
home from a bowling league Monday night and were
eating sandwiches when they heard Dow.
"I heard my son screaming for help, Barbara
Vickers said. I got up and went outside. I saw him
tussling with someone down the street. He was
yelling, Help, Mom, help. Just let go of me. . . .
Help, Mom. Once she realized Dow was struggling
with a police officer, she tried to intervene,
shouting to the officer that her son had a mental
health problem and that she could calm him down.
"Please don't hurt him anymore. We can calm him
down, she said she and her husband, Ted Vickers,
yelled at the officer.
Witnesses said about eight officers surrounded
Dow. When they tried to subdue him, he had a
medical emergency, Kanzler said. Some witnesses
said police used pepper spray on Dow, but Kanzler
said she did not know whether that was the case.
The officers then lowered Dow to the ground. Other
officers handcuffed the Vickerses and detained
them in a patrol car for apparently interfering.
"Dickie was laying on his side, said Tim Maher, a
neighbor. They rolled him onto his back, and he
was motionless. They took off his handcuffs, and
one of the officers yelled, We need a mask. We
need a mask. He's not breathing. Deborah Howes,
who lives next door to the Vickerses, heard the
commotion and walked outside. She saw Dow on the
ground and a circle of officers around him.
"I offered to do CPR, Howes said. They said the
ambulance was coming.
Emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene
at 10:21 p.m. They transported Dow at 10:32 p.m.,
and arrived at the hospital at 10:38 p.m., said
Neil Heesacker, a Fire Bureau spokesman.
Police did not know what sparked the original
fight, and no arrests were made.
The Vickerses were detained at police headquarters
for several hours and were told their son was in
the hospitals intensive care unit when they were
released about 3:30 a.m. They were not arrested.
When they arrrived at the hospital an hour later,
Dow was not breathing on his own. He never
regained consciousness, his mother said.
The family said doctors told them Dow had gone
into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing at the
scene, but emergency medical personnel were able
to revive him. At the hospital, Dow went into
shock, his family said.
Dow was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and
manic depression when he was about 18, his parents
said. He had a juvenile and adult arrest record,
which included burglary, criminal trespass,
harassment and motor vehicle charges. His most
recent brush with the law was a fourth-degree
assault charge in 1995.
He sometimes would hear voices and talk to
himself, his family said. About five years ago, he
was sent to Dammasch State Hospital for about 10
weeks and prescribed special medication. He hadnt
been taking any medication for the past three
years and would let his mother give him only St.
Johns Wort tea, Barbara Vickers said.
"I'll be the first to tell you my son was no
angel, she said. He had a record, and he's been to
the penitentiary. But he has not been in trouble
for a long, long time.
Neighbors, who were aware of Dows mental illness,
were disturbed by how police handled him.
"His parents could have definitely defused the
situation if they were allowed to, Howes said. He
dealt with his mother like he was a 5-year-old.
About 50 officers are specially trained to deal
with mentally ill people as part of the bureaus
crisis intervention team. Kanzler said she did not
know whether an officer from the team was called
to the scene Monday night.
All bureau officers also receive basic training on
how to handle people in crisis, whether the crisis
stems from mental illness, drugs or other reasons,
said Capt. C.W. Jensen, head of the training
Robin Blair, a clinical psychologist, said police
may operate in a confrontation mode when dealing
with criminals. But such an approach may not work
with a mentally ill person.
"The No. 1 rule is to be calm and to de-escalate
the situation, said Blair, director of Behavioral
Health Services at Woodland Park Hospital. Going
into direct confrontation mode and arousing fear
isn't helpful . . . it leads to a lot of
Mayor Vera Katz urged residents to await the
results of the investigation before making
"To do a good investigation takes time. Meanwhile,
it is extremely important that none of us -- city
officials, police, citizens or the media -- jump
to conclusions before the facts are fully known.
Pete Ramirez of The Oregonian staff contributed to
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