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You Just Paid for Another Police Brutality Lawsuit Settlement (Beating of Old Blind Lady)

City pays excessive force claim
The $145,000 payment follows an incident in which police used pepper spray and a stun gun on a 71-year-old blind woman
City pays excessive force claim
The $145,000 payment follows an incident in which police used pepper spray and a stun gun on a 71-year-old blind woman
Friday, April 23, 2004

MAXINE BERNSTEIN
What began as an attempt to remove shrubs and appliances from a North Portland yard last year ended with police knocking down and pepper-spraying a blind, 71-year-old woman, shocking her in the back with a stun gun, handcuffing her, and citing her for harassment and disobeying an order.


This week, the city agreed to pay Eunice Crowder $145,000 to settle her excessive force lawsuit out of federal court, a month after a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge dismissed the violations against her.

"This case goes to show that police misconduct and excessive force can happen to anybody outside the mainstream," said Ernest Warren Jr., Crowder's lawyer. "It does not have to be an African American; it can be someone who is elderly and white."

The Portland City Council approved the settlement, based on a review by the city's risk management division that indicated "there is risk the City may be found liable."

The June 9, 2003, incident began when Ed Marihart, a city employee, showed up at Crowder's ranch-style home in North Portland. He served her with an administrative search warrant to remove an accumulation of trash and debris.

According to Crowder and her lawyer, the woman told him she was blind and hard of hearing, and asked him to read the entire warrant to her, but he refused. She said he placed it in her hands, walked outside and ordered others to start removing items from her yard.

The city denies that the woman asked Marihart to read the warrant and maintains that Marihart explained to her why he was there.

The woman followed the city employee outside. She was concerned that he and his co-workers had removed a family heirloom, a 90-year-old red toy wagon with rhododendrons in it. She asked to enter a trailer, where items from her yard were being placed, to feel around for the wagon.

Marihart told her she couldn't enter the trailer and said the wagon was not inside. He called police when she failed to follow his order, the city said in court papers.

Crowder hollered for her mother, age 94, who was inside the home, for help.

When Portland Officers Robert Miller and Eric Zajac arrived at the house, Crowder acknowledged she had one foot on the curb and one foot on the bumper of the trailer. She felt someone step on her foot and asked, "Who are you?"

Moments later, she felt someone strike her in the head, which dislodged her prosthetic right eye from its socket, and was knocked to the ground, she claimed in her lawsuit.

Officers said Crowder ignored their commands not to climb into the trailer and tried to bite Miller's hand. They acknowledged she was "pushed onto the dirt next to the sidewalk," according to the city's legal brief filed in court.

While on the ground, Crowder asked the officer what he thought he was doing and kicked Miller. She said the officer kicked her back, then pepper-sprayed her in her eyes. She caught her prosthetic right eye in her hand, the lawsuit said.

"While she's still on the ground, on her stomach, they tased her in the back and in the breast," her lawyer said.

As this is occurring, Crowder's mother, Nellie Scott, is hollering "What are you doing? She's 71, she's blind and hard of hearing," their lawyer said.

Scott is a retired legal secretary who worked for years at the Multnomah County district attorney's office, Warren said.

Police said they pepper-sprayed Crowder after she refused to stop kicking them. They admit that Crowder's prosthetic eye fell out at some point, and that Zajac stunned Crowder with a Taser, an electric stun gun, twice in the lower back and once in the upper back after ordering her to stop fighting and resisting.

She was handcuffed and taken to North Precinct, then returned home, having been cited for harassment and interfering with a police officer. She challenged the violations last month in court, and a judge dismissed them after a bench trial.

The city, in its response to the lawsuit, said the officers' actions were "lawful, justified and privileged," and said they used a "reasonable amount of force to defend themselves and others against what they reasonably believed to be plaintiffs' use of unlawful actions and force against them."

Warren said the city's argument is bogus. He said, "To kick the crap out of old folks seems a little bit much to me in the name of law enforcement,"

J. Scott Moede, the deputy city attorney who handled the lawsuit on behalf of the officers, would not comment.

The case drew concerns from at least two city commissioners before they voted to approve the settlement.

"The obvious concern I had is: What in the world are we doing tasering a 71-year-old woman? What are the conditions? What are the guidelines?" Commissioner Randy Leonard said.

"Two officers couldn't physically just hold her, restrain her without tasing her? When people on the front line of an organization are not performing to a standard that one would expect, I must look to management and hold them accountable."

The Portland Police Bureau had no comment on the civil suit, said Sgt. Cheryl Robinson, bureau spokeswoman.

Maxine Bernstein: 503-221-8212;  maxinebernstein@news.oregonian.com

homepage: homepage: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/news/1082721888289070.xml

Phrased 23.Apr.2004 10:38

Tased

The police are killers and murderers and dominators of weaker people. I have lost all respect for the police. They are starting to sound more like an occupational force, than members of a community.

All of us -- 23.Apr.2004 11:04

guffman

-- are at risk. ALL of us. That could have been my mom, or yours.

This is beyond belief.

Nothing smart to say, here... awards to Sery, no indictment by grand jury, now this...

Mejia Poot got my attention.

Perez made me an activist.

This week's stream of filthy news could make a peaceful person *violent.*

BUT. We are not ready for violence. The Troopers are, clearly. They are wound up tight, ready to snap at the drop of a little red wagon. DO NOT GIVE THEM AN EXCUSE TO KILL YOU. We need live activists, not martyrs.

"Vengeance is a dish best served cold." Who said that? Oscar Wilde? George Metesky?

THANK YOU FOR IDENTIFYING THE 7 OF HEARTS 23.Apr.2004 11:42

GPFX

This is the miller we have been trying to identify (there are several on the PPB roster). He is the notorious seven of hearts.

The full deck will be launched at www.geocities.com/policedeck when it is finished.

She Used To Be My Neighbor 23.Apr.2004 13:06

mm

Eunice Crowder used to be my neighbor in the Washington County area. When I was a child I used to flier at her house. I grew up living next to her, so I got to experience a lot of weird things about that house. The neighbor kids used to think her old house out in Washington County was haunted and we used to dare eachother to sleep for a night outside her house. Her house has been on fire twice and she used to burn toxic crap in barrels outside on her lawn. I guess that was her way of getting rid of stuff. No matter how weird her and her house was, the police had no right abusing a 71 year old blind woman. Actually even if she wasn't 71 or blind, police SHOULD NOT BE USING EXCESSIVE FORCE!!! But I see it ALL THE TIME!!!!!! HOW THE HELL DO WE STOP IT??????? People keep posting that we need to so something about this police craziness, BUT WHAT???? I would like to know,........because KKKops have been abusing and killin people for many years and they still are doin it. Anyways sorry for ranting I'm done now! :)

Excessive force first 23.Apr.2004 13:28

MediaBabe

An elderly blind lady lying on the ground kicking. Are the police not intelligent enough or at least athletic enough to just get out of her way for a minute until she wears herself out?

Unprofessional 23.Apr.2004 14:09

guffman

That's what puzzles me, actually freaks me out: These guys are theoretically TRAINED to handle this kind of shit without resorting to violence.

I used to be a museum security guard. Only armed with a collapsible baton & two-way radio, but that was enough. With a little superior force at your hip, backup a radio-squawk away, & an afternoon's training in non-violent crisis intervention, there was NEVER a need for rough stuff, in the known history of the institution.

These guys pack like three kinds of death & eight kinds of pain, & they lose it on a blind little old lady.

This type of behavior by police is expected...inevitiable...unavoidable 23.Apr.2004 19:02

polisciboy

The city of Portland alots $500,000 a year for police misconduct lawsuits. In or out of court. It's our job to speak out. The cards are a good start. Police violence has a bounce-back effect. For every crime by a police officer, there's an act of civil disobedience by a peace marcher. The latter is the better.

Peace

The way to deal with this is incredibly simple-- 24.Apr.2004 02:26

all we have to do is

to take back the bureau. Why would it be any more complicated than that? The bureau (and the city) are clearly not supposed to be doing anything like this, so, the ULTIMATE POWER LIES WITH US, WE ALL KNOW IT, AND IF WE WANT THIS MADNESS TO STOP, WE NEED TO INFORM THEM TO HAND OVER THE KEYS. We need to tell them they are fired, and to go home. We have every right to do this, and violence is not necessary at all. None of them (in charge, or committing misconduct) can claim the right to keep their job, and as long as that stands, they don't have a job. Therefore, we can take their jobs over.
The beauty of this, also, is that after they're sent home, we can, as the new bosses, arrest them for all the murders, etc., that they have committed. We could probably also get them for stealing taxpayer dollars via collecting paychecks without authority to work.
THIS POWER BELONGS TO US. We are wasting it. Just think of the shockwaves this would send across the country, and how the streets of the whole country could be taken back by the peaceful. That is worth it.
This right to just dismiss them and install ourselves, is espressed in The Declaration of Independence, and in the last of the original 10 Amendments in the Bill of Rights...the 10th Amendment.
Where are the psychologists who can declare the severe sociopathy of the individuals as well as the organization as a whole?? What are you all doing about it??!!
Where are the lawyers who can help with declarations, affidavits, etc.?
These people who are supposed to help are not there for us, the people. We have to assume the leadership ourselves. I would do it, but I seriously cannot, I care for a child alone. People who are not in such a position, but who care about the safety and future of my child as much as I do, need to step up to the plate. I know you are out there...we need you.

Strike back 27.Apr.2004 03:39

!911

The only thing that will be effective is to start shooting the criminals down in the street.