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PR Police State: How the Public is being Misled About the Murder of Jahar Perez

Every time another unarmed person, usually a person of color, is gunned down by the PPB, the well-oiled machinery of the corporate police state goes to work. Pay attention to how they diffuse public outcry and spin the story. This is the friendly face of martial law.
On the last Sunday in March, Jahar Perez was hounded by police who had no reason to even stop him except that the car he was driving seemed too nice for a black man in a poor neighborhood. This fact comes straight from the officers' own testimony. He had done nothing wrong, but they ran his plates, turned their cruiser around and sped after him anyway. They hounded him until, knowing he had done nothing wrong, he turned into a parking lot, probably to get them off his ass. The rest, alas, is history.

The officers took 24 seconds to determine that the unarmed man, still strapped in his seat belt, was a "threat" to them. Officer Jason Sery shot him through the heart, and Officer Sean Macomber proceeded to taze his dead body for three more minutes. A cold-blooded murder by any account.

And yet, the two officers involved are still free to walk the streets. Why? Because a secret and stacked grand jury determined that no crime was committed. Just as in every case of police-induced homicide, the secret jury agreed that Officer Sery had acted appropriately because he "feared for his life." Jahar Perez, although unarmed and restrained by both a seat belt and a car door, was a "threat." (Oh, he was a threat all right. A black man in possession of an expensive car? Shit. Next thing you know, they'll be coming after our women.)

City officials and the PPB's Public Information Officer (PIO) quickly went to work distancing themselves from liability and misleading the people about the possibility of justice. Seamlessly, they repeated the grand jury verdict as if that explained everything. "You can't argue with that, the jury heard the facts and made the decision." Knowing that this wasn't enough to diffuse public outrage over the "legally sanctioned" homicide, they then went on to tell us how the grand jury was "only the first step in the process."

In calls to numerous city and county officials, as well as the PPB, I was reminded about this fact. The grand jury, stacked and secretive as it was, was only the "first step." The people would have many opportunities for justice. A public inquest, an internal investigation...just wait. Just sit back, fold your hands in your lap, and wait. And wait. And wait.

Now we've had the inquest. This resulted in a toothless verdict: Jahar Perez died by homicide. Little more than a public spectacle, the inquest conferred no authority to assign either blame or punishment. Even at that, it was interesting to catch sight of the soft and fuzzy manner in which the DA handled the accused. He spent most of Sery's short time on the stand asking him irrelevant and pointless questions like, "How old are you" and "So. Where did you go to school?" If this is how he acts in public, one can only imagine the kind of examiner he was behind closed doors with the grand jury. Hamilton Burger, eat your heart out.

If jurors of the inquest can determine that Sery murdered Perez, even with a DA who is clearly on the side of the accused, why couldn't jurors at the grand jury do the same? One can only surmise that the "evidence" presented must have been different; that the questions asked were not quite the same.

In any event, once the verdict was in, the corporate media went to work spinning the story. I confess that I caught the mindless television news that night, just to see how they would handle the story. Channel 12 waited till more than halfway through their newscast to even mention the verdict. The biggest story in the city, and it barely got noticed. And what did they say about it? They said, "A jury determined that Jason Sery shot and killed Jahar Perez. He will not face criminal charges because a grand jury cleared him of any wrongdoing."

We already knew who shot and killed Jahar Perez, didn't we? But the corporate media was careful to tow the line: There was no wrong doing, just a death. Remember, the grand jury said he did nothing wrong.

Similarly, the headline of the Oregonian the day after the verdict was not "Sery found guilty" or "Inquest finds against Sery," or even "Verdict In." Instead, the huge headline splashed above a picture of Jason Sery read, simply, "'I Feared for my Life.'"

So now we are through the "second step" in our search for justice. Have we lost focus yet? If not, sit back and wait some more. There'll be an internal investigation soon. And then probably yet another report on what they could have done differently.

In fact, the PPB has accumulated mountains of reports over the years detailing what they could have done differently after every one of their slayings. But every recommendation of substance made in these reports is "still in review." Even cheap and easy solutions to police murders have been ignored. Why? Because the purpose of these reports wasn't to actually do anything differently; it was, like the grand jury and the inquest, to dupe the public into thinking something was being done.

No, there's no need for the police to do anything differently. Indeed, they're doing their jobs just as they were intended to do: They're keeping The People in their places.

The pattern at work here stretches far beyond the murder of Jahar Perez. As heinous as this was, it was only one in a long line of police attacks on innocent civilians. The corporate media is ALWAYS complicit in these attacks, smearing the names and characters of the dead. Jahar Perez was a druggie, they told us. Kendra James was a crack addict. Jose Mejia Poot was a psycho. The people who were beaten and pepper sprayed in the streets on A22 had "thrown a bottle." Always, always there is some reason to explain away the brutality of the police, to blame the victims of their attacks.

This IS martial law. The police are raging in our streets, acting as judge, jury, and executioner. City officials are either unwilling or unable to control them. We don't even know the extent of their violence, because most of their crimes are quickly covered up. It is only every now and then that a case like this one sheds light on their activities, because there were too many witnesses to ignore. We are living in a police state, but the control over our lives is so seamless that most of us are not even aware of it. (There can't be anything wrong, after all, the TV says so. It's only the druggies and crackheads who are killed, only the rabble rousers who are harassed and beaten.)

Pay attention to the pattern, though. Pay attention, and then speak out while you still can. Because this is how it starts. If they can get away with this, it's only going to get worse. If we allow them to butcher people in the streets and then pass it all off as "reasonable" and "legal," they could be at our doors next.
Well... 02.May.2004 16:01

Tony Blair's dog

since they state that killing someone is not "wrongdoing"
I hearby take it they have decided that killing another man,
woman and/or child is no longer against the law.

I hope they can live with that decision.

So... 02.May.2004 16:55

*

Don't stop there cw...what are your suggestions for improving the situation? If you think firing sery or even convicting him of murder is going to accomplish anything you're fooling yourself. The dept is just going to continue with business as usual. The problem indicated by these killings is endemic. The dept needs revision in the area of dealing with increasingly routine incidents like this; stressed out, depressed, diabetic/hypo-glycemic, addicted, etc., individuals.
A policman approaching any car never knows whether the occupant(s) have or do not have a gun, so why do they walk right up to the car door, potentially creating a crisis situation? Instead of moving around his partner macomber, to get a shot, why didn't sery just yell to go for cover?...If the dude had a gun, they could have nailed him when he got out the car with it, shot out his tires as he attempted to leave, or something. But no, these cowboys got to have something to boast about over beers to resounding slaps on their backs after shift is over.

Catwoman, you are beautiful 02.May.2004 17:11

Fearful Portland Driver

No, I don't even know what you look like but thats not what I'm saying. Your reporting is to the point, incisive, articulate, persuasive and passionate. Thank you, sincerely.

It will be interesting to see how things play out against your analysis and predictions.

I listened to the airing of the public inquest on KBOO the other day. Heard Sery say that Mr. Perez had his right hand in his right pants pocket and he shouted numerous times to the suspect, "I'm going to shoot, I'm going to shoot. Get your hands out!". I later heard him say that when Mr. Perez started to pull his hand slowly from the pocket, he became fearful and decided to shoot. So It sounds to me that Mr. Perez was shot for following orders. If he had not followed orders, he would have been shot. In other words, he did not have a chance. That is my interpretation of this brief testimony. Pretty damning testimony.

When he said,"I believed wholeheartedly that he had a gun...", this reminds me so much of things we've heard from Washington regarding Saddam and the legendary WMDs. Or am I over-reaching?

He saw no weapon. Sery saw Mr. Perez withdraw his hand from his pocket according to orders and shot Mr. Perez in the *belief* that he had a gun. Belief and fear, is the only justification Sery has to offer. If the assertion of this *belief* is what the grand jury worked from then there is no question, Catwoman, that your analysis is right on the mark.


PS -- Is there a written transcript available? Wish I'd recorded the thing...

misinformation 03.May.2004 12:00

clarifier

Contrary to Catwoman's report, when the jury called it "homicide" it was not a statement of wrongdoing. The DA specifically defined it as merely the act of one person killing another, without comment on whether or not that killing was justified. Hence, under the ground rules laid out by the DA, this "verdict" was not surprising.

Yours is the "misinformation." 03.May.2004 12:54

To "clarifier"

Mindlessly, "clarifier" writes, "Contrary to Catwoman's report, when the jury called it "homicide" it was not a statement of wrongdoing." I can only assume "clarifier" is, in fact, part of the PR for the police state as well. In fact, rather than clarifying anything, the poster mischaracterizes the entire article.

The whole point of the frigging article is that the inquest did NOT have the authority to assign blame or grant justice. (Catwoman says, "Now we've had the inquest. This resulted in a toothless verdict: Jahar Perez died by homicide. Little more than a public spectacle, the inquest conferred no authority to assign either blame or punishment." Next time, READ the thing before you "clarify.")

See, that's the POINT. The city and the PPB are misleading the public into believing something is being done, something will change, justice will be done. There is no justice. Sery and Macomber are free.

But you see, we're just not that gullible. The grand jury can say what it will, the city can placate us all with an inquest that can't assign blame, but we KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. JASON SERY MURDERED JAHAR PEREZ. Shout it from the rooftops, we know it.

how many times? 03.May.2004 16:06

tt01

how many times was perez shot? 1? 2? 3? i seem to remember hearing 3 times. i could be wrong. i hope so. it seems to me someone (shrunk, juror) would have asked sery why he shot more than once - which they did not do. so i assume perez was shot once? also, that inquest was absolutely appalling in the fact that jurors asked, what, 4 whole questions? they couldnt think of more than 4 questions?

Shot Three times 03.May.2004 16:58

Mike-d. mikedeepdx@yahoo.com

According to testimony from Officer Jason Sery, Officer Shawn Macomber, and the Medical Examiner three shots were fired. Multiple other people testifing mentioned hearing 3 or 4 shots fired.

Disband the PPB 04.May.2004 04:26

Jenny

As bad as things can get sometimes, ever notice how they often get WORSE once the PPB shows up? Too many of their officers seem all too willing to employ the most violent means available to solve problems that never warranted such a response in the first place. Shooting first and only asking questions afterward is the order of the day. The grand jury bought it, and do we even have so much as an apology from PPB or officer Sery? Nope... as if killing Mr. Perez was the right thing to do under the circumstances. What a load of BS.

Amid news reports of PPB "internal invesigations," "policy reviews," new (police controlled) review boards, etc - NOTHING WILL REALLY CHANGE. The same mentality, the same environment that attracts and supports people like officer like Sery (for example) is not about to change, not really. Not enough to keep this from happening to again another poor soul, and another family... and it will happen again. And again. And again... this is only the beginning. The PPB and their union is not about to change, ever. Don't be fooled.

The PPB should be disbanded. Shut down totally, the chief and all officers fired and not allowed to work here again. There is no other way to truly change this murderous institution which currently occupies our city. A new law enforcement agency needs to be created to replace the PPB, an agency by and for the people - an agency with a civilian review board built in that has the power to truly review cases and discipline officers. An agency where people work toward helping, not hurting their fellow citizens. And a place where those who get off on being violent are not allowed to work, as is the case now.

In the meantime, expect more police violence - without apology.