June 8th, 2010 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Cops and Courts

Albina Ministerial Alliance: "Keaton Otis Did Not Have to Die"

LeRoy Haynes

The Albina Ministerial Alliance this morning called the fatal police shooting of Keaton Otis "both preventable and unnecessary."

"Keaton Otis did not have to die and Officer Christopher Burley did not have to be shot," Rev. LeRoy Haynes of the alliance's Coalition for Justice and Police Reform said at a news conference.

Otis, a 25-year-old African-American man who suffered from mental illness, was killed May 12 in a Lloyd District traffic stop. Three officers opened fire on Otis. Police and a forensics expert say the shooting came after Otis shot Burley twice in the legs.

Today's news conference at Northeast Portland's Augustana Lutheran Church came a day after the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office released transcripts (PDF) of police and witness testimony to a grand jury. The grand jury last week declined to indict the officers involved.

But Haynes said the the account of the incident offered by Police Chief Mike Reese at a news conference last week still "raises more questions than he answered."

Specifically, Haynes asked what motivated the stop in the first place. Reese said gang-enforcement officers were following Otis by chance after they pulled out from a coffee shop, then became concerned about Otis after noting he was slouched down in his seat and wearing a hoodie.

Police later said Otis had no gang known affiliations.

"Keaton Otis, a citizen of this community, was pursued on an erroneous assumption that he was a gang member on the basis of his racial identity and attire," Haynes said.

Asked specifically whether he believes Otis was racially profiled, Haynes said police were following Otis because he was black and wearing a hoodie, which raises a "greater possibility" he was profiled.

Haynes stated the obvious — that hip-hop attire are everyday fashion.

"Many mothers and fathers, and many sons and daughters, are concerned that just because someone wear hip-hop clothing, they will be labeled a gangster," Haynes said. "Everyone that wears hip-hop clothing is not a gangster."

Haynes also questioned why Otis's body was left for hours uncovered in the street. Similar concerns were raised after the Jan. 29 fatal police shooting of Aaron Campbell.

Police say they can't touch the body until an investigator from the state medical examiner's office arrives. But Haynes said that policy needs review.

"It's a concern for the community, (and) it's a concern for the victim's family, how the body is treated after a shooting," Haynes said. "There's a sense of humanity ... the humanity towards the dead. And we must respect that humanity."

Haynes said the Albina Ministerial Alliance has requested a city audit of police practices in such incidents, but he said he doesn't expect a response for up to a year.
 
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