Multnomah County Judge Paula Kurshner sided with prosecutors this afternoon, saying the 12-year-old girl whom Officer Christopher Humphreys shot with a beanbag on a MAX platform caused the struggle
Nov. 14 that erupted in a political firestorm over Portland Police's use of force.
The judge also said in placing the girl, now 13, on probation for a year that the girl had resisted arrest, assaulted a police officer and interfered with public transportation by riding a MAX train while knowing she wasn't supposed to.
"The reaction of this youth [to police] resulted in what happened," Kurshner said when issuing her ruling this afternoon.
Earlier today in court, attorneys for the two sides painted very different pictures of what happened on the night of Nov. 14, 2009. (Because of her age, WW
is not identifying the girl.)
Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Michael Riedel
argued that what transpired on the MAX platform was straightforward. By his count, the girl made nine separate decisions to violate the law. She resisted arrest multiple times, chose not to comply with police orders and punched Officer Aaron Dauchy, who was with Humphreys on the platform, in the face. "This case is not complicated," Riedel said. "It's common sense. ... It was her choices, her aggressive actions, her violence that put her before the court."
Attorneys for the girl attempted to show her young age and mental health caused her to believe the police officers' actions were unreasonable and that she was acting in self-defense. They showed the girl suffered from anxiety and depression. They also argued police officers did not try to de-escalate the situation when the girl became agitated. Rather, the officers heightened her emotions by removing the girl's purse from her arm and, at one point, cursing at her. "It is a case about unreasonable, unnecessary, excessive force," attorney Steve West
told the court. "We're not dealing with an adult. We're dealing with a 12-year-old girl with mental health issues."
Evidence of the girl's alleged assault on Dauchy included the videotape from the MAX platform. But in court West questioned why the officer, who took photos of his injured fingers, didn't produce a photograph of his allegedly injured mouth, which was said to have throbbed for six hours. "[Dauchy] tries to claim he had a throbbing pain in his lip," West said in his closing argument. "He went to have his injuries photographed. But there is no evidence of a throbbing lip."
West then implored the judge to hold the police officers, rather than the girl, responsible for what took place in November, saying the state couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the girl wasn't defending herself against excessive force. "The court's decision in this case will carry a message far beyond this court," he said. "And not just for [the girl.]"
Ultimately, the judge didn't buy West's argument. She placed the girl on formal probation for one year, ordered her to go to school, undergo drug and alcohol screening, seek mental health treatment, perform 24 hours of community service and attend whatever skills classes the county finds suitable.
Earlier press accounts have described the girl as mature-looking beyond her years. Sitting in court, she looked young -- far younger than a statistical description of her appearance (5'7", 150 pounds) would suggest. Now 13, she is tall. But her face is definitely a girl's. So is her dress. In court this morning, she had on a pink plaid top, stylish acid-washed jeans and brown boots like Uggs. She wore her hair in a high ponytail.
West, said he was disappointed in the results of the case. And the "message" he warned about? The incident "remains very troubling," he said.
Prior to the beanbag shooting, Humphreys was already well-known for his involvement in the 2006 death of James Chasse Jr. in police custody. A lawsuit against the city by Chasse's family is set to go to trial in June. And an acquittal in today's case of the girl would surely have been seized on as ammunition by the Chasse family's attorneys in court.
The Nov. 14 beanbag shooting resulted in controversy when Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman
ordered Humphreys stripped of his badge and gun pending an internal police investigation. More than 600 cops marched on downtown
to demand Humphreys be returned to desk duty, and Saltzman conceded to their demands in exchange for an agreement from the police union not to release the results of a no-confidence vote against Saltzman and Chief Rosie Sizer.
Reporter James Pitkin contributed to this article.