February 9th, 2010 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall, Cops and Courts

Two Very Different Views on a Police Shooting: Saltzman and Westerman

saltzman

City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who oversees Portland's police bureau, tells WW he hasn't reached a conclusion yet on whether the fatal Jan. 29 police shooting of an unarmed man was justified.

Officer Ronald Frashour shot 25-year-old Aaron Campbell with an AR-15 assault rifle outside the Sandy Terrace Apartments in Northeast Portland. Campbell, who was despondent after his younger brother's death, was reported to be armed and suicidal.

Campbell emerged from his girlfriend's apartment with his hands behind his head, but then refused to obey police commands. He repeatedly told police at the scene that they would need to shoot him.

After being hit with six beanbag rounds in the back, police say Campbell reached for his waistband as he moved toward an alcove in the apartment building. He was fatally shot in the back but later found to be unarmed.

Campbell repeatedly told cops at the scene they would have to shoot him. The official version is that it was what's known as "suicide by cop."

But two witnesses at the scene tell WW Campbell was merely reacting to being hit by the beanbags and was posing no threat. And as we report in tomorrow's WW, there's deep skepticism by many Portlanders about whether the shooting was justified.

A Multnomah County grand jury is now reviewing whether the shooting broke the law, and Saltzman has asked that those deliberations be made public for the first time.

Saltzman tells WW he's torn between two sides of the story.

"You have two extremes here," Saltzman says. "At one extreme, you have a man trying to commit suicide by police. On the other extreme, you have an unarmed black man surrendering and being shot in the back. Those are both perspectives that I wonder about. And having been to the scene and read just about everything that there is in existence about it, it's a tough call."

Pressed on what he thinks, Saltzman paused.

"I'm not passing any judgment at this time about officers' involvement being proper or not proper," he says. "It's a tough call. It's a tragic death, there's no doubt about that. The grand jury's going to look into this, and hopefully that record will be made public, to make it fully transparent."

Another view comes from the head of the police union, Sgt. Scott Westerman.

Westerman

Westerman staunchly defends the shooting as justified, given the information the officers had at the scene. Cops were told the man had a gun in his jacket pocket, and Westerman says they were forced to protect themselves and the apartment residents when Campbell moved toward the alcove, where he could seek cover.

Westerman blasts Chief Rosie Sizer for failing to explain to the community why police were forced to react the way the did at the shooting scene.

"There appears to be a disconnect between what the community expects the police to do and what the police are trained to do," Westerman says. "The problem is, who is working to bridge that disconnect? You haven't heard the police chief say one word about why we do what we do. That is her job, and she isn't doing it."

Westerman also puts Saltzman in the crosshairs.

"It's the police's job to explain why, after decades of experience, our training is what it is," he says. "I haven't heard the chief or the police commissioner say one word about that. And that is a failure of leadership."
 
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