Portland police fatally shot a man in Lents Park on Friday morning.
Portland Police Bureau Deputy Chief Chris Davis told reporters that officers were dispatched to the park at 9:32 am to respond to a report of a white man pointing a gun. The bureau said one officer fired a lethal shot at the man, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Two other officers fired non-lethal rounds. (Update, 12:15 pm Saturday, April 17: The police bureau identified the officer who fired the fatal shot as Zachary Delong, an eight-year veteran of the bureau.)
Davis said he could not answer whether a gun was recovered on or near the man killed.
It is the first police killing in this city since large-scale protests began nearly a year ago, and comes as such protests are increasing in frequency and intensity after the killing of Daunte Wright in Minnesota. Within minutes of police announcing the Lents Park shooting, a crowd of enraged activists gathered along the crime-scene tape near Southeast Holgate Boulevard, yelling “Shame on you!” at passing squad cars.
Police declared an unlawful assembly shortly after noon. Davis said people were pulling down crime-scene tape and jeopardizing “the integrity of the scene” and could destroy evidence.
“We had to summon just about every policy officer in Multnomah County to keep this group far away,” he added.
The shooting occurred in a neighborhood at the southeast edge of Portland where City Hall two months ago launched a program designed to reduce police interaction with people in mental crisis. But as WW reported this week, the crisis team, called Portland Street Response, is now responding to only about two calls a day, in part because emergency dispatchers aren’t sending them more.
The new team has narrow criteria for the calls it can respond to—and is not supposed to respond to reports of people with guns.
“Given the information that we had, this call would have been outside Street Response protocols,” Davis said. “They don’t respond to calls where it’s reported that someone has a weapon.”
Davis said fatalities are “not the outcome we ever want” and added that they’re “traumatic events” for everyone involved.
According to Davis, the victim is believed to be a white man—but, Davis added, “We may find out some things we believe now may change down the road.”
Davis said the man was reportedly pointing a gun in the park, but it’s unclear at whom or what. Davis said he didn’t know if the man pointed the gun at police officers before he was shot.
He said it’s unclear how many officers fired at the man, and it’s too early to say if the man was suffering from a mental health crisis or if he was homeless.
Mayor Ted Wheeler visited Lents Park within hours of the shooting. “I recognize why people are concerned and possibly angry,” he said in a statement. “While our understanding of this incident evolves, I urge everyone to proceed with empathy and peace.”
Police Chief Chuck Lovell is on vacation out of the city, Davis said. Davis acknowledged that many Portlanders will be skeptical of whatever account police provide of officers’ actions.
“With any kind of incident like that that gets a lot of attention, there will always be people who don’t trust what we do,” Davis said. “What we have to do is do the most objective investigation we can do.”