Portland Man Killed by Police Was Homeless in Lents: “He Was So Scared of Cops”

Court records show Robert Delgado was a familiar figure to officers in Portland’s East Precinct.

Robert Delgado Robert Douglas Delgado. (Courtesy of Portland Police Bureau)

Court records show the man fatally shot by police in Lents Park on Friday morning was camping on the streets of East Portland, where he regularly interacted with police.

Portland police on Saturday afternoon identified the man fatally shot by Officer Zachary Delong as 46-year-old Robert Douglas Delgado. Oregon Public Broadcasting spoke with a longtime friend of Delgado’s, Jennifer Fahey, who said he struggled with mental illness and regularly stayed at her house when he had nowhere to go.

“He’s had such a hard life,” she told an OPB reporter. “He’s always thinking the cops are after him. The CIA, the feds. He was so scared of cops.”

Court records show Delgado was a familiar figure to officers in Portland’s East Precinct. A December motion for his release on a menacing charge says Delgado, who was camping outside an auto body shop, was known to the officer responding to a conflict between Delgado and a shop employee. Delgado pulled a knife and threatened to kill the employee, records say.

“Per PPB Officer Tully, the defendant camps around the victim’s place of business,” the court record says.

The document lists Delgado’s race as white.

In a 2016 court affidavit related to Delgado’s conviction on a domestic violence assault, his uncle wrote that Delgado was having difficulty finding housing. He asked for Delgado’s court supervision to be transferred to Nevada so his nephew would have more stability. (It’s unclear what the judge did.)

Delgado’s parole officer added: “Mr. Delgado reported couch surfing, staying with friends in Southeast Portland and sleeping in parks.”

In releasing Delgado’s name this afternoon, Portland police also contended that his killing was a different event from an incident observed by several witnesses near Lents Park on Friday morning, in which a shirtless man banging on trash cans was placed in an ambulance.

Police said that was a different man, who was 32 years old. Although WW could not independently verify the police account, it may explain why several witnesses described seeing a man in police custody being loaded on a gurney, then heard gunshots some time later.

City and county officials on Saturday afternoon tried to walk a delicate balance between expressing remorse for Delgado’s killing and not passing judgment on the case. Making matters more difficult: a spree of property destruction in downtown Portland on Friday night on a scale rarely seen in this city.

Mayor Ted Wheeler spoke to anguished and livid Portlanders on a Saturday morning Zoom call to discuss the city’s public safety budget.

“I agree with those of you who say that policing needs to change,” Wheeler said. “I disagree when you say get rid of the police, defund the police. I don’t agree with you on that. It’s an honest disagreement of opinion. I want to make the Police Bureau accountable.”

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt issued a statement today saying a “rigorous and professional” investigation of the shooting was underway.

“An officer’s use of deadly force is likely the most critical and dangerous decision they will make in their career as a public servant,” Schmidt wrote. “As a community—we are hurt and vulnerable right now. I am sensitive to the community’s concern about yesterday’s deadly police shooting and the calls for answers and reform. Our investigation needs to be methodical and consistent. We will not be rushed in our decisions.”

Both Schmidt and Wheeler issued statements decrying the property destruction and arson that followed Delgado’s shooting. Another protest is expected in Lents Park tonight.

Justin Lin contributed reporting to this story.

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