The Portland Police Officer Who Killed a Man in Lents Park Is a Former U.S. Army Ranger

Officer Zachary DeLong was a main subject of a History Channel docuseries about a 2010 Afghanistan mission to lure out Taliban members.

Police officers in riot gear.
Riot cops Riot cops at the edge of Lents Park. (Justin Yau) (Justin Yau)

The police officer who killed a man in Lents Park on Friday morning was identified this morning by the Portland Police Bureau as Officer Zachary DeLong, an eight-year veteran of the bureau.

The bureau offered little additional information. It still hasn’t named the victim of the shooting and has offered few details about the circumstances, other than to say DeLong fired a fatal shot after responding to a report of a white man in the park pointing a gun.

But the Police Bureau has previously highlighted DeLong and his military service.

DeLong, a U.S. Army veteran, was featured in a 2016 documentary series on the History Channel called The Warfighters, which explored the American military and various missions.

DeLong was one of four main subjects in an episode detailing a specific U.S Army Ranger mission in 2010 in Afghanistan called Task Force Merrill that was meant to find Taliban compounds and strongholds, fortify the strongholds, and draw Taliban members back toward them to attack. Then planes would swoop in to kill the Taliban fighters.

DeLong was a sniper for the mission, meaning he and several other rangers would walk ahead of the platoon and chalk out the best route to get to compounds without accidentally stepping on explosives.

DeLong is soft-spoken and calm as he details events in the documentary. He has big eyes and a serene demeanor.

Throughout the documentary, which details a near-deadly mission in September 2010, the episode explores the childhoods of each of the four highlighted platoon members.

DeLong tells the cameras that his father was a cop and he was raised around guns.

“I’ve always been enamored with snipers, I always thought that was the coolest thing ever. I shot a lot of guns growing up,” DeLong says. “You know, your dad is a cop, he’s got a safe full of guns, and we’d always go out and shoot, and I learned that early on and I learned a love of that early on.”

DeLong says he’d watch Black Hawk Down all the time as a kid, probably 75 times: “I was obsessed with being a part of that. My heart was always set to go be a ranger.”

As a sniper, DeLong describes to the cameras his role in these missions.

“We’d take all these inhabitants that were living there and say, ‘Hey, you guys know where the Taliban are.’ We want you to go out there and find somewhere safe to be, leave the area, and tell them that we’re right here and we’re here to fight,” DeLong says to the cameras. “Sometimes we’d take a big ‘ole American flag and throw it up in the roof, and wait for them to start shooting at us.”

DeLong continues, “We’d get that first burst of machine gun fire that was aimed at us, and then it was on.”

In the episode, DeLong and three other mission members detail the events of a particular night, Sept. 19, 2010, when his team, like many nights before, were scoping out a compound in a particularly dangerous region of Afghanistan.

While DeLong’s team was headed there, the series details, they had to cross over a small body of water. As DeLong was quietly crossing the ladder helped to aid in the crossing, he fell in. The member of his team whose job it was to scope out and help the platoon avoid explosive devices ran back to help DeLong out of the water—when an explosive device went off.

As the debris and smoke began to clear in the moments after the explosion, they saw their colleague’s legs were amputated above the knee.

“I started patting down his arms and legs, and when I got to his knees, it just stops. That didn’t click. I didn’t realize what had just happened and what I was feeling,” DeLong says.

He tells the cameras, “I’d trained on what to do in situations like this 100 times over, and I froze. It took a minute, it was weird. It definitely took a minute,” DeLong says, until the medic yelled at him for assistance. “That’s about when I came out of the haze and everything kinda kicked back on, I had a little system reboot. I thought, OK, I know what to do here.”

After his colleague was helicoptered out, the rest of the rangers continued the mission that night to take over the compound.

“I was terrified, terrified. I’m not ashamed to admit that, and there’s a lot of people that won’t,” DeLong says of that night.

DeLong expresses a degree of guilt, that his colleague was coming back to help him get out of the water when he was blasted. DeLong says it’s “something I’ve thought about a lot.”

In the portion of the episode when DeLong describes his desire to join the military, he says: “I wanted to test myself. I’m not the strongest, I’m not the fastest, but I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other. You can’t make me quit.”

The Police Bureau featured DeLong’s appearance in the History Channel documentary in February 2016. “We honor veterans like Zach, and we hire veterans like Zach,” the bureau wrote.

WW has confirmed that only one Zachary DeLong is currently employed by the Portland Police Bureau. The bureau says he is on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.

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