The family of Robert Delgado, whom Portland Police Officer Zachary DeLong shot and killed in Lents Park on April 16, called on Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation of the case.
“He was a brother, he was a father, he was a new grandfather to a baby girl,” Ashlee Albies, a Portland attorney representing Delgado’s family, said during a Friday afternoon press conference. “This is unacceptable. People in mental health crisis or people with mental health issues are not inherently dangerous. And they need to be treated with respect and care.”
Albies pointed to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who had appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the May 2020 murder of George Floyd.
“And that resulted in the criminal conviction of Derek Chauvin earlier this week. We think that sets a precedent,” Albies said.
Albies also called on Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt to support an independent investigation and prosecution. While he was campaigning last year, Schmidt vowed to “ensure transparency and independent review of all cases involving law enforcement misconduct and violence.”
Brent Weisberg, a spokesman for the DA’s office, said Schmidt would be open to an independent prosecution, but that he hasn’t yet been contacted by Brown’s or Rosenblum’s office about doing so.
“DA Mike Schmidt sees the importance of having an outside prosecutor handle certain criminal investigations such as an officer’s use of deadly force,” Weisberg said. “At this time, no one from the governor’s office or the attorney general’s office has reached out regarding this matter, but the district attorney would be open to those discussions.”
A spokeswoman for Rosenblum said the Attorney General’s office is not currently overseeing the investigation, but that it is ready to assist the D.A. and governor if called upon.
“We want to extend our sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Delgado and to his community of friends and acquaintances during this terrible time,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Karynn Fish said. “While my office is not currently involved in the investigation of his death, as always, we stand ready to help at the request of Governor Brown or of Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt, whose office is currently overseeing the investigation.” (Disclosure: Rosenblum is married to the co-owner of WW’s parent company.)
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to WW’s request for comment.
During Friday’s press conference, Albies was joined by 10 members of Delgado’s family, including his siblings and children.
Delgado’s youngest daughter, Kennedy, said her dad was her “best friend.”
“The amount of pain that this has caused me and my family is very hard to put in words and describe,” she said. “This incident isn’t something you ever think that you will have to experience firsthand and I just want there to be change made before another family has to experience this. What’s very unfortunate is, another family will probably experience this.”
Tina Delgado, who is Robert’s older sister, said the Police Bureau is responsible for setting the tone when its officers respond to calls.
“I just want the Portland Police Bureau to know that when a police officer shows up at a scene, they set the stage,” Delgado said. “I want an independent investigator. I want them to see how they could’ve handled the situation differently. They set the tone and they showed up. And that’s a big responsibility and they need to be held accountable.”
Delgado’s oldest brother, Kirkpatrick Fries, also spoke at the press conference.
“We also need to let the police department know that we’ve been watching and we will be watching,” Fries said. “And we’ll keep doing this until everybody else gets the right justice that they need, instead of just being shot down in cold blood. Because that’s pretty much what happened. We’re watching you guys. So is everybody else. So, please, we need your help.”
The family is holding a vigil for Delgado in Lents Park at 5:30 pm on Friday. They also invited people who witnessed the shooting of Delgado to email email@example.com.