A Multnomah County grand jury has declined to indict Portland Police Bureau Officer Zachary DeLong on criminal charges for shooting and killing Robert Delgado, 46, in Lents Park in April, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday.
On the morning of April 16, Portland police were dispatched to Lents Park in response to a 911 caller’s report of a man quick-drawing a handgun “like James Bond or like a cowboy.” Police say Delgado did not respond to DeLong’s commands.
DeLong shot Delgado from about 90 feet away, police said, while the officer took cover behind a tree. After the fatal shot, police determined the gun Delgado carried was actually a replica. Dispatcher radio transmissions illustrated a brief window between police arriving at the park at 9:36 am and firing at Delgado at 9:40 am.
“Mr. Delgado appeared agitated and was yelling at the police. Mr. Delgado then produced what the officers believed to be a gun and pointed it at them. In response, Officer DeLong fired at Mr. Delgado,” the DA’s office said in a press release Friday morning. “Officers then assessed whether Mr. Delgado was still moving or holding a gun. They then called for medical help and attempted to resuscitate him. Mr. Delgado was declared deceased by American Medical Response. At the scene, investigators recovered a replica pistol that had been in Mr. Delgado’s possession.”
A week after Delgado’s death, his family called on Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the shooting. Instead, the AG and Multnomah County DA’s office jointly investigated the case—a rare arrangement for investigations of fatal police-involved shootings in Multnomah County.
The shooting death also spurred citywide conversations about funding for Portland Street Response, which sends trained mental health professionals and paramedics to certain types of crisis calls and welfare checks. The shooting occurred in Lents Park, squarely within the pilot program’s service area, but Portland Street Response was not dispatched to the scene.
Attorney Ashlee Albies, who represents the Delgado family, says “they are disappointed but not surprised” at the outcome.
Albies and co-counsel Jesse Merrithew released a statement around noon on Friday on behalf of the Delgado family members, who called the investigation “flawed from the start.”
“We are still grieving the loss of Robert, whom we loved very much,” the statement said. “We are disappointed in the grand jury’s decision, but not surprised, and will review the facts carefully in the weeks to come. While we hope that the investigation was thorough, it is impossible to trust the system as it exists now when the Portland Police Bureau is tasked with investigating itself. Therefore the family will engage in its own investigation before determining its next steps.”
Delgado’s son, Skyler, said in the statement that the city’s mental health system was a factor in his father’s death.
“We do not want any other family to go through what we have gone through,” Skyler said. “If Portland had a functional mental health system, my father would be alive today.”
As WW reported in May, Delgado’s family members described him as a playful and charismatic “movie buff” with a spot-on Dr. Evil impression and an affinity for classic rock. Most of all, they said, he loved being a dad. “He was the proudest father,” Delgado’s sister, Tina, said in May. “Those kids—that was his treasure.”
The grand jury proceedings spanned three days, Sept. 21-23. The DA’s office said it will file a motion for the release of the grand jury transcripts on Monday, and that they should be released within three to four weeks.
The Oregon Justice Resource Center also issued a statement Friday in response to the not true bill, calling on the state to establish an independent investigative body specifically for fatal police shootings.
“Public confidence of police handling of people in mental health crisis is extremely poor,” OJRC said Sept. 24. “Rebuilding trust means satisfying the demand for a truly independent investigation of police shootings. We want to see an independent body established to investigate cases like that of Mr. Delgado that is not closely tied to PPB or any other law enforcement agency in Oregon.”