In Grand Jury Transcripts, Portland Police Officer Describes Exchange Before Killing Robert Delgado in Lents Park

“I said, ‘Listen, man, if you reach for a gun, I’m going to fucking shoot you,’” Zachary DeLong testified.

A memorial to Robert Delgado in Lents Park. (Brian Burk)

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office on Nov. 12 released transcripts of the grand jury proceedings in the death investigation of Robert Delgado, whom Portland Police Bureau Officer Zachary DeLong shot and killed in Lents Park on April 16.

On Sept. 23, the grand jury handed down a not-true bill for DeLong, meaning jurors found no criminal wrongdoing.

DeLong had responded to a 911 call reporting a man near the Portland Pickles stadium who was quick-drawing a gun “like James Bond or a cowboy.” Police later determined the weapon Delgado had was actually a replica gun.

The grand jury proceedings, which spanned three days, culminated in nearly 780 pages of transcripts. Attorneys from both the DA’s office and the Oregon Department of Justice jointly presented the case to jurors, calling about two-dozen witnesses total, including DeLong.

In his testimony, DeLong explained why he felt he was justified in firing his weapon that Friday morning in April.

He testified that he had served four years in the U.S. Army, followed by a year and a half with the National Guard. He said he joined PPB about eight years ago, and that he was certified to carry an AR-15 rifle as well as a “thermal optic that we use at nighttime to look for suspects or missing people,” called a forward looking infrared, or FLIR.

DeLong said, in an effort to get more details, he called back the 911 caller who had reported Delgado.

“He didn’t see him pointing this firearm at anybody,” DeLong testified. “He wasn’t menacing anybody with this gun. He wasn’t, you know, drawing at somebody.”

DeLong said that, from his vehicle, he located Delgado near the Portland Pickles stadium within Lents Park. From the vantage point of the nearby Arco gas station, DeLong said he saw “stuff strewn about,” including a tent, clothing and general “clutter.”

At that point, DeLong testified, he did not believe there to be any mental health concerns. He said Delgado’s hands were empty, but that he saw something in his back pocket that was black with “a hint of lime green on it.”

DeLong decided to approach the park; he said he wanted to have a conversation with Delgado, but from a distance.

DeLong said he flashed his police lights briefly so he could run a red light and make a left turn off of Southeast Holgate Boulevard onto 92nd Avenue. When he made the turn and flashed his lights, DeLong said, he saw Delgado look up in recognition, then look back down.

DeLong said he then pulled into the park’s parking lot, along with PPB Officer Samantha Wuthrich.

As DeLong exited his patrol car, he said, he “preemptively” pulled out his AR-15 rifle.

DOJ attorney Kurt Miller asked DeLong why he selected his rifle instead of his pistol.

“My rifle and my abilities with my rifle far exceed my handgun,” DeLong said. “I’m much more accurate. I can stay further away. It’s—it’s just something that I’m much more comfortable with and it’s much safer for everybody at this point.”

DeLong said he believed the object in Delgado’s back pocket was a handgun. He said he called out calmly to Delgado: “Hey, man, can you put your hands up and walk over to me?”

In that moment, he said, the mood shifted.

“And he just went ballistic, started screaming, ‘Get the fuck away from me!’ and ‘Fuck you!” DeLong said. “He kept screaming at me. And he tensed his arms and flipped me off and just yelled, and he started marching around kind of aimlessly.”

“To see somebody go from zero to 100,” he continued, “from just nothing to completely enraged like this, what I’m thinking at this point is drugs, meth, some sort of stimulant.”

DeLong said he decided in that moment to shift his own demeanor: “I need to be authoritative now,” he thought to himself, according to his testimony.

“And I told him, I said, ‘Listen, man, if you reach for a gun, I’m going to fucking shoot you,’” DeLong said. “That sounds rough. I get that. But a—it’s a tactic. Part of the reason why I say it like that is to convey the seriousness of this to him.”

DeLong said Delgado responded with something to the effect of: “Oh, you’re going to fucking shoot me? Well, fucking shoot me.”

It was then that DeLong took cover behind a tree, he testified. He said his rifle was slung in front of him and pointed at the ground, and that he was roughly 90 feet from Delgado.

“And is that a comfortable range for you with your pistol?” Miller asked.

“No, it’s not,” DeLong responded. But it is a comfortable range for a rifle, he added.

DeLong said Delgado’s agitation continued to escalate, and that he kept shouting commands, including telling Delgado that he would shoot him.

Then, DeLong testified, he saw Delgado squat down and reach for the ground.

“And the very next frame that I can remember is him standing upright with his arm outstretched with a gun in his hand, and I’m staring down the barrel of it,” DeLong said. “And it wasn’t pointed at anybody else. It was pointed right at me. And it happened that fast....This just escalated to the point where I’m staring down the barrel of a gun.”

“How’d that make you feel?” Miller asked.

“I thought, I’m going to get fucking shot,” DeLong said. “It scared the shit out of me.”

DeLong said he then fired two rounds “as quick as I could” while aiming at Delgado’s chest.

Medics attempted CPR, and Delgado was pronounced dead at the scene.

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