The Oregon Department of Justice announced Friday that its investigation found “insufficient evidence” to bring criminal charges against Portland Police Bureau Detective Erik Kammerer, also known as “Officer 67,″ following multiple allegations that the Rapid Response Team officer used excessive force against protesters and at least one bystander during 2020 protests.
In a Feb. 24 letter addressed to Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, senior assistant attorney general Jayme Kimberly outlined four instances the DOJ investigated for potential criminal charges. The DOJ investigators considered three possible charges: harassment, fourth-degree assault, and first-degree official misconduct. (The DA’s office referred the criminal investigation of Kammerer to the DOJ in November 2020 due to an apparent conflict of interest.)
“After extensive investigation and legal research, there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Detective Kammerer committed any criminal act with respect to the four allegations investigated,” Kimberly wrote. “As you know, the scope of our investigation was limited to possible criminal charges, and it did not encompass review for administrative, regulatory, policy, ethical, or other violations. Therefore, we reach no conclusions as to the propriety of Detective Kammerer’s conduct outside of our criminal review.”
One of the cases the DOJ investigated is the Sept. 5, 2020, incident in which Elijah Warren, a Portland father and homeowner, alleged that Kammerer struck him in the back of the head with a baton as he informed other officers outside his home that tear gas had seeped into the house, inflicting pain on his 13-year-old son and his son’s friend.
During his interview with DOJ investigators, Kammerer denied that he carried a baton that night, although he is trained to use one: “[He] noted that if a baton is used, it is with a two-handed strike and not a one-handed strike,” the report says.
Kammerer also told investigators that he had a burn on his left hand that night from a Molotov cocktail, which impeded his ability to push protesters.
“Detective Kammerer states the night was chaotic, with Molotov cocktails lighting a protester on fire, and Detective Kammerer’s left hand being burned by a Molotov cocktail thrown in his direction,” the DOJ report says. “Detective Kammerer was asked about the pushing he engaged in that night and he stated that he normally pushes at the torso with both hands, but on that night he was tying to protect his burned left hand and did not put as much pressure with his left hand.”
The DOJ reviewed two videos from that incident: one of the immediate aftermath and one that depicted the altercation. At the three-second mark, the report says, the video depicts Kammerer pushing Warren in his chest and shoulder area with his right hand. Due to the camera angle, the report says, it is unclear if Kammerer also pushed with his left hand.
“The evidence demonstrates there was some physical contact between an officer believed to be Detective Kammerer and Mr. Warren. The video shows the officer pushing Mr. Warren’s upper chest/shoulder area,” the report says. “But there is no striking or hitting motion with the left hand that is visible from the officer’s position or body language. Mr. Warren stumbles one large step back into the crowd and begins yelling at the officer. The officer can be seen making pointing motions with first his right hand and then his left hand. Both hands are free of any objects or instruments. Mr. Warren is visibly upset and yelling at the officer.”
Kammerer said he did not recall the events that transpired: “Detective Kammerer viewed the first videos and indicated he had no recollection of the events depicted in the video,” the report says. It also notes that Kammerer did not complete a use-of-force report following the incident.
The DOJ determined that the video evidence did not corroborate Warren’s account of being struck in the ear with a baton.
“There were several people around Mr. Warren and several other officers who appeared in frame in the seconds after Detective Kammerer made physical contact with Mr. Warren,” the report says. “Those officers are clearly holding batons. Mr. Warren also stated that he did not know it was an officer who had hit him at first until he got his bearings and saw the officer in front of him.
“There is no doubt it was a very dynamic event that took Mr. Warren by surprise and that he did in fact sustain an injury to his ear,” the report continues. “However, the video evidence shows Detective Kammerer’s hands free of objects and pushing Mr. Warren, not striking him. In sum, the evidence is unclear as to how Mr. Warren sustained the injury to his ear, but it does not appear that Detective Kammerer struck him with a baton or other object.”
Last year, WW revealed that Kammerer, who wears helmet number 67, was the riot squad officer who Warren accused of striking him. Several activists and journalists confirmed his identity and provided accounts of Kammerer’s use of force at protests.
DOJ investigators also examined several of those claims.
The DOJ found insufficient evidence to corroborate the allegation that, during two separate protests in June 2020, Kammerer shoved independent journalist Lesley McLam to the ground.
“The RRT reached Ms. McLam’s location and another command for Ms. McLam to move is heard followed by her saying, ‘l am moving,’” the report says. “Ms. McLam’s camera appears to get knocked around at this point and she states, ‘Hey, don’t touch me, Press, Press. They just grabbed me and throw me backwards.’ An unknown officer can then be heard saying, ‘Well, then move out of the way.’ Ms. McLam says, ‘He’s got his hands on my throat, his name is Kammerer…Kammerer…he has just been grabbing me and throwing me. This is a live recording. Press, Press…they are shoving me into a vehicle.’”
The DOJ investigators determined that the video does not capture physical contact between McLam and the officers “due to the camera’s movement during the encounter.”
During his interview with investigators, Kammerer recalled a physical altercation with McLam.
“Detective Kammerer states he did start pushing Ms. McLam from behind to get her to move,” the report says. “Detective Kammerer states he used his extended hand and pushed Ms. McLam’s back to get her to walk. Detective Kammerer states that Ms. McLam then turned around and faced him, at which point he put his hands on her chest to push her away and she began yelling that he was choking her. Detective Kammerer denies that his hands were ever on Ms. McLam’s neck. Detective Kammerer states that when Ms. McLam began yelling that he was choking her, he grabbed her by the shoulders, turned her away from him and pushed her from behind to get her to move from the area.”
The investigators concluded that “there is no doubt” that physical contact between the two occurred, but that the act of pushing McLam would not constitute an unreasonable use of force because of the command from police to leave the area as well as the “ongoing property damage that was occurring that date.”
“The evidence indicates that Detective Kammerer’s purpose in physically touching Ms. McLam was to get her to move out of the closed area,” the report says. “The evidence is not sufficient to support a finding that Detective Kammerer acted with the intent to harass or annoy Ms. McLam.”
The third incident investigators reviewed occurred at a Sept. 23, 2020, protest in which independent journalist Melissa Lewis alleged Kammerer tried to swat her camera out of her hand and shoved her to the sidewalk, which twisted her ankle as she attempted to shoot video from the sidewalk while leaving the area after police declared a riot.
The DOJ investigators viewed five videos of the encounter.
“After Detective Kammerer gives his first direction to Ms. Lewis to get out of the street, he appears to use his right hand to push her right hand away that she is using to hold her phone,” the report says. “He then appears to grab her right wrist with his left hand, moving the hand with the phone to the side. Ms. Lewis appears to grab at Detective Kammerer’s right arm with her left hand. Detective Kammerer moves his right arm away from her hand and then appears to push Ms. Lewis on the left shoulder with his right hand. As Detective Kammerer pushes Ms. Lewis on her left shoulder, she appears to begin falling to the ground. The video stops at this point with someone saying to Detective Kammerer, ‘Get your fucking hands off her, you fucking piece of shit.’”
Kammerer wrote “several” use-of-force reports that night, the report says, but he did not complete one that documented the encounter with Lewis.
“During his interview with [internal affairs], Detective Kammerer was shown the five videos previously mentioned,” the report says. “Detective Kammerer stated that he still did not have a recollection of events even after watching the videos but did confirm that it was him in the videos and could explain what he saw occurring in the videos.”
Kammerer told investigators that he attempted to move Lewis’ camera out of his face so he could see, because the light was bright and in his face.
“Detective Kammerer agreed that Ms. Lewis appeared to be walking backwards and following his commands during the encounter,” the report says. “Detective Kammerer said that Ms. Lewis then grabbed his arm, which changed the situation from ‘passive’ to ‘active’ and that he moved his arm and then used his hand to move Ms. Lewis to the sidewalk. Detective Kammerer denies that he pushed Ms. Lewis.”
The investigators found that Kammerer had “lawful authority” to order protesters and press to move out of the streets, and that his explanation about the bright light causing possible disorientation was justification for grabbing her hand. They also argued that Kammerer could potentially claim self-defense because Lewis grabbed his arm after he grabbed her wrist and before he pushed her to the ground.
“The act of moving the light out of his face appears to have caused a chain reaction in which Ms. Lewis grabbed on to Detective Kammerer’s arm and he in return pushed her in the shoulder, causing her to fall,” the report says. “The evidence available to us does not demonstrate conclusively that, in pushing Ms. Lewis’ shoulder, Detective Kammerer intended to harass or annoy her or that he intentionally or recklessly caused her harm. Further, given that Detective Kammerer pushed Ms. Lewis only after she grabbed on to his arm, we would be unable to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The final incident DOJ investigators reviewed is from a Sept. 26, 2020, protest. A protester named Tealana Lindseth alleged that Kammerer tripped her and then pushed her into a planter, causing her cellphone to shatter and a bruise on her leg.
The DOJ investigators reviewed video that showed Kammerer addressing Lindseth and her boyfriend.
“Detective Kammerer asks them, ‘Are you having trouble understanding the instructions to the north to the west,’” the report says. “Ms. Lindseth appears to be holding onto the arm of her boyfriend, and she says several times, ‘We are moving, we are moving.’ Detective Kammerer closes the distance between them and to where they are almost shoulder to shoulder and yells, ‘Is there anything you don’t understand[?]’ As Detective Kammerer is saying this it appears he simultaneously leans in slightly with his left shoulder, at which point Ms. Lindseth falls to the ground.”
The report says it is unclear if Kammerer’s and Lindseth’s shoulders touch, but that “it does not appear to be significant contact.” The report also notes that “only their upper bodies are viewable from the camera angle.”
The DOJ investigators did not obtain video footage that captured Kammerer pushing Lindseth into a planter.
“Detective Kammerer can be seen during various times in the remainder of the video but is not seen near Ms. Lindseth after her initial fall at the beginning of the video,” the report says.
During his interview with investigators, Kammerer told them he had recognized Lindseth “from previous nights and was aware she was present when directed to disperse on other occasions.” He further claimed that Lindseth faked a fall.
“Detective Karnmerer states that while walking shoulder to shoulder with Ms. Lindseth, as they reached the corner, she threw herself to the ground,” the report says. “Detective Kammerer denies engaging in any movement with any part of his body to cause Ms. Lindseth to fall. Detective Karnmerer states that after Ms. Lindseth got up and moved into the crowd, he had no further contact with her that night and denies pushing her a second time into a planter.”
The investigators said there is no video evidence to suggest Kammerer shoved or tripped her.
“If Detective Kammerer made physical contact with Ms. Lindseth in the first portion of the video causing her to fall, it appears to be incidental to them walking next to each other,” the report says. “Thus, the state could not prove he acted with intent to harass or annoy her beyond a reasonable doubt for the crime of harassment, or that he intended to cause her harm for the crime of official misconduct in the first degree.”