Many Questions Remain After Press Conference for Police Shotgun Shooting

Training Division Commander Bob Day poses with lethal and less-lethal police shotguns.

After a Friday afternoon press conference with Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese, plenty remains unclear about why a Central Precinct officer on Thursday shot a 20-year-old man with a gun that under police rules should never carry lethal ammunition.

Police bureau managers suggested Officer Dane Reister violated several safeguards when he fired four live rounds from a bright-orange shotgun with the words "less lethal" on the side of the gun. At least one round struck William Kyle Monroe, leaving him with five pellet wounds in his hip area and in critical condition at a local hospital. 

Cops said they do not believe they have had prior contact with Monroe.

Reese and Adams  apologized to Monroe for the shooting. That move represented a significant departure from the previous administration of Chief Rosie Sizer, who was criticized for failing to admit when police were at fault. Reese called the shooting "human error."

Here are some details that emerged at the 12:30 press conference:

• Lethal shotgun rounds and beanbag rounds look different. The beanbag rounds are yellow and clear, and the lethal rounds are blue and red. "[Officers] are to look and verify each time the weapon is loaded that they are carrying a yellow beanbag round," said Training Division Commander Bob Day.

• Lethal rounds aren't supposed to come anywhere near the less-lethal guns used to fire beanbags, Day said. Reese said specific officers certified to carry less-lethal guns aren't allowed to carry live shotgun rounds on them or in their cars if they are carrying the beanbag weapon. 

• The beanbag weapons are stored at a weapon locker at the precinct, Day said. When officers check them out, they are required to visually confirm the guns are empty, then load the guns inside their police car.

• The less-lethal guns, purchased by the department in 1997, are Remington Model 870 shotguns. Aside from distinct orange markings, that's the same type as the black shotguns meant for lethal force. But shooting beanbag rounds feels different from shooting live rounds because beanbags cause less recoil, Day said. He added  Reister may not have noticed the difference under tense circumstances. Beanbags rounds are sometimes visible after they are fired, but again, Day said Reister may not have noticed.

• Police said Monroe was carrying a pocketknife but declined to say whether he threatened officers, saying it's too early in the investigation. Police also said it's also too early to reveal how many times Monroe was shot. Although he was reportedly struck with five pellets, it remains unclear whether those came from the same round, police said.

• Initial reports that Monroe was intoxicated may be incorrect. Police do not know if Monroe was intoxicated, said Sgt. Pete Simpson, a spokesman for the department. Police used the phrase "apparently intoxicated" in  news release Wednesday, but that phrase was absent from a press release handed out at the conference, replaced with "acting in a peculiar manner." 

• Cops said the officers contacted Monroe before talking with witnesses at the park because Monroe had already fled.

• Initial reports that five rounds fired were incorrect, police said. Reister fired four rounds, police said Friday, and a fifth round was ejected as he pumped the shotgun. 

• Reister was trained to use the non-lethal shotgun in 2002, Reese said. The department requires officers to retrain with the weapons three times a year. Because of the incident on Thursday, the department will move up the next round of training, meaning about 220 officers that use the 115 less-lethal shotguns will undergo a 10-hour training course in the next few weeks.

• Officers are taught to use the beanbag weapons if there is aggressive resistance, of if a suspect is armed or potentially armed. But it's the "totality" of the circumstances that department will weigh, Day said. Officers are also told to fire beanbags from no more than 60 feet, and Day said it's too early to say how far Reister was from Monroe when he fired at him.

• An 18-year-old civilian was riding along with Officer Stuart Palmiter, who along with Officer Dean Halley witnessed the shooting. 

• Reese's apology: "Using lethal rounds in a less-lethal shotgun was a terrible mistake. We don't know how it occurred yet."

• And Adams: "I'd like to to apologize to the person who was injured by this mistake."

• Reese said he spoke to Reister on Thursday night. "He certainly feels horrible about this," Reese said.

The Independent Police Review Division will likely release more information in the next two weeks, Simpson said.

WWeek 2015

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.