Injured protest medic waited for medical treatment after being tackled, punched by Portland police

By Sergio Olmos (OPB)
Sept. 3, 2020 12:16 a.m. Updated: Sept. 3, 2020 3:22 a.m.

Person punched repeatedly by police at Portland protest was taken to OHSU, where he works as an ICU nurse, for a head injury

In an incident filmed late Monday, a Portland police officer is seen tackling and repeatedly punching a volunteer medic named Tyler Cox.

Cox was arrested on a charge of assaulting a police officer and taken away in a riot van, despite having what he described Wednesday as significant injuries.

A Portland police officer punches a protester after throwing them to the ground while dispersing a demonstration Monday, Aug. 31, 2020, in Portland, Ore.

A Portland police officer punches a protester after throwing them to the ground while dispersing a demonstration Monday, Aug. 31, 2020, in Portland, Ore. The incident is under investigation.

Sergio Olmos / OPB

Cox says he went more than two hours without medical attention before paramedics evaluated him.

“They noted that I was lethargic. And they noted that I was having trouble walking straight. They told the police officers that they couldn’t clear me to be arrested, or to be taken to jail without a head CT, or taken to the hospital at the least,” Cox said Wednesday. “The police actually got angry with them about that.”

Police ended up taking Cox to the emergency room at OHSU, the same place he works as an intensive care unit nurse.

He said he was appalled by the way police and the hospital treated his injuries. He said police and hospital officials downplayed the severity at first and Cox suspects it was because he was at a protest.

“They just kind of were treating me like they didn’t respect people who were the part of the protest,” he said. “They were dismissive. They didn’t ask me if I needed anything. I was never offered water [or] offered anything for pain.”

Tyler Cox at his job at Oregon Health & Science University, where he works as a nurse.

Tyler Cox at his job at Oregon Health & Science University, where he works as a nurse.

OHSU / OHSU, courtesy of Tyler Cox

Cox refused to give police officers his name, and so they didn’t know he worked at OHSU at first. An officer stayed in the room with him until a physician arrived, he said.

“The police officers stepped out of the room for just a brief moment, just outside the door. And I told the physician like, ’Hey, I work here, I’m a nurse here. And that shifted everything,’” Cox said.


Cox’s discharge paperwork notes that the reason for the visit was a head injury. Cox was diagnosed with “hematoma of scalp, close head injury initial encounter,” according to the records.

After being released from OHSU, Cox was taken back to jail.

In the aftermath, city police and police regulators say they are investigating. Cox said that on Monday night, before he was released, a police sergeant asked him about the incident.

The sergeant asked if he remembered how many times he’d been hit.

“And I’m like, ’I don’t know, like two to three,’” Cox said. “’Maybe more, I’m not sure.’”

Cox says then the sergeant responded: “Well, you punched him.”

Cox said he was shocked. “He was like, ’Yeah, well, you punched him. So you assaulted the officer.’ And I was like, ’I punched him? What are you talking about?’ And he was like, ’Yeah, it’s all on video. We got all the evidence.’”

The brief video made by OPB, along with one made from a different angle by another observer, do not show Cox hitting an officer.

Cox is charged with felony assault of a police officer, misdemeanor resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and interfering with a peace officer.

OHSU officials initially declined comment, but later sent a statement saying the institution can’t comment on individual patients due to privacy laws. However, OHSU said it is a “community of healers and supports efforts to provide first aid to the community.”

The statement also expressed appreciation and “support those who are exercising their first amendment rights in support of Black lives, but any actions or activities involving the protests are voluntary and are not sponsored or sanctioned by the university.”

Calls for comment to the Portland Police Bureau were not returned by Wednesday evening. Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell wrote on Twitter Wednesday that he’s seen social media videos showing police violence.

“I have seen videos that have circulated on social media during these almost 100 nights of civil unrest. These videos show force by officers, which by its very nature can look disturbing. These videos raise legitimate concerns,” Lovell wrote. “Other officers, who have been assaulted or even injured, are asked to go back out and endure more. We are not perfect. We make mistakes and hold ourselves accountable. The Independent Police Review exists as a separate entity to also hold us accountable.”