The city of Portland has agreed to settle a wrongful death and excessive force lawsuit brought by the family of Quanice Hayes, a Black teenager who was shot and killed by a police officer in 2017. The agreement comes just more than four years after Hayes was killed.
The case is settling for $1.5 million, plus attorneys fees and costs, bringing the city’s total payout to just under $2.1 million. It’s among the largest amounts the city has paid out for a police officer killing someone. Portland City Council is expected to finalize the settlement at its March 10 meeting. As part of the agreement, the city admits no wrongdoing.
Hayes was 17 when he was killed Feb. 9, 2017, by Portland police Officer Andrew Hearst, who shot Hayes three times with an AR-15 rifle from some 10 feet away as Hayes was on his knees with hands in the air. Police had cornered Hayes in a rain-soaked driveway in Northeast Portland following reports of armed carjackings in the area. Hayes was not armed when Hearst killed him. A month later, a grand jury declined to charge Hearst for the shooting.
Hayes’ family first filed its lawsuit in June 2018 against the city and Hearst, alleging Hearst’s use of deadly force was “unreasonable and unjustifiable.” The civil complaint stated that, in 2013, Hearst killed another unarmed person and was not disciplined by the Portland Police Bureau, which “has a history of disproportionate policing of African Americans.”
Hearst shot Hayes once in his head and twice in his chest. Although police did not find a gun on Hayes’ body, they later found a replica gun nearby. Hayes had allegedly used the fake weapon in the carjacking incidents, according to witnesses.
Portland police do not wear body cameras, so there’s no footage of the shooting.
Steven Hayes, Hayes’ uncle who’s representing his nephew’s estate in the lawsuit, said the family had agreed to settle with his city because Quanice’s mother, Venus Hayes, was tired of the protracted legal battle.
But Steven Hayes is adamant on this point: He said he does not believe $1.5 million plus attorneys fees means justice has been served for the Hayes family.
“They just want to get rid of us — put enough money in our face that we’ve got to say yes to go away,” he said. “It’s my sister’s son and she’s done. She can’t live in this city anymore. After this settlement, she’s moving out of the state.”
Steven Hayes said he was optimistic that the culture of the Portland Police Bureau would shift after a summer of demonstrations against police violence that saw protesters shouting his nephew’s name and painting murals of his face. But it has yet to translate into some of the changes he wants to see implemented within the bureau — notably, the firing of Hearst and the adoption of body cameras.
“If there was a body camera, it would be a nationally recognized case,” he said. “Because it’s not any different from anything that happened before. The only difference is that it’s not videotaped.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the mayor’s office provided basic details about the settlement, but declined to comment further “out of respect for the family and all parties involved.”
In court documents, Hearst defended his actions in the shooting. He testified to a grand jury that he believed the teenager was reaching for a concealed gun in his waistband when he fired.
Officers did not report seeing a weapon until after Hayes was killed.
An airsoft pellet weapon was later found in a residential garden, feet away from Hayes’s body. An expert hired by the attorneys representing Hayes’ family wrote in a report that he believed Hayes did not have the replica on him when he was shot, and that the movement Hearst interpreted as Hayes reaching for a gun was likely Hayes attempting to lower himself to the ground as ordered.
“Based on the evidence, Officer Hearst shot Mr. Hayes as he was moving down to the ground, in order to comply with the officer’s orders,” wrote Jesse Wobrock, an expert in accident reconstruction and the science of body movement.
In a deposition, Hearst said that at the time of the shooting, he believed Hayes had a real gun on him and maintained there was nothing he could have done differently given the information he had at the time. Asked by attorney Jesse Merrithew, who represents Hayes’ family, why Hayes would reach for a fake gun as Hearst was pointing a rifle at him, Hearst said he believed Hayes “may have not been thinking in a clear mind.”
“I think he may have wanted to be killed by police that day,” Hearst told Merrithew during the March 2019 deposition. “I think he may have committed so many crimes with that weapon that in his mind he thought it was real, and that he could get the same result that he had gotten with maybe the armed car – carjacking. I think he may have been trying to get rid of it.”
In a joint statement, Merrithew and Ashlee Albies, who also represents the Hayes family, said Quanice was shot while surrendering to police.
“We also know that the City of Portland will never admit their fault, and we know that Andrew Hearst will never be punished for his conduct,” Merrithew and Albies wrote in their statement. “We are happy that we were able to obtain some measure of compensation for the family, and we remain hopeful that the protests in the streets will force this city to enact a meaningful system of accountability that will finally see fit to punish an officer who kills an unarmed 17-year-old boy kneeling in front of him.”
In response to the lawsuit filed by Hayes’ family, the Portland city attorney’s office sought to pin the blame for Hayes’ death on the teen and his mother. In November 2019, a few months after Hearst’s deposition, the city submitted legal arguments contending Hayes was at fault because he’d ingested cocaine and had a sleepless night prior to being fatally shot.
“A reasonable person would have known that the criminal, reckless and negligent conduct described above ... would increase the foreseeable risk of harm to himself or herself, and Mr. Hayes indeed suffered the type of harm that was reasonably foreseeable,” attorneys for Portland stated in court documents.
City attorneys also argued Hayes’ mother was partially to blame because she wasn’t supervising her son.
“City Defendants are not at fault in the action pled by Plaintiffs because the death of Quanice Hayes was caused in part by the negligence of Venus Hayes …” the city’s court document states. “At all relevant times, Venus Hayes was Quanice Hayes’ mother and sole legal guardian. As such, Venus Hayes had a legal responsibility to reasonably monitor and supervise the conduct and behavior of Quanice Hayes.”
The city withdrew the argument after an outcry from residents and city council candidates alike that the city was victim blaming.