Portland police shot a person at Lents Park in Southeast Portland just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. Police confirmed that the victim, a white man who has not been identified, died at the scene.
Sgt. Kevin Allen said officers from the bureau’s East Precinct dispatched to a “suspicious circumstance involving a weapon.” Acting Police Chief Chris Davis, who is filling in for Chief Chuck Lovell during Lovell’s vacation, said that the call was for a “white man pointing a gun in the park.” When asked if police recovered a gun from the scene, Davis said he could not answer that question yet.
Police closed streets around Southeast 92nd Avenue and Holgate Street, where the shooting occurred.
Davis said officers used both a less-than-lethal launcher, which shoots a 40-millimeter round and also a standard firearm in the encounter. In a press statement, the police bureau said two officers fired less-than-lethal rounds, and one officer used lethal force.
The bureau identified the officer who shot the man as Zachary DeLong, a former U.S. Army Ranger who was hired by the bureau in 2013. Early in his career, DeLong, whose father was a Portland police officer for 28 years, was one of 19 Portland police officers who liked a Facebook post fellow Portland police officers made showing their badges wrapped in the slogan “I am Darren Wilson.” Wilson was the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, sparking weeks of violent clashes with the police.
Soon after the Facebook incident, DeLong again made the news when he successfully talked a man in a mental health crisis off a 5th story ledge of a downtown Portland hotel.
Before starting with the Portland Police Bureau, DeLong helped tackle a domestic violence suspect while on a ridealong with the San Diego police in 2011. According to a news report at the time, the officer he was riding with broke his ankle during an altercation with a man who wouldn’t give his children back to their mom. That officer’s gun was knocked loose and a second officer was struggling to handcuff the man. DeLong intervened, moved the gun out of the man’s reach and helped the second officer handcuff the father.
The Portland Police Bureau placed DeLong on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.
In a statement released Saturday, the police bureau said witness reports of an ambulance treating a person in a mental health crisis at the same intersection approximately 20 minutes before the shooting involved a different person.
“The previous call, at 8:16 a.m., was a welfare check on a white male with no shirt who was in traffic and trying to hit passing cars with a trash can,” the statement read.
Police said that person was transported to the hospital for treatment of a suspected drug overdose.
Juan Chavez, who works as an attendant at a nearby AM/PM convenience store, reported hearing two shots after police arrived in the park.
The location of the shooting is inside an area serviced by Portland Street Response, a recently launched non-police unit that assists people who are experiencing homelessness or mental health crises. Several people in the area told OPB they believed the man may have been camping nearby. Allen said he could not speak specifically to why the police were involved with the call instead of Portland Street Response but noted that the specialized team does not typically respond to calls that involve weapons.
“Street Response was not dispatched, and given the information that we had, it would not have been appropriate,” Davis said. “This call would have been outside Street Response protocols.”
Staff with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office were on scene at the shooting.
Portland police announce that everyone must leave the area to the south, or force will be used, including impact munitions pic.twitter.com/aQXKVG5tMZ— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) April 16, 2021
Protesters also began to arrive as midday approached, as did police in riot gear. They threatened to disperse the crowd. Officers with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office assisted with crowd control around the scene of the shooting. Portland police said they had so many officers working crowd control at the scene of the shooting that service calls elsewhere in the city experienced delays.
One protester, who declined to give his name, told OPB that demonstrators at the scene posed no real threat to law enforcement.
“Police have a Batman belt full of tools of destruction,” the protester said. “Not only are they armed with all these tools, they are armed mainly with qualified immunity. Meaning that when they use these instruments of death against us, we cannot even sue them. So, it’s a damn lie when they say they’re afraid of us.”
Police issued a statement saying some people in the crowd threw objects at them, and one police vehicle had its tires flattened.
In a written statement, Wheeler urged calm: “These shootings always are traumatic for everyone involved and for our community, regardless of the circumstances. I want to offer my sympathy to the individual involved and to their family. My thoughts also are with the officers who were involved. I visited the scene this morning to show respect for the individual, their family, the officers, and our community. I received a preliminary briefing and will continue to receive updates as information becomes available.
“I recognize why people are concerned and possibly angry. While our understanding of this incident evolves, I urge everyone to proceed with empathy and peace.”
Reporter Sergio Olmos contributed to this story.