Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said Tuesday he’s appointed a Portland criminal defense attorney to the role of special prosecutor in a case involving a Gresham Police Department officer who shot and killed a man nearly a year ago.
On May 31, Gresham officer James Doyle shot and killed Israel Berry.
The case is expected to go before a grand jury in the next three to five weeks to determine whether Doyle should face criminal charges.
The case has taken much longer to proceed than most investigations in Multnomah County where officers used deadly force. Few details have been released about the shooting.
Police say Doyle was assisting several Portland Police Bureau officers with a call around 9:30 p.m. on SE Kelly Street. Officers were responding to a “disturbance” of a white male “who was making threats,” police said at the time. Berry, 49, died at the scene after Doyle shot him.
Gresham police wear body cameras, though it’s unknown whether there’s footage of the shooting and what transpired leading up to it. Schmidt declined to answer questions about the investigation.
Doyle was hired by Gresham in 2018. At the time of the shooting, he had more than two years of law enforcement experience. He’s been on paid administrative leave while homicide detectives with the Portland Police Bureau have investigated.
On March 11, Samuel Kauffman, who works in private practice, was sworn in as a co-lead prosecutor on the case. Kauffman has worked as a criminal defense attorney in state and federal court, but not as a prosecutor, according to his website.
Schmidt, who was elected last year, campaigned on outside investigations and reviews of police use of force and misconduct. He told OPB on Tuesday that investigations into when police use force or kill someone strain the trust between the community, police and his office.
“The best way to show that there isn’t a bias is to bring in an outside set of eyes, to have somebody else take a look and help us,” Schmidt said. “Hopefully the community will see that and it will help restore integrity and legitimacy to the process.”
Schmidt took over as district attorney on Aug. 1 and was first briefed on the Doyle case Aug. 13. Detectives had finished most of the investigation in early July, but the full report wasn’t completed until Sept. 28.
On Oct. 6, Schmidt turned to the Oregon Department of Justice, but the request for assistance was never formal. In February, the Justice Department notified Multnomah County they weren’t available to assist on the case, Schmidt’s office said.
“We staffed the case with them. We asked for their opinion and input on it,” he said. “Ultimately, working with DOJ on that case wasn’t an option, so I had to pivot. That’s when we started talking about bringing in a special prosecutor not currently in the system.”
This is the third case in recent days where outside prosecutors have been brought in to review an officer’s use of deadly force. On Monday, Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton turned the investigation of former Tigard Police Officer Gabriel Maldonado to the Oregon Department of Justice. Maldonado shot and killed Jacob Macduff in January during what police said was a domestic violence call. Last week, the Justice Department and Schmidt announced they would partner on the investigation of Portland Police Officer Zachary DeLong who shot and killed Robert Delgado in Lents Park on April 16.
As part of his role, Kauffman has worked with prosecutors in the district attorney’s office to prepare and will be part of the team that presents the case to a grand jury. If there’s an indictment, Kauffman would also be part of the trial team.
Schmidt said he was announcing Kauffman’s role as special prosecutor because a grand jury is imminent.
“This is a new approach,” Schmidt said. “I hope it brings value and legitimacy to the way people perceive that these investigations and prosecutions are being handled.”