The former Tigard police officer who shot and killed Jacob Macduff on Jan. 6 has been terminated from his new job with the Port of Portland Police.
“Officer (Gabriel) Maldonado is not eligible for employment at the Port as he is under active investigation,” said Kama Simonds, the Port of Portland spokesperson. “We regret that the status of the investigation wasn’t brought to light during our hiring process. If we had known the Washington County investigation was open, we would not have offered him the position.”
Maldonado started at the Port of Portland on April 19, four days after resigning from the Tigard Police Department after a nearly 15-year career with the agency. At the time of his resignation, the Washington County District Attorney had not completed its investigation into the Macduff shooting or made a charging decision.
OPB first reported Maldonado started his new policing job while under investigation in April, and he was placed on leave until his termination Wednesday.
Newly obtained records by OPB show the Port of Portland was directly told the investigation had cleared Maldonado.
Maldonado had begun the hiring process with the port before the January shooting. That process was initially paused pending the outcome of the investigation.
On Feb. 18, Maldonado emailed the Port of Portland human resources department to inform them Tigard would be returning him to duty March 23. He did not state in that email that the county’s review of the shooting remained open, however.
“If the investigation is now closed, I would like us to get a copy of the reports and update our background check to appropriately reflect a thorough vetting of the incident,” Port of Portland Police Captain Cory Chase told human resources in an email a few days later.
The Port of Portland then initiated a second background investigation in the first week of March. Tigard Police Cmd. Robert Rogers appears to have incorrectly told the background investigator that Maldonado had been cleared.
“After an initial review of the shooting and in consultation with the Washington County DA’s office, the decision was made that a Grand Jury would not be convened in this matter,” the investigator wrote, summarizing his conversation with Rogers. “Commander Rogers made it clear that if there were any immediate concerns about Officer Maldonado’s actions during this event, he would not be returning to duty at this time.”
Tigard police, however, dispute that they directly stated Maldonado was clear. Spokesperson Kelsey Anderson attributed the misunderstanding to Port of Portland’s background investigator, who Anderson said misinterpreted the conversation with Rogers.
“In my 24 years with Tigard Police, I’ve never seen an officer-involved shooting be referred to a grand jury in Washington County,” Rogers said in a statement to OPB. “That was the context I was giving.”
In reference interviews included in Maldonado’s background investigation, colleagues describe him as an excellent police officer, calm under pressure and loyal. Friends describe him as a devoted father who cares deeply about his profession, a field he spent years trying to break into.
Between 1997 and 2006 when he started in Tigard, Maldonado applied to the Oregon State Police twice. He failed the physical once and withdrew a second time because of a stomach flu. He failed the oral boards with the Portland Police Bureau in 2004 and the written test with the Beaverton police the following month. He failed the written test for the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office in 2004 and the interview in 2011.
He took a written test and was interviewed for Lake Oswego Code Enforcement in 2005 but was not selected. In 2006, Maldonado interviewed with the Gresham Police Department but was not selected after it was discovered he had failed to disclose a juvenile curfew violation.
In August 2019, after about 13 years as a Tigard police officer, Maldonado failed the background investigation for a position with the University of Oregon Police Department.
People familiar with police hiring in the state said Maldonado’s long run of rejections is notable, even for a sometimes competitive hiring process. The Port of Portland’s background investigation notes that when Maldonado was hired by Tigard in 2006, the investigator at the time recommended against hiring him.
“Gresham had chosen to fail him because they identified 4 instances where Maldonado either lied or omitted significant events in his statements,” the Port of Portland investigation reads. “With this information, the Tigard PD investigator did not recommend Maldonado for hire based solely on this concern. Also noted in the report was the fact that all previous employers and references had nothing but positive things to say about Maldonado. Tigard PD staff, upon reviewing the report, made the decision to hire him despite this recommendation.”
Earlier this month, Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton announced his office would turn over the Macduff shooting investigation to the Oregon Department of Justice, leaving a charging decision up to the state.
A spokesperson for Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said her office had just received the case files last week and had not yet made a decision in the case.
On Monday, 131 days after he was shot and killed, Jacob Macduff’s mother, Maria Macduff, said police had contacted her during the fatal standoff with her son and asked her to speak to him. After being placed on hold, she said she was disconnected.
“I was hoping they had taken him to the hospital and then, about two hours later, I got a call telling me that they had shot him – that they had killed him,” Macduff said.
Attorneys for the Macduff family have not stated yet whether they intend to sue.