The family of Freddy Nelson Jr., the man fatally shot by an armed security guard this summer, is suing both the private security company who employed the guard and the real estate company that hired the security firm. The family is seeking $25 million.
On May 29, Nelson was fatally shot by guard Logan Gimbel while he sat in his truck in Delta Park, a shopping center in North Portland. At the time, Gimbel was a guard with Cornerstone Security. The firm had been hired by TMT Development, a prominent Portland real estate company that owns the shopping center.
An investigation by OPB this summer found Gimbel was one of three employees working at Cornerstone who was not licensed to carry a gun. The company states on its website that it only provides armed security.
On Tuesday, the family’s attorneys filed a wrongful death suit in Multnomah County Circuit Court against Gimbel, the owners of Cornerstone, TMT Development, and Hayden Meadows, the corporation that owns the property.
“Despite the Cornerstone Defendants holding themselves out as a security company providing exclusively armed security, the Cornerstone Defendants and TMT failed to take even the most basic measures to ensure that Cornerstone employees were certified armed private security professionals,” the suit states.
Neither Cornerstone nor TMT Development immediately responded to a request for comment.
Attorney Tom D’Amore, who is representing the family, wrote in a statement that Nelson’s death fit into national discussions taking place over the privatization of police work. Increasingly, in Portland, businesses have turned to private security to patrol their property, allowing them to use force with little oversight: “By way of the family’s wrongful death lawsuit, we hope to not only show the deadly consequences of large corporations flouting the law but also cast light on the worrisome increase in under-regulated and under-trained private security guards.”
According to the suit, Gimbel approached Nelson on the evening of May 29 in the parking lot and blocked him with his car from getting out of the parking space. Gimbel reportedly told Nelson he was under arrest. Nelson responded that the guard “had no authority to arrest him.”
Oregon law states private security guards have the same ability to detain a person as any private citizen. If they have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed in their presence, they can make a “citizen’s arrest” and temporarily detain the person until law enforcement arrives. They are allowed to use force “reasonably believed to be necessary” to defend themselves.
Nelson reportedly got in his car with his wife Kari and locked the door. Gimbel then allegedly stuck a pepper spray bottle through a cracked window in the back of the truck and instructed the Nelsons not to move.
Seconds later, the suit states, Gimbel fired four shots, killing Nelson.
According to records from the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, one of the owners of Cornerstone told the agency that Gimbel fired after Nelson “acted as though he was going to run over Gimbel with his car.”
Two eyewitnesses disputed the account, saying the car never left the parking space.
The suit does not indicate why Gimbel was trying to place Nelson under arrest.
Nelson was well-known at the shopping plaza. Attorney Tom D’Amore, who is representing the family, had previously told OPB that Nelson had a strained relationship with the guards. The suit alleges the guards had been directed by the defendants “to harass, follow, and/or intimidate” when he passed through the area.
“The Cornerstone Defendants fostered a work environment that glorified violence, ignored de-escalation training, and instilled disregard for human life,” the suit states.
The Multnomah County District Attorney said they anticipate the case going in front of a Grand Jury later this month.