When an unlicensed and largely untrained Sandy Police Department officer shot and killed Douglas Diamond during a welfare check on July 3, 2020, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office quickly issued a press release stating Diamond had pulled a handgun.
But a lawsuit filed Friday by Diamond’s estate alleges police distorted facts in the case to obscure reckless actions by officers.
The lawsuit names the city of Sandy, Clackamas County, two Sandy police officers and a Clackamas County Sheriff’s deputy as being liable in Diamond’s death.
“This is what has become, unfortunately, a classic case where you’ve got somebody who may be in crisis, maybe not even in crisis and… the police show up and completely lose sight of why they’re there,” said Jesse Merrithew, the family’s attorney. “They’re there to check on [Diamond] and make sure he’s OK. And they accomplished that goal within about five minutes.”
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of violating Diamond’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, battery and negligence.
Diamond, a retired 58-year-old Washington County sheriff’s deputy himself, was living in a Welches RV park in 2020 when his family became concerned he might be suicidal and contacted the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office to request a welfare check.
According to the internal investigation and officer interviews, three Clackamas County deputies were dispatched to Diamond’s home on July 3 after phone conversations with one of his daughters and ex-girlfriend. According to interviews, Diamond and his girlfriend had recently broken up. She told deputies she had heard a gunshot while on the phone with Diamond before the line went dead.
Deputy Gabriel Adel was among the first to respond, and said in an interview they approached Diamond’s trailer from a distance, concerned that he might be luring police there so they would take his life.
Diamond, who had a concealed carry permit according to the family’s lawyer, allegedly had his hand in his sweatshirt pocket when deputies approached him and refused to take it out.
Adel, trained in advanced crisis negotiation, said he spoke to Diamond for approximately 15 minutes.
“I don’t really feel great about this but at the same time, like, we’ll see where this goes,” Adel said he was thinking, according to a same-day interview with a Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office detective. “It was just, like, an uncomfortable feeling but it’s clearly out in the public, and we can’t just step away from me having this conversation with this suicidal guy with a gun in his hand.”
According to the federal civil rights lawsuit and summaries of radio conversations, Adel radioed Clackamas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Sean Collinson and asked if the officers at the scene should back out since they had confirmed Diamond was alive.
“I said, ‘Don’t give up ground unless you have to,’” Collinson told detectives.
Collinson said Diamond had “now interjected himself into the pool of people” at the trailer park.
Collinson told investigators it took him around 40 minutes driving at 80-90 miles per hour to reach the RV park from where he was in Canby. En route, he requested help from a Sandy Police Department officer trained with less lethal munitions.
“Deputy Adel continued this calm conversation for approximately 15 minutes,” the lawsuit reads. “Mr. Diamond asked the deputies to leave several times during this conversation, but they did not because Collinson had instructed them not to.”
Collinson arrived at the same time as Sandy police officers William Wetherbee and Michael Boyes. Boyes had been hired three months earlier and had not yet attended the state’s basic police academy. Wetherbee was Boyes’ field training officer.
Officers in Oregon have 90 days from the date they’re hired to attend the basic academy, assuming a position is available. In total, new hires have 18 months from the day they’re hired to earn a state certification, which includes attending the basic academy, field training time and first aid training. It is up to individual agencies if they want to allow newly hired officers to start working before attending the state academy.
“It’s becoming more and more common because COVID has created a lack of academy training,” Sandy Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Sam Craven said. “When we have spots we need to fill, we train people here before going to academy.”
Craven said they’ve had one person in the past year in the department of fewer than 20 officers start field training before going to the academy.
The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to questions asking why officers stayed at the RV park once they confirmed Diamond was alive, but after more officers arrived, the situation with Diamond deteriorated quickly.
Collinson told detectives he thought he had his gun out as he and the Sandy officers approached Diamond’s home. Wetherbee was carrying a less lethal shotgun and Boyes, who had only 20 hours of firearms fundamentals training three months earlier, was tasked with providing “lethal cover.”
Adel told investigators as Collinson was approaching the scene, he had just told Diamond it was OK for him to go back to his trailer and watch TV. As he turned to go inside, Collinson yelled at Diamond to take his hands out of his pocket. That’s when three loud bangs rang out.
Adel said it took him a moment to figure out the newly arrived officers had just fired less lethal rounds at Diamond..
“I heard shots and so I’m, like, thinkin’, ‘Did we just shoot him?’” he told investigators.
Diamond seemed unphased by the bean bag rounds, according to the officers on scene. Adel said Diamond stepped back, grunted and turned toward Collinson who then tried to tase him.
In their statements, the officers said the electric shocks had no effect on Diamond either. Collinson said it surprised him that the taser didn’t work. The lawsuit notes Diamond was wearing a heavy sweatshirt, which prevented the taser probes from connecting.
Collinson decided he had to do something “dynamic” and tackled Diamond to the ground, according to his interview with detectives. Wetherbee, the more experienced Sandy police officer, said he saw Diamond pull a gun from his pocket before he was tackled. Collinson, however, never mentioned seeing a gun before he rushed Diamond. Instead, he told detectives, he made a snap decision to “charge the guy.”
“My goal was to keep his hands down so that he couldn’t pull a weapon out,” Collinson said in a statement. “As I grabbed onto, what would have been, his right hand, I tried to grab onto his left hand - got it - got a piece of it. And he was able to pull his left hand out of his pocket. And I could see the butt end of what looked like a black semi-automatic weapon.”
As he grabbed Diamond, Collinson said he heard gunshots and the men fell to the ground together.
Boyes shot and killed Diamond. He also shot Collinson in the arm. Asked if he feared for his life, Collinson said he had.
“He would not take his hands out of his pockets except really quickly to whip the Taser thing out of there,” he said when asked to explain why he feared for his life. “And it was certainly a big enough and bulky enough sweatshirt he could have had one or two handguns.”
In his interview, Boyes struggled to find the words to describe what he was thinking as less lethal rounds and the taser did not subdue Diamond. He said he was afraid they would “have to go hands on,” that Diamond appeared “impervious” and that he was “resisting a lot.”
Despite Collinson’s statement that he tackled Diamond to prevent him from pulling a gun out of his pocket, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release on July 16 stating, “Diamond produced a semi-automatic handgun, pointing it at (Collinson).”
“The detectives who conducted the investigation into the shooting repeated the same lies to Mr. Diamond’s family, exacerbating their distress,” the family’s lawsuit says.
Merrithew, the family’s lawyer, said the situation was resolved and the welfare check completed long before Collinson and the Sandy police officers showed up.
“Collinson comes in and makes things a hundred times worse,” Merrithew said. “It’s up and down the board, just terrible policing.”
The RV park wasn’t Diamond’s private property so he couldn’t legally tell the officers to leave, but Merrithew said they didn’t have any authority to detain him.
“When you don’t even have the authority to detain somebody, how do you figure you can shoot them with a bean bag shotgun or tase them?” Merrithew said. “What was Collinson going to do once he tackled him to the ground? Put handcuffs on him and arrest him? For what? What crime did he commit?”
A grand jury declined to indict Boyes in October 2020, and the killing was determined to be justified. Boyes attended the state’s basic police course four months after the shooting in November 2020. He was granted his basic police certification in January 2022 and still works for the Sandy Police Department.
The family is asking for compensatory damages to be determined at trial.
Desiree Diamond, one of Douglas Diamond’s two daughters, said the truth about what happened deserves to be known.
“Our father was a retired police sergeant and we always viewed the police as ‘safe,’” Chelsea Diamond, Douglas Diamond’s other daughter, said. “In our time of need, we looked to the police for help and instead our father is gone with no explanation.”