The city of Sandy, Clackamas County, and three law enforcement officers want a federal judge to rule against the family of a man shot and killed by an unlicensed police officer during a welfare check. In a court filing, a use of force expert hired by the family says the involved officers made fundamental tactical errors and failed to abide by standard use of force training.
Douglas Diamond’s daughter sued the city, the county and the officers last March in federal court, alleging they violated her father’s civil rights when they went to Diamond’s trailer in a Welches RV park for a welfare check and instead wound up shooting and killing him.
Diamond’s family reached out to law enforcement multiple times in July 2020 saying he was in distress about a recent breakup and fearing he might take his life. Clackamas County Sheriff’s Deputy Gabriel Adel was first on scene. He had more than 400 hours of crisis negotiation training and talked to Diamond, a former Washington County sheriff’s deputy, for about 15 minutes.
“Adel was exactly the person everyone should want in that situation talking with Diamond at that moment,” a lawyer for the family wrote in a court filing. “For fifteen minutes, until the Defendants’ arrival, Adel and Diamond stood outside in the RV park and talked.”
Clackamas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Sean Collinson arrived at the scene 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.
The lawsuit alleges an extraordinary level of negligence and haste on Collinson’s part.
Court documents claim Collinson failed to contact Adel for an update and did not know the two had been communicating calmly. It alleges Collinson hastily threw together a plan which included Boyes — who had only 20 hours of firearms fundamentals training — in a “lethal cover” position.
Collinson began yelling commands at Diamond, who refused to take his hands from his pocket. Weatherbee shot him with less-lethal shotgun rounds but Diamond did not move. Collinson then tackled Diamond. In an interview after the shooting Boyes said that as Collinson was tackling Diamond, Boyes saw Diamond pull a gun from his pocket and point it at Collinson.
Boyes shot Diamond. A bullet went through his left arm and into his chest, killing him. Boyes also shot Collinson, who survived.
“In the 15 minutes Adel conversed with Diamond, he used no force,” the family writes in their response to Sandy and Clackamas County. “And within one minute of the Defendants’ arrival, the Defendants fired three beanbag shotgun rounds, two tasers, and five live rounds of ammunition. Within one minute of their arrival, Diamond is dead and Collinson is on his way to the hospital with two gunshot wounds.”
Lawyers for the city, county and officers filed motions for summary judgment earlier this month, asking U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon to rule in their favor before a jury trial. The motions claim the relevant facts overwhelmingly support the officers’ use of force and that the officers should be granted qualified immunity, a legal doctrine protecting government officials acting in their official duty from civil lawsuits.
A broad coalition of critics including activists, politicians and judges have criticized qualified immunity in recent years as it has become an seemingly insurmountable barrier shielding police officers against allegations of police brutality.
“The law … clearly indicates that [Boyes’] decision to use lethal force was squarely within Constitutional bounds as Diamond posed an immediate and deadly threat to Sergeant Collinson at the time he was shot,” the lawyers for Sandy wrote in their motion.
Clackamas County’s attorneys said there is no evidence Collinson’s actions were incompetent or knowingly violated the law.
“Even in this high risk and dynamic situation, Sergeant Collinson gave Mr. Diamond numerous opportunities to put down his weapon, attempted multiple less-lethal force options to gain compliance, and ultimately risked his own life by going ‘hands-on’ with Mr. Diamond in an attempt to physically restrain him from drawing his gun.”
Diamond’s family and use of force experts say the city and county are conveniently ignoring a mountain of evidence and that a jury should decide if the officers were at fault.
In a 71-page response filed last week, the family’s lawyer writes that given the trajectory of Boyes’ bullet — through Diamond’s left arm and chest — Diamond’s hand was most likely still in his pocket and not pointing a firearm at Collinson. They further allege that when Collinson showed up, Diamond had not violated any laws and the sole purpose of the law enforcement visit, a welfare check, had already been accomplished.
According to Adel’s deposition, moments before Collinson, Wetherbee and Boyes arrived, Adel believed the situation was well under control.
“Obviously we know how things ended up, but I could see that situation, that conversation continuing to the point where he withdraws back into his space and we back out and regroup,” Adel said.
The family’s lawyers say Sandy and Clackamas County’s assertion that several critical facts are uncontested is based on cherry-picked details and that the totality of the circumstances make it clear that the three officers named in the lawsuit responded recklessly. Their response to the motion for summary judgment says the officers showed up to Diamond’s RV and, based on stale information, formulated a “rash, amateurish” plan which ultimately led to Diamond’s death.
“Displaying a stunning degree of hubris, the Defendants did not check in with their expert crisis negotiator who had been in dialogue with Diamond for 15 minutes to see whether he thought screaming commands at Diamond was likely to be an effective tactic to achieve their goal,” the family’s lawyer wrote.
In his deposition, Adel said Collinson’s response “didn’t seem appropriate in this circumstance.” He said when Collinson started shouting commands, the rapport Adel had developed began eroding and Diamond’s emotional state returned to where it had been before he and Adel started talking.
Scott DeFoe, a 26-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and a police practices expert, said Collinson, Wetherbee and Boyes violated fundamental crisis management and de-escalation rules.
He said the officers failed to take adequate cover before shooting Diamond with less-lethal munitions, despite knowing the rounds would likely cause Diamond’s hands — and the firearm he was believed to be holding — to come out of his pocket. They risked creating a more dangerous situation than already existed. Based on patrol car dashcam video and the statements from officers, DeFoe said Collinson made an “extremely poor decision” when he approached Diamond. DeFoe argues Collison knew Diamond was a retired law enforcement officer who was legally allowed to carry a concealed weapon and Collinson also knew Diamond had not committed any crime prior to the officers’ arrival.
“It is my opinion that there was a gross lack of situational awareness and fundamental tactical errors in this incident,” DeFoe wrote in his statement. “It is also my opinion that there was a departure from standard Use of Force and Use of Deadly Force Training.”
If Judge Simon denies the motion for summary judgment, the question of whether or not Diamond’s civil rights were violated will be decided by a jury. No trial has been scheduled.