The man shot and killed by a Portland police officer Sunday was blind in one eye and taking medication for bipolar disorder.
Andre Catrel Gladen, a 36-year-old black man from Sacramento, was in Portland visiting a cousin, according to family members. A witness, Desmond Pescaia, said Gladen knocked on his door on the corner of 96th Avenue and Southeast Market Street on Sunday afternoon.
Pescaia told OPB that Gladen was thin, had no shoes and appeared lost and despondent. Pescaia said Gladen also appeared to have soiled himself and was behaving erratically; Gladen told Pescaia he’d seen a man in a white hoodie on a nearby corner carrying a gun and needed to come inside so he wouldn’t get shot.
Gladen’s ex-wife said he struggled with schizophrenia. His sister said he was taking medication for bipolar disorder.
Pescaia didn’t let Gladen in, but offered him a glass of water.
“And [he] knocked on my door two or three more times saying that some guy’s trying to kill him, he’s legally blind, he just wasn’t making sense,” Pescaia said.
Pescaia and his landlord called police before Gladen entered the apartment. Police confronted Gladen inside, and Pescaia said he eventually attempted to help Officer Consider Vosu subdue Gladen.
“He didn’t listen,” Pescaia said. “He was tased. He got back up two seconds later.”
Vosu warned Gladen to stay down and said he would shoot if he didn’t, Pescaia said.
“So I’m trying to hold him, he got loose, rushed the police officer,” he said. “As soon as I saw the gun come out, that was it.”
Pescaia said Vosu shot Gladen three times and almost struck him in the process.
“If I didn’t move, that bullet would’ve gone right into me,” Pescaia said. “I swear to God, I never saw a man turn ghost white and I saw so much fear in that officer’s eyes that he had no choice.”
Pescaia said police officers on scene Sunday asked how he was doing both physically and emotionally.
“[They] kept telling me there was nothing more I could do,” Pescaia said. “That it’s not my fault.”
But Gladen’s family members say the shooting was avoidable. They describe him as a father of five who struggled with mental health problems but was not violent.
Gladen spiraled after losing his older brother to cancer in 2000 and getting shot in the face with a shotgun in 2012, said his sister, Donna Martin. That 2012 shooting caused Gladen to lose an eye, significantly limiting his sight in the other.
“He had to rely on everybody for help and that really messed with him as well,” Martin said.
Polina Krivoruk, Gladen’s ex-wife, knew him for more than 20 years and reiterated what other family members said, that Gladen suffered from schizophrenia but she had never known him to be violent.
“I know when he has those [mental breakdowns] he feels like people are out to get him,” Krivoruk said. “But he wouldn’t be able to hurt you physically because he can’t see until you’re right in front of his face. It couldn’t have been any threat unless they were face to face.”
Officers said they recovered a knife at the scene. Pescaia, the witness, said he did not see a knife until after Gladen was shot.
Martin said her brother always carried protection because of his visual impairment.
“With a man being blind, how is he not to have protection when he’s been robbed on the streets before?” Martin said.
Martin said the family “most definitely” plans to sue the Portland Police Bureau.
Portland Police came under scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice after a 2012 review found the agency engaged in a pattern and practice of excessive use of force against people suffering from mental health problems.
After another officer shot and killed a man in October, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he believed the bureau, which he heads, was doing a better job responding to people who live with mental health issues on Portland streets.
“He suffered,” Martin said of her brother. “He did suffer with mental illness. But that wasn’t a reason for his life to be taken away from him. The officers on duty, they should’ve been able to deal with that. There should be a certain procedure for that.”
Gladen’s mother, Dorothy Collins, said her son loved life and “would give you the shirt off his back if he had to.”
“He made me smile every day,” Collins said. “We went through our ups and downs, but I always smiled with my son.”
Pescaia, who has struggled with drugs and alcohol in the past, said he’s traumatized by what he witnessed. There’s a bullet hole in the wall of his living room.
“It’s taking every bit of strength in me not to go buy that bottle, not to go buy that drug again, not to want to turn back,” he said. “Because it’s just … it’s hard.”