UPDATE (May 10, 2018, 8:06 a.m. PT) — Eight law enforcement officers involved in last month’s shooting at a Portland homeless shelter will not face criminal charges.
Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill announced late Wednesday that no charges will be filed against the seven Portland Police Bureau officers and one Multnomah County sheriff’s deputy involved in the shooting that left 48-year-old John Andrew Elifritz dead on April 7.
In a statement, Underhill said a grand jury heard testimony for four days related to the case.
“A not true bill decision by the grand jury means no criminal prosecution is warranted as a result of the use of deadly force by the involved officers,” the DA’s office said in a statement.
The officers and deputy are scheduled to return to duty “in accordance with relevant policies.”
Andrew M. Stroth, Chicago-based civil rights attorney who was hired to represent Elifritz’s wife and 12-year-old daughter, said the family is disappointed but not surprised by the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officers.
“The family at the appropriate time will pursue whatever legal remedies are available,” Stroth said. “The family will continue to pursue justice in spite of the district attorney’s ruling, which comes as no surprise.”
Stroth said his law firm is continuing to conduct its own investigation into the incident.
“We believe in the Elifritz case once again, excessive force was used [by Portland Police]. John Elifritz was suffering from a mental health crisis. And instead of bringing in a crisis intervention team or trying to de-escalate, the officers created an even more dangerous situation that resulted in the death of John,” Stroth said.
“And now we have a 12-year-old young girl who lost her father because of the unwarranted actions of officers within the Portland Police Department that are operating within the leadership of the city of Portland and the Portland Police Department.”
Underhill has asked a judge to release the proceedings to the public after they’re transcribed. He declined to comment further on the case when contacted by OPB.
“The Portland Police Bureau remains committed to transparency and sharing all available information with the community,” said Police Chief Danielle Outlaw. “We ask that community members be patient as all of the reports and video files are prepared for public release.”
The officers cleared in the shooting include:
- Officer Kameron Fender, an eight-year-veteran of the bureau;
- Officer Alexandru Martiniuc, a six-year-veteran of the bureau;
- Officer Bradley Nutting, an 11-year-veteran of the bureau;
- Officer Chad Phifer, a 10-year-veteran of the bureau;
- Officer Andrew Polas, a 14-year-veteran of the bureau;
- Deputy Aaron Sieczkowski, a six-year-veteran of the sheriff’s office.
Portland officers Richard Bailey and Justin Damerville were also involved in the incident, but used “less lethal force” before the shooting, according to police. They too were cleared of any criminal charges.
PPB is conducting an internal review of the incident and plans to present that review to the Police Review Board within the next 90 days.
Elifritz’s death led to outcry against local law enforcement after a video of the incident surfaced on social media. The video appears to show people fleeing the shelter, the police officers entering and shooting across the room at Elifritz.
Prior to the shooting, Elifritz had called 911 to report his family was murdered. When police responded to that call, he showed suicidal tendencies — holding a knife to his own throat. He eventually fled from officers.
Police chose not to pursue him, a decision they say they hoped would help not escalate the situation.
Later in the day, police received reports that Elifritz had stolen a vehicle and threatened another person with a knife.
Close to 8 p.m., Elifritz was inside the Cityteam Ministries Portland Shelter, where an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting was ongoing. It was there that the shooting took place.
The grand jury’s decision to not charge the officers involved comes at a time when Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is appealing to the City Council to fund 49 more officers at the bureau.
OPB’s Ericka Cruz Guevarra contributed reporting.