The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office released transcripts Wednesday of testimony to a grand jury that reviewed the latest shooting involving a Portland police officer and a person in crisis.
Lane Martin was shot nine times by Portland Police officer Gary Doran on July 30 in East Portland, according to a medical examiner’s report. In October, the grand jurors declined to bring charges against Doran after determining he acted lawfully to defend himself or the public.
The 662 pages of testimony offer an account from officers on the scene when Martin was shot, though officers gave conflicting descriptions to the grand jury of the moments just before the shooting. About 18 minutes elapsed between the first call to police and when Martin was shot. In that time, at least 23 different police officers dispatched to the scene, following Martin as he wandered from a parking lot to a crowded MAX station, and eventually to a courtyard of an apartment complex where he was killed. Police who were pursuing Martin heard dispatch reports that he was armed with a knife and a hatchet.
The shooting comes as the city and the Portland Police Bureau remain under a 2012 settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The federal government found that encounters between Portland police officers and people with mental illness too often led to unnecessary uses of force, including deadly force. The DOJ also found that serious deficiencies in Oregon’s mental health care system mean police are frequently the first responders for people experiencing a mental health crisis.
At the time he was shot, Doran said Martin was reaching into his right pocket.
Doran said he was yelling at Martin to “get on the ground,” while another officer was shouting, “Don’t do it. Don’t do it.”
Doran told grand jurors he believed Martin was reaching for a folding knife in his pocket. He testified in response to a question from a grand juror that he didn’t recall whether the blade of Martin’s folding knife was open when he began pulling it out of his pocket.
Doran described the moments before he shot Martin for the jurors.
“I kind of get this picture of maybe a knife unfolding in his pocket and catching on his pocket,” Doran told the grand jury. “And so he — he then.”
Deputy District Attorney Dave Hannon, interrupted and asked for clarification.
“And ‘image’ meaning you’re imagining that’s what’s happening or —” Hannon asked.
“That’s what I’m imagining is happening,” Doran replied. “I remember seeing his wrist clearing his pocket as he’s pulling the knife out. And that’s when I begin firing.”
Doran said he fired in “one continuous volley” and shot “until I saw a response.”
Hannon asked Doran if he thought there was anything else he could have done, short of using his firearm.
“There was nothing else that I could do at that point because we already had two less lethal operators in their role who were actively doing their job and who did their job and it was ineffective,” Doran told the grand jury.
“And then there was somebody else, you know, communicating,” he said. “And it was just — it — that was my role. That was where I was put. And I just — I had to do my job.”
The Multnomah County medical examiner determined Martin died as a result of gunshot wounds to his torso. Toxicology reports showed he had methamphetamine in his system when he died.
While Doran’s bullets hit Martin nine times, he fired 11 or 12 times during the encounter, according to PPB’s investigation and audio shared by the attorney representing Martin’s family.
“He shot (at) Lane 12 times in a crowded apartment complex because Lane put his hand in his pocket and Doran thought he might have a pocket knife there,” said Jessie Merrithew, the attorney representing the family. “That is excessive force.”
While Doran described Martin reaching into his pocket for what he thought was his knife, officer Shanley Bianca said she saw Martin holding a knife in his right hand that she told grand jurors appeared to be 6 or 7 inches.
“He appeared to be holding a knife and he was yelling,” Bianca said. “And he was facing the group of officers and I was sort of behind them trying to look past them at him, but that’s what I observed.”
Police had said Martin wasn’t complying with their commands and “started to advance on the officers” when he was shot. Doran told the grand jury he was concerned Martin was going to charge at two officers next to him.
“I cannot say for certain if he stepped forward,” Doran testified, in response to a question from a grand juror. “I believe — I believe he did, but if he did, it was only a foot or two. It wasn’t, like, six steps.”
Before he was shot, Martin had threatened a security guard with a hatchet and a pocket knife, police said, and claimed he was a “federal officer.” Both a knife and a hatchet were recovered after the shooting.
The Portland Police Bureau released its investigative report in the shooting last month, which described a chaotic situation with Martin clearly in crisis.
Martin’s family is suing the city of Portland, accusing Portland police of using excessive force against someone with a disability.
Martin’s family has said Lane had a serious mental illness, possibly bipolar disorder. They had tried to get him into treatment for it in the months before he was killed.
In the weeks before the shooting, Martin had been on a 72-hour mental health hold at the Unity Center, Portland’s psychiatric emergency room.
Martin grew up in Reno, Nevada. He had a job in the facilities department at Portland State University and was pursuing a degree in fine art at PSU.
Martin had been in recovery and was open about his past history of addiction and incarceration.