The family of the man killed by police at a Southeast Portland shelter on April 7 has hired a national civil rights law firm.
The family of 48-year-old John Elifritz has hired the Chicago-based firm Action Injury Law Group, which specializes in cases dealing with police shootings, police brutality and excessive force.
The firm will represent Elifritz’s wife, Barbara Hinderlong-Elifritz, and their daughter.
“I took the case personally because I think there’s a big case in Portland,” said Andrew Stroth, the attorney representing the family. “You look at what’s happening in Portland and it checks a lot of boxes for a federal civil rights claim.”
The firm will conduct its own “full-blown investigation” into Elifritz’s death before deciding whether to file a lawsuit. Stroth says investigators will be on the ground in one or two days.
Seven Portland Police officers and one Multnomah County Sheriff’s Deputy were placed on leave for their involvement in the shooting, which took place at the Cityteam Ministries Shelter in Southeast Portland. Several of the officers have made news before for their use of force, their treatment of people experiencing mental illness or both.
Police say Elifritz was carrying a knife and had threatened to harm himself and others over a period of several hours on April 7. The shooting was captured on cellphone video and was later posted to social media.
“I think when you combine the mental health aspect of the case with a pattern and practice documented by the Department of Justice in Portland, those factors are very important,” Stroth said.
“You got a city with a history,” he added. “And you got it caught on video.”
A settlement agreement finalized in 2014 between the city of Portland and the U.S. Department of Justice required the bureau to improve the way it interacts with people with actual or perceived mental illnesses.