Officer Who Killed Koben Henriksen Had De-escalated Similar Situation Weeks Before

By Conrad Wilson (OPB) and Rebecca Ellis (OPB)
Portland, Ore. Feb. 1, 2020 12:15 a.m.

The same Portland police officer who was commended for de-escalating a potentially dangerous confrontation in November with a man experiencing mental illness killed him three weeks later in a very similar incident.

That's according to a Portland Police Bureau investigation into the shooting of 51-year-old Koben Henriksen, which was released Friday morning.


A Multnomah County grand jury declined Monday to bring criminal charges against Officer Justin Raphael, saying he acted in self-defense on Dec. 8 when he shot and killed Henriksen. At the time, Henriksen was holding a pocket knife in each hand and walking toward officers. Raphael shot him about 20 seconds after officers arrived.

The investigative documents reveal — and PPB confirmed — just three weeks earlier, Raphael was one of two officers who encountered Henriksen. That Nov. 14 incident mirrored the fatal encounter, though with a very different ending.

Related: Parents Blame Mental Health System Failures, Officer In Koben Henriksen's Death

With blades extended in each hand, Henriksen approached Raphael and one other officer on the same block in Southeast Portland. The officers were getting into their squad car after leaving a nearby Starbucks.

Despite the knives, the armed officers de-escalated the situation.

Officers calmed Henriksen and drove him to Providence Hospital for mental health treatment. Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, who has since taken a new job in Philadelphia, praised the encounter as an example of how law enforcement can assist a person experiencing mental illness.

"Unfortunately, in the most recent encounter, the outcome was different," Outlaw said after Henriksen's death.

Officer Dan Leonard, who responded to the Dec. 8 incident, told detectives Raphael had radioed to other officers that the man walking into traffic carrying two knives "sounds like the dude I had an interaction with ... ." Leonard said Raphael confirmed minutes later it was the same man.

When Leonard arrived on scene, he was the less lethal operator, meaning his rifle was loaded with "foam-tipped projectiles" designed to stop Henriksen without killing him.

Henriksen was advancing, yelling "shoot me, kill me," Leonard recalled.

Officer Shawn Schroeder, who was also on the scene, said Henriksen "was walking in our direction," in "more of a casual walk towards us."

Schroeder told detectives he perceived Henriksen as "an immediate threat" to the officers at the scene. Still, Schroeder said he waited and did not use his weapon.


"And in my mind I'm waiting for less-lethal to go off," he said. "I knew that I had less lethal there. So that's where I'm at" until the shooting.

Related: The Safety Net Is Broken: How Police Became Mental Health First Responders

Several witnesses to the Dec. 8 shooting told officers they were troubled by how quickly police fired shots after arriving on the scene.

Dawn Ruszczyk was in a Starbucks drive-thru and watched Henriksen walk in and out of traffic. Even from a distance, she said, she could read Henriksen's lips: "Help me."

Ruszczyk called 911, and told dispatchers Henriksen looked frightened. Even though he was blocking traffic and holding knives, she said, she didn't believe he was dangerous. She said Henriksen was thin, small and frail.

As he walked toward her car, Ruszczyk rolled down her window. He asked her to call police. She said Henriksen again said, "Help me."

The shooting, Ruszczyk said, happened 20 seconds after officers arrived at the scene.

"Drop it, drop it," she recalled an officer saying, followed by three shots.

Ruszczyk got out of her car.

"You didn't have to shoot him," she said, according to police reports.

Leonard said he fired his less lethal round at the same time Raphael pulled the trigger on his AR-15.

Raphael is one of PPB's enhanced crisis intervention training officers, meaning he's one of the officers dispatchers try to send to incidents where mental health may be a factor.

Taylor Pettis, also in line at the Starbucks drive-thru, saw three officers pointing guns at Henriksen. Two were armed with rifle-style weapons and one with a handgun.

Everything happened so fast, she told police. She recalled thinking to herself that officers wouldn't shoot.

"They are just trying to scare him to put the knife down," she recalled thinking at the time.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice 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 meant police are frequently the first responders for people experiencing mental health crises.

Last week, the city of Portland said it was in "substantial compliance" with the DOJ settlement. However, oversight will continue for another year.