Family Of Terrell Johnson Sues Portland Over 2017 Police Shooting

By OPB Staff (OPB)
Portland, Ore. May 10, 2019 5:10 p.m.

The family of a man killed by Portland Police in 2017 is suing the city for wrongful death.

Portland Police officer Samson Ajir shot and killed 24-year-old Terrell Johnson. At the time of the killing, family members said Johnson had struggled with mental illness and a substance abuse problem.


The lawsuit claims Ajir used unlawful force against Johnson and deprived him of his civil rights in the process. Johnson’s family wants a jury trial.

Police have said officers confronted Johnson May 10, 2017, after he threatened people with a utility knife at the Flavel Street Transit Station in Southeast Portland.

Ajir chased Johnson on foot when he ran from officers.


The lawsuit claims Ajir violated police directives during the chase, such as not calling in for backup and attempting to "overtake" a suspect instead of following and keeping them in sight.

"Officers are supposed to follow certain rules before engaging in foot chases, and Officer Ajir did not follow any of those and that resulted in Terrell dying that day," said Juan Chavez, an attorney with the Oregon Justice Resource Center who is representing the Johnson family. "Foot chases are particularly dangerous, and that’s why police officers need to follow these rules."

Chavez is also currently representing Cider Riot, a Portland bar, in a lawsuit against Patriot Prayer — the Vancouver, Washington-based extremist group that attracts white supremacists and has engaged in violence throughout the region.

"This was entirely avoidable, and we believe unconstitutional and we believe violative of Johnson’s rights," Chavez said.

Johnson's family wants accountability from the Portland Police Bureau, he said.

"I can’t put into words quite yet the deep pain that the Johnson family has felt," Chavez said. "This is fundamentally about the loss of a son and of a family member and what happens when nothing’s done about it by the people who did it."

A month after the shooting, a Multnomah County grand jury found that Ajir's use of force was justified.